As we experience snowstorms, broken water pipes, loss of electricity, contaminated wells and, soon to come, spring
floods, we are reminded to be prepared. One basic item is water.
Experts advise a three-day supply of water. This amounts to one gallon per day per person for food preparation and
drinking, plus one-half to 1 gallon daily for bathing, hygiene and dishwashing. This does not include pet needs.
If using commercial, closed containers of water, the following does not apply. But note the best used by" date. If you
want to create your own supply, use food-grade plastic or glass containers such as 1-, 3- or 5-gallon water containers
available at hardware stores. Plastic or glass containers that previously held food or beverages (soda bottles or
water, juice, punch) are safe. Do not use milk cartons as leakage and breakdown occur with time. If using metal
containers, be aware chlorine is corrosive to most metals.
Never use containers that previously held chemicals. Start by cleaning containers and lids with hot soapy water. Rinse
with water and sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Leave the containers wet
for two minutes, then rinse again with water.
Once you have clean containers, fill with potable drinking water. Though public water should be free of harmful
bacteria, it is recommended to add one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water for
storage. This protects against any lingering organisms that may have been inadvertently missed during the cleaning
process. Use unscented liquid household bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Be as accurate as
possible when measuring bleach because adding too much can be harmful. If storing water from a potable well, the same
process is recommended. If not using chlorine bleach, tincture of iodine (2 percent) is another option (20 drops/gallon
if clear or 40 drops/gallon if cloudy water).
Label containers as drinking water," date and store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon so be aware of shelf load limits.
Use and replace stored water every six to 12 months for better flavor and as additional precaution against bacteria or
virus in containers. When using your water, refresh the taste either by pouring it back and forth between containers a
few times to aerate or add a hint of lemon juice.
In an emergency, if you do not have water that you know is safe, purified water, start with the cleanest water you can
find. The two-step method approach is helpful when potable water is scarce. It requires less bleach because giardia and
cryptosporidium are destroyed or taken out by boiling or filtering. Chlorine is not as effective against these
parasites, though it's useful for others.
b Boil and chlorinate: At this elevation, the water is safe to use after boiling five minutes. If storing, follow the
same procedure as listed above. If sanitizing a stainless steel container, boil for 10 minutes.
b Filter and chlorinate: For small amounts of water, filter using a commercial or backpack filter (which filters to 1
micron). Filtering eliminates parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium but not all bacteria and viruses. Add
chlorine as noted above.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension