Published on 09/30/99

Store Drinking Water for Y2K and Other Potential Emergencies

Come hurricanes, tornados or even Y2K, you can have your eight glasses of water per day, say University of Georgia experts.

"Water supplies can be short during any kind of emergency," said Judy Harrison, a UGA Extension Service food safety specialist. "So it's smart to always have extra drinking water on hand."

Plan Ahead for Emergencies

If you'd rather be safe than sorry, you can store water for those days.

"Store at least 1 gallon per person per day for at least three days," Harrison said. "That's a good estimate. But everyone's needs will differ, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate."

A normally active person needs to drink at least 2 quarts of water each day. Hot environments can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

"You will need additional water for food preparation and hygiene," Harrison said.

Plastic is Best for Storing Water

If you're storing water for any emergency, plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers are best. Intact, durable plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles or those you buy water in, are best. You can also buy food-grade plastic buckets or larger containers.

"Never use a container that has held poisonous substances," Harrison warned. "Tiny amounts may remain in the container's pores."

Be sure, too, that lids don't have paper components. If that's all you can get, add an insert or barrier of polyethylene or polyester.

To make them easy to use, water containers for personal use should be no larger than 1 or 2 gallons. Two-liter soft-drink bottles also work well.

Most grocery stores sell a store brand of water packaged in gallon plastic jugs just like milk cartons. "It's not as costly as the 'gourmet' bottled waters," she said. Often less than $1 per gallon, it likely comes from a municipal water supply.

"If contamination or a leak occurs in a stored container, you will also lose less of your supply by using smaller containers," Harrison said.

Five- or 10-gallon storage drums (intended for water or food) will work well for larger supplies.

Use Thoroughly Clean Containers

Before you begin to store water, thoroughly wash the container and lid immediately before filling it. Use clean, hot water and detergent. Rinse well with hot water after washing.

"It's also important to treat water before storing it," Harrison said.

To treat water properly, use a preservative, such as chlorine bleach, to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Use liquid household chlorine bleach that has 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite and no soap. Don't use scented or "color safe" bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.

Read Bleach Container Labels

"Some bleach containers warn, 'Not For Personal Use,'" Harrison said. "You can disregard these warnings if the label states that sodium hypochlorite is the only active ingredient and if you use only the small quantities in these instructions."

Add four drops of bleach per quart of water and stir. Seal water containers tightly. Label them ("Purified Drinking Water"), date them and store them in a cool, dark place.

For comprehensive information on safe water storage, visit the UGA College of Family and Consumer Science web page at <www.f>.

(Photos by Sharon Omahen, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.