There are tons of articles on storing your own water, collecting rain, containers, etc. Many of these articles do not use the most up to date information.
Storing water can be the most important storage your family will invest in. Not only is water necessary for survival, but it also is needed to cook, wash yourself and clothes, first aid, and sanitation. At a minimum, each person needs 2 gallons per day.
There are two large problems during emergencies, either the water in your home is unsafe to drink, or there is no water available at your home. This article addresses facts on both.
1. I can use my water heater as my water storage.
Well… yes and no. There is usable water in your water heating tank. Typically 50 gallons worth of treated water. However, this water could be difficult to reach and drink. First, draining your water may be difficult if your drain valve becomes clogged. Second, aluminum slowly corrodes and turns into “gunk” in your heater. Additionally, the hot water is a great temperature for bacteria to grow. Water must be 212 degrees to kill bacteria, and hot tap water is barely over 100 degrees. All of This means that it will need to be drained, strained, and cleaned before it can be drank. Make sure you keep your heater clean, and have methods to purify the water. Since all these things do happen naturally in a heater, cold water is the safest setting to drink from the tap.
2. I will drink water from my dehumidifier/air conditioner to make safe water in case of an emergency.
This was a bright idea that I came across… however, you may not want to put all your eggs in this basket either. Aside from the most obvious problem, no electricity means no AC or dehumidifier, Stanford has deemed this water unsafe to drink. Often times metallic residues are left behind. This water would be fine to use for toilet water or watering plants that will not be eaten. Interestingly enough, there are promising inventions out there that do take water from the air and turn it into water. One of these inventions is a portable water bottle that is easily carried. The only down side to these guys is that it needs to be fairly humid out, and movement is necessary for water to start dripping. Perhaps in the next few years we will be creating our own water.
3. Storing bleach to disinfect unclean water in an emergency is the best option.
No, really it’s not. I am not sure when this information began to be spread around, but bleach actually is not the best way to disinfect water. Bleach is a sodium hypochlorite mix. Right after being manufactured, bleach has about a 6% rate of hypochlorite and 94% of a bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately, this breaks down into salt and water within 6 months. At that point, bleach can be used for laundry and household jobs, but is not powerful enough to disinfect your water. This is why Clorox claims that bleach has a shelf life of one year in the right conditions. If you put bleach in your water before you store it, the bleach will break down even faster. Once the hypochlorite breaks down, you’ll just be left with all the other random chemicals that bleach is composed of. Once the hypochlorite is gone, microorganisms can begin growing again. Not great, right?
The better alternative is chlorine that can be used for a pool. You can buy special drops that are made for cleaning water. Just make sure you filter the dirt out first. Chlorine does not break down, but will leave a strange after taste in the water. Additionally, if you are storing city water (before the emergency occurs), you do not need to put any chemicals in it. Storing chlorine is for situations where water is not purified or is unsafe to drink.
A note: Chlorine has been correlated with breast cancer, however in an emergency situation, this is a risk I am willing to take.
4. Well… if chlorine is safe, I can just drink my pool water, right?
Drinking pool water is not safe. Not only are there high levels of chlorine, there are all kinds of other chemicals in your pool. If you have a serious carbon filter it should be able to filter out chlorine, or at least enough to be safe. I am not sure about the other chemicals in the pool. You can also wait until the chlorine dissipates enough to be drinkable, but I would still clean it for other chemicals.
5. Buying water bottles are cheap and easy to stock up on.
Yes they are. If you are planning on rotating through these this is a great way to store water. However, the plastic is cheap and may start to leak. Using thick, food grade plastic is the best way to store water for long term. It may have a “plasticy” taste, but it won’t kill you.
Try stocking up on a portable filtered drinking bottle. There are lots of options but you need to have carbon and iodine filters to make sure your water is safe.
The best advice I have is to stock up on some high powered water filters, several plastic water buckets depending on your family, chlorine to purify water, and a few of those water bottles that pull liquid out of the air. There are bags you can fill with tub water if you know that your water may be unavailable (like before a large storm), but these have limited uses. As stated earlier, water heaters typically develop large amounts of sludge on the bottom, and if your water if contaminated, this water will be unsafe to drink as well.