Emergency Water Storage Emergency water storage is one of the most important aspects of emergency preparedness, yet unfortunately it is often one that gets overlooked. Many people are uncertain of where to start, or don’t realize how vital it is or how much they need. Still others store water incorrectly, only to find months later that their water has spoiled. Though it’s fairly simple, water storage is a process that must be done right, or there is no point to it. Many die worldwide (and even in the United States) because they lack water, or because they drink bad water. An estimated 1.8 million people die every year due to water-related illnesses[i]. By making certain that there is a large source of good, sanitized water in their house, people can make sure that they do not fall victim to any of these diseases. The first question that everyone should be asking is: how much water does one person need? The answer: more than one might think. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the bare minimum that one person should drink per day is half of a gallon[ii]. This is only drinking water, however. A person also needs water for bathing, washing, preparing food, doing dishes, etc. Not to mention all the small crises that could happen in an emergency, like someone getting sick, or getting injured. Sick people always need more water in their systems to recover, and if there is an injury, odds are that that person will need clean water to cleanse the wound. That’s why FEMA recommends that an average person store at least one gallon per day for at least two weeks. Elderly people, children, and anyone with an illness will need more. This may seem like quite a bit of water for just one day; however, the average person actually uses over 140 gallons of water every day for cooking, cleaning, washing, doing dishes, showering or bathing, eating, doing laundry, and so on[iii]. In light of this statistic, one measly gallon of water a day starts to look pretty paltry. It’s good to store the recommended one gallon, but it’s better to have more, just in case. Those are just the basics however. Consider climate for a moment: a person who lives in the Mojave Desert is obviously going to need more than someone living in upstate New York, and not just because there are more natural sources of water in the latter. People living in hot, dry climates will need more water than those living in cool, or humid areas. Even places like the Sierra Nevadas, which are generally cool, will require more water because of how arid the climate is. It’s a good idea to store enough water for each person, and then some extra for any medical emergencies. Someone who is, or could become ill obviously will need more water to keep them hydrated. Illness is not the only thing to consider, of course. As stated, if someone is bleeding or bruises or lacerations, they will need water not only to clean or soothe the wound, but also water to boil and disinfect rags in, and then water to help keep their system fully hydrated so that they can recover as quickly as possible. Basically, a person needs at least a gallon a day, plus extra for emergencies and other tasks; but most sources say that people should store as much water as they possibly can. In emergencies and disasters, people cannot plan for every contingency, so it’s better safe than sorry. The “better safe than sorry” idea also applies to storing the water. Once one knows how much water to store, it’s also imperative that they understand how best to store it. Just filling up
the water cooler isn’t going to cut it, and neither is storing milk cartons until there are twenty or so in the basement. Water can become contaminated very easily--just touching the inside lid of whatever container it’s in is usually enough to allow bacteria in. Therefore, it is best to follow strict instructions when storing it. Many sources like FEMA recommend buying commercially bottled water and keeping it in a cool, dark place. Water bottles, however, do have an expiration date. One can also store water in gallon tanks, which does require some minor treatment, and which also has an expiration of 6 months. Drums of water can also be very heavy, so peole either need to buy lighter containers or a stand so they can tip the container to pour water out without any trouble. Emergency preparedness stores, like The Ready Store, sell pouches of water in Red Cross regulation amounts that have a shelf-life of 5 years and are more dependable than bottled water and less difficult to manage than a large drum of water[iv]. However, it is certainly not a bad idea to use either bottled water or a drum of water. The bottled water should be thrown out once its expiration date has been reached, or sooner if it is constantly exposed to any source of light. In order to store water in a tank or drum, some preparation is required. First, make sure to wash out the container very thoroughly with water and a small amount of liquid dish soap. Also make sure that none of the dish soap remains after the rinsing is done. Afterwards, fill the container with water and add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach, and close the container without touching the inside of the lid, as that could cause it to become contaminated. Finally, it is worth considering that people should always have an alternate plan to purify water just in case their supply runs out. There are a myriad of ways to do this, from iodine tablets to boiling or distilling the water. Adding iodine or chlorine to water to purify it is often the cheapest way, but it also gives the water an aftertaste, and both chemicals can be dangerous if consumed in large amounts. Water can also be filtered in a variety of ways, including micro filters, filtering water bottles, ceramic filters, and so on. There are so many options that it’s really best to examine all of them and decide what is best for the needs of each person. Many of these options are found at The Ready Store, which offers a comprehensive selection of filters, purifiers, and storage units (which range from small pouches to large 30 gallon drums)[v]. Essentially, people must never forget how imperative to life water is, and they must make certain that they will never be without it. [i] http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/diseases/burden/en/index.html. WHO article: Water: Burden of disease and cost-effectiveness estimates
[ii] http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/water.shtm. FEMA.gov article: Water [iii] http://waltonfeed.com/old/self/water.html. Walton feed.com article: Emergency Water Storage, by Vicki Tate [iv] http://www.thereadystore.com/emergency-water/emergency-drinking-water/4-227-oz-datrex-water-pouchescase-of-64. The Ready Store product detail: 4.227-oz Datrex Water Pouches
[v] http://www.thereadystore.com/emergency-water. The Ready Store product list: Emergency Water Supplies
Clean Water is essential for survival in a disaster situation.