Published on 10/01/99

Can You 'Can' Drinking Water For Emergencies?

University of Georgia experts say many people have asked them whether they can "can" water for emergencies.

Their answer? Yes, you can, but you don't really need to.

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"Using clean containers for chlorine-treated water is just as suitable," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food safety specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"Canning," Andress said, "refers to putting boiled water in jars, covering with two-piece, metal, home-canning lids, with a screwband, and processing the submerged jar in boiling water for a specified number of minutes."

The container size for canning will be limited by the size of your boiling-water canner. Glass jars are required for home canning lids, too, and the weight of these filled jars will be an issue. They're also more likely to break (the glass) or rust (the lids) during disaster situations.

However, if you still want to "can" water for storage, Andress said, follow these directions:

The canner must be deep enough to have 1 to 2 inches of water boiling over the tops of the filled jars during processing. It must have a rack in the bottom and a lid.

Prepare home-canning jars by washing in hot, soapy water and rinsing well. Keep them warm until ready to use. (You can do this by filling them with clean hot water or submerging them in warm water in your canner.) Prepare the lids by following the directions on the package.

Bring clean, potable water to boiling. Fill into the warm, clean jars, leaving a half-inch head space. Adjust the prepared lids, and process in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Start timing the process after the water in the canner comes to a boil around the filled jars.)

Boiled water may taste "flat" when opened. To improve the flavor, aerate air into the water by shaking the jar or pouring it back and forth between two clean jars.

At the end of the 10-minute process, remove the jars from the canner and place them on a rack or towel out of cool drafts. Allow them to sit undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours, until they are cool and the lids have sealed.

The water may be stored for 5 years or more.

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