Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water Storage

We can survive for quite a while without food, but only a few days without water, therefore water is one of the most important things we can store. It is not practical to store enough water to last for several months or a year, so the recommended amount to store is 14 gallons of water per person, which should be a minimum amount for 2 weeks. If you can store more, you will be more comfortable. Besides your storage containers, water contained in water heaters, and toilet tanks can be used. Water should not be stored near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, etc.

-Glass is good for storage, but is easily broken and heavier than plastic. Water may be canned in a boiling water bath if desired. To process, fill clean canning jars with water, leaving one inch headspace. Top with new lids and bands; process in a boiling water bath, 20 minutes for quarts.

-Plastic is sturdy and lightweight. Containers should be food grade, and never have held anything other than food. Look for PET or PETE in the recycling symbol, that indicates a plastic that is good for storing water. Soda bottles and juice bottles are usually PETE containers, and can be an inexpensive source of containers. Use the clear plastic bottles, rather than the colored. The lids should have a plastic liner, not cardboard, which might disintegrate. Wash the containers well, using a solution of 1 Tbsp. liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water, and rinse well. Don't use bleach bottles, they have an anti-static agent added to prevent dust accumulation. Milk-type jugs also should not be used. Not only is it difficult to get them clean enough, they are not sturdy, and you are likely to find leaking containers, which can cause damage to your home. There are many larger containers available, designed to store water in the home. An internet search will give you many options if you are willing to pay for them.

-Some metals such as stainless steel are acceptable for water storage. Make sure it is resistant to rust. Do not treat water to be stored in metal with chlorine.

It is better not to store your water containers directly on concrete. Wood slats or pallets, carpet, or cardboard all make good surfaces to store your containers on.

Treating water to store:
If you have a chlorinated water supply, and are using clean containers, further disinfecting treatment is not necessary. If your water is not chlorinated, you can treat it for storing by one of these methods:
-Processing in a boiling water bath as described above.
-Add 1/4 tsp. unscented liquid chlorine bleach to each gallon of water. If water becomes cloudy, replace it and re-treat it.

Emergency Disinfection of Water
Sometimes, the only water available is contaminated or of unknown quality. Water can be sanitized or disinfected in several ways. If it is cloudy, it is helpful to drain it through something like a coffee filter, good quality paper towels, or several layers of tightly woven cloth, to remove as much debris as possible. Then treat.

-Boil water vigorously for 10 minutes. Since this removes air from the water, pouring the water back and forth between 2 containers will add air and improve taste.

-Chlorine can be added. If water is clear, 1/4 tsp. unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water can be added. Mix well and let stand for 30 minutes. A slight chlorine odor should be detectable (similar to the chlorine scent of treated tap water); if not, repeat the treatment and allow to stand an additional 15 minutes. Be aware that liquid chlorine bleach has a shelf-life of one year from date of manufacture. For best results, use chlorine bleach within 6 months of purchase.

-Commercial Water Purification tablets are available. Follow directions on the bottle.

-There are many commercial water treatment devices. Be aware they may not solve all issues.

-Solar water disinfection (SODIS). The World Health Organization says water may be disinfected by using a clear PET container (do not use glass). Fill containers 3/4 full of water, and shake for 20 seconds to aerate water, which aids the pasteurization, then fill to the top. Place bottle of water on a black background (perhaps a black trash bag) or corrugated metal roofing in the direct sunlight for 6 hours or 2 days of partial sunlight. For best results, surface should be slanted toward the sun. Devices which measure the point at which water is pasturized are available where solar ovens are sold. If PET bottles become heavily scratched, replace them.

-Granular Calcium Hypochlorite. This is available at pool supply stores as pool shock. Make sure to get one that has at least 78% calcium hypochlorite. To disinfect water, it takes a 2-step process. Dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon granular calcium hypochlorite in 2 gallons of water. Use this solution to disinfect your water, 1 pint will disinfect 12 1/2 gallons of water (1 part chlorine solution to 100 parts water). Don't mix up too much of the chlorine solution in advance, as it degrades over time. Let disinfected water sit for 30 minutes, then check for slight chlorine odor. If the chlorine odor/taste is objectionable, you can let the container sit uncovered for a few hours, or aerate by pouring water from one container to another a few times.

Most of this information came from USU Extension, and US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

I hope this is helpful as you store water for your family's needs.

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