Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. If an emergency occurs in the summer, or if you live in a hot or arid environment, you will require more. In all cases, children, nursing mothers, and ill people will require more than two quarts of water a day. Because you will also need water for food preparation and personal hygiene, you should store one gallon per person per day. FEMA recommends that, if possible, you store a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. And if supplies run low, don’t ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

Store drinking water in food-grade containers. Two-liter plastic soft-drink bottles work well. You can store water to be used for personal hygiene, flushing toilets, and general cleaning in old bleach and laundry detergent containers.

To prepare your own stored water supply, follow these tips, as suggested by FEMA:

  • Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

  • Additionally, for plastic soft-drink bottles, sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon nonscented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart (¼ gallon) of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

  • Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If your water utility company treats your tap water with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of nonscented liquid household chlorine bleach to each gallon of water.

  • Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap; do not touch the inside of it with your fingers. Write the date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it. Store in a cool, dark place.

  • Replace the water every six months if not using commercially bottled water.

During an emergency, remember that you can use some of the “hidden” sources of water in your home, including your hot-water heater, accumulated water in your pipes (accessed by unscrewing a pipe in the lowest area of your home, like a basement), and water from ice cubes in your freezer. You should not drink the water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds, or swimming pools and spas.

If you use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is shut off, and then drain the water from the bottom of the tank. When the power and/or water is restored, be sure to fill your tank back up before turning on the power.

You can also find water outside your home in case of emergency. Rainwater, streams, rivers and ponds, natural springs, and lakes are other sources for water. Be sure never to take water from places that have material floating on top, or that have an odor or dark color to them. Never drink flood water. Water that you have gathered from the outdoors needs to be treated before you can safely drink it. There are several ways to treat water:

  • Use a ceramic filtration system to filter out unhealthy microorganisms.

  • The safest way for you to treat water is to boil it. However, you must remember that boiling does not mean a bubble or two. When you boil water, you must bring it to a rolling boil for at least one full minute. If you are concerned about evaporation, you can place a lid on the pot to capture the steam. After boiling, place the water in a clean container and allow to cool. For better-tasting water, you can return oxygen to it. To do this, simply pour the water back and forth between two clean containers. The movement of the water between the containers will increase the oxygen content. This method also works for stored water.

  • If you decide to chlorinate the water you have gathered from your water source, you should add sixteen drops (⅞ teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water thoroughly and then let it stand for thirty minutes. Once the time has passed, smell the water. You should be able to smell the bleach. If you can’t, add an additional ⅞ teaspoon bleach per gallon, mix thoroughly, and let it stand for another fifteen minutes. Once again, smell the water. If it still does not have a slight odor of bleach, discard it and find another source of water.

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