I can’t emphasize enough the importance of storing clean water for emergencies. If you
use contaminated water for drinking or cooking, it can cause symptoms such as stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. It can also lead to life-threatening
illnesses such as hepatitis, cholera, amebic dysentery, viral infections, and typhoid fever. It’s best to have clean water available so you don’t have to risk such consequences. If you haven’t stored water, be sure you take precautions and disinfect your water before you use it (see “Methods of Sanitizing Water for Storage” later in this chapter).
How Much Water to Store
Each person in your family will need a 72-hour emergency supply of water. To calculate how much you should store, figure approximately one gallon per person per day for drinking, plus an additional gallon per day for washing, cooking, sponge bathing, laundry, dishes, and so on (a total of two gallons per day for each person). For a 72-hour supply, you’ll need to store six gallons per person. I recommend a three-month supply of water if possible. This is approximately 180 gallons per person (90 gallons for drinking and 90 gallons for extra cooking and washing). Children, nursing mothers, and sick people may require more so store a little extra for them. There are several ways to store this much water. First, it’s helpful to understand what water you can safely store, and how you can purify it if necessary.
If you don’t yet have a stash of emergency water, or prefer to reserve it as long as possible, you can take advantage of other available sources of water. The water in your hot water heater, for example, is available to use. Be sure to shut off the incoming water or intake valve to avoid contaminated water mixing with the safe water. To take water out of the tank, open the drain valve. You can attach a hose to this valve and drain your hot water tank into containers. The water in the tank of the toilet (not the bowl!) can be scooped out and used if needed.
Liquids for drinking can be obtained from canned fruits, juices, vegetables, and soft drinks, or anything that has been water-packed in the canning process. You can also use melted snow or rain water if you have a collection barrel. You can use any large, clean container for collecting water. Be sure to disinfect the water before drinking it. Boiling it vigorously for five minutes will kill all bacteria.
Swimming pools or spas contain water that can be used, if boiled first, for washing but should not be used for drinking. Lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, and even ditches contain water that you can drink if it is clarified and treated with one of the following sanitizing methods.