Water for your emergency kit.

Water for your emergency kit.

homesteading Berkey water filter

When an emergency happen you might not be able to count on your tap to supply the water you and family needs to survive. Prepare yourself by building a supply of water that will meet your family’s needs during an emergency.

Questions to ask yourself include:

How much water do I need?

How should I store water?

How do I prepare my own containers of water?

What should I store my water in?

How do I make my water safe to drink if it comes from outside?


How much water do I need?

You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. A normal person needs at least one gallon of water a day just for drinking.  Needs vary you have to consider; age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.

To determine your water needs, take the following into account:

  • One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more.
  • A medical emergency could require more.
  • In very hot temperatures, water needs can double.
  • Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.

How should I store water?

Should you purchase commercially bottled water, keep it in its original unopened container. Be aware of the expiration or “use by” date, store in a cool, dark place.

How do I prepare my own containers of water?

The Red Cross recommends that you purchase food grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores. Before filling with water, thoroughly clean all containers new or used with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely so there is no soap residue. If you chose to use your own storage containers, good choices include:  two-liter plastic soft drink bottles and fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Some containers not recommended for water storage include: milk jugs, containers from juice or glass containers.

Storing water yourself:

Follow these steps for storing water yourself. Thoroughly clean all containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no soap residue. Sanitize the containers by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Mix the sanitizing solution in the container so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water. Fill the container to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated you do not need to add anything else to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using. A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes. Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so you can know when you filled it. Store all containers in a cool, dark place. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.

Water can also be treated with water purification tablets that can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.

Sources of outside water

If you need to find water outside your home, look to:

  • Rainwater
  • Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs
  • You should not drink flood water. Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or dark color.

Ways to Make Outdoor Water Safer

Note:  only for emergencies when no other water is available. Untreated water can make you very sick. Besides having a bad odor and taste, it can contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals and germs that cause such diseases. Before drinking or using outdoor water make it safer by:

  • Straining it. Pour the water through paper towels, a clean cloth (t-shirts work well for this) or a coffee filter to remove any suspended particles.
  • Boiling it. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Let cool completely.
  • Chlorinating it. Using household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite (listed on the label) as its only active ingredient, add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon to water in a large pot. 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, find another source of water and start over.
  • Distilling it. 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 inside the pot when the lid is upside-down without dangling into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

These methods are not fool proof. It is best to use all of the methods listed above together. Boiling and chlorination will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants, such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Distillation will kill or remove most of any remaining contaminates.

This information was compiled from many sources including The Red Cross, The CDC, and FEMA.

For my family of three and two dogs I have five 5 gallon water containers. We used to buy water due to poor tap quality and now that we have good tap water and a Berkey we no longer need them.  I use them for emergency water storage. This came in handy this summer when a storm knocked out the power to the water treatment plant and everyone was told to ration.

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