Part 2: Water Storage and Purification
According to the United States Geological Society (USGS) the average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day (USGS, 2013). A single toilet flush can use up to six gallons depending on the toilet. Showering uses two gallons per minute if you have a water saver showerhead, and up to five gallons per minute if using an older showerhead. A clothes washer can use up to 25 gallons per load. Each person also needs at least two quarts/liters of water daily just for hydration.
During a survival situation/disaster, you will need water for cooking, drinking, personal hygiene, laundry and possibly crop irrigation. It is impractical in some cases to try and store up to 100 gallons per person daily so water conservation will be an important part of your survival plan along with ways to store, collect, filter and purify a water source. Knowing how to properly purify and store water is critical and is something every prepper ought to know. In part two of our three part series we will show you some essential strategies for you to be prepared in case of emergency. If you missed part one read it here.
Water if sealed and stored in food grade plastic containers out of direct light is considered to have an indefinite shelf life. It can be stored for years and still be safe to drink. Pre-packaged water sold in retail stores by law has to have an expiration date. This does not mean the water is bad once the expiration date has passed however. The container is what deteriorates over time because of exposure to light. The plastic will become brittle and crack and the container can leak.
Food grade plastic however will not break down nearly as quickly. Some experts estimate, it can take up to 1,000 years for some plastics to deteriorate. You can use food grade plastic barrels specifically designed for long-term water storage. You cannot use jugs that were used to store milk. The plastic is designed to hold up for a specific period under refrigeration. Milk is a perishable so the manufactures used materials in the containers designed for short-term storage.
If filled using tap water and a hose (marine hose) approved for drinking water no further purification is required. Seal and store out of direct light. Fill the barrels in place unless you have the means to move them once filled. Water weighs 8.5lbs/3.8kg per gallon so a 50-gallon barrel filled with water will weigh 425lbs/192.7kg. The weight of your stored water is a consideration in some cases. Before using for the first time and assuming, the barrels were purchased new, rinse well with a mild bleach solution such as a tablespoon per gallon of water. Swish the solution around so it has made contact with all inside surfaces and rinse well. Ensure your barrels include a hand siphon/pump.
How Much Water To Store
In an emergency survival situation, your main concern is hydration. You cannot go longer than 72 hours without adequate fluid intake. Most experts recommend one gallon per person daily and this considers personal hygiene such as sponge baths and oral care. You would drink two quarts and use the other two for bathing and teeth brushing. This recommendation however, is for emergencies and does not consider laundry or cooking. In a survival situation, you cannot afford to use valuable water for laundry. For short-term water disruptions, the one gallon per day is acceptable. For longer periods, you would need at least three gallons per day for each individual. The two extra gallons would consider water for cooking, and hand washing clothing.
Alternative Water Sources Collection Filtration and Purification
Being properly prepared means, you assume you will deplete your water supply. You must factor certain things into your calculations. Things such as friends and neighbors needing emergency water, damage to a water container along with theft and wastefulness. You must have the means to collect, filter and purify a surface water source to supplement or replace your water supply.
Water sources include rain runoff from your roof, private and public swimming pools, hot tubs, rivers, lakes and ponds along with public water fountains and other public/private water features. These sources must be filtered and purified however, before they are considered safe to drink.
Filtering (depending on the medium) can remove, debris, sediment, waterborne cysts that contain bacteria, certain odors, pesticides, herbicides and certain petroleum products. Filtering will not destroy any bacteria, pathogens or parasites though some may be removed during the process. To destroy bacteria, pathogens and parasites the water must be either boiled or chemically treated.
Filtering or purification methods will not make toxic or otherwise poisoned water safe to drink.
Filtering materials are activated charcoal or charcoal you make yourself, sand, cloth, coffee filters, gravel and cheesecloth. Ideally, you would have a combination of filtering mediums that can be layered for best results.
The finer filtering material is placed in the bottom while less dense material such as gravel is placed in the filtering device last. The coarse material will filter out large debris such as insects, pieces of wood and the micro particles and cysts will be removed by sand, charcoal, cheesecloth, and coffee filters as the water flows through the various mediums. Activated charcoal will remove pesticides, herbicides, fuels and odors from the water along with waterborne cysts that harbor bacteria. You can make the filtering device as large as needed if you have a suitable container. Make sure you elevate large containers so you can collect the water as it filters out the bottom.
Boiling Water for Purification
Boiling is the preferred method of water purification in any emergency/survival situation. To destroy waterborne contaminates you should rapid boil the water for three minutes. There is a lot of debate on the Internet and elsewhere on how long water really needs to boil. Most bacteria, pathogens and parasites will be destroyed at between 145 and 165ᵒF (62.7-73.8ᵒC). However, this temperature range must be maintained for at least one hour, some consider this pasteurization. Three minutes at or close to 212ᵒF (100ᵒC) will destroy the waterborne contaminates.
Water boils at different temperatures depending on elevation; higher elevations have less air pressure, which means water boils at a lower temperature. Boiling for three minutes considers elevations and various water temperatures.
Chemical Treatment for Water Purification
When using common household bleach you will need an eyedropper to dispense drops and the bleach must not have any additives such as fragrances. Using 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite, you would add eight drops of bleach per one gallon of water or two drops per each quart/liter. Shake the container well and wait 30 minutes before drinking. If you cannot detect a chlorine smell from the treated water after waiting the recommended time, double the drops and wait up to 60 minutes.
Read the directions carefully because the dosage and wait times may vary. Check with your health care professional before consuming iodine treated water if you have thyroid issues or are pregnant or nursing. No one should consume iodine treated water for more than 14 days at a time. Chlorine Dioxide Tablets kill bacteria, viruses and cysts, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Water purification tablets provide simple-to-use water treatment in an emergency situation.
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