Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency.
- Store water in plastic containers, such as soft drink plastic bottles. Seal containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Replace water every 6 months. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
- Keep at least a 3-day supply of water, or a minimum of three gallons per person. It is strongly recommended to have more if possible. Use one-half gallon per day for drinking, and one-half gallon for cooking and sanitation. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more. Store your three-day supply in a handy place. You need to have water packed and ready in case there is no time to fill water bottles when disaster strikes.
Water needs to be treated only if it is of questionable purity.
- Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Strain water through a clean cloth to remove bulk impurities. Bring water to a rolling boil for about one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
- You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir, and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25% hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
- Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or other solid impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side up when the lid is upside down (make sure the cup is not touching the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
- Melt ice cubes or use water from undamaged hot water tanks, toilet tanks (not the bowl), and water pipes if you need additional water.
- If you need to find water outside of your home, you can use rainwater; streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water; ponds and lakes; and natural springs. If you question its purity, be sure to treat the water first. Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or a dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. Do not drink flood water.