Storing water is very different than storing food, and you will die from thirst long before you die of hunger. It takes just 3-5 days for a person to perish from dehydration.
According to the Pacific Institute of Studies, people lose just over 2 pints of water each day through normal bodily functioning. That amount increases dramatically in hot climates. The amount of water you need to be healthy depends on:
• Body composition
Sources vary slightly, but the World Health Organization serves as a benchmark with its minimum daily requirement set at just over 5 pints. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that every household store 3 gallons of water per inhabitant at all times.
When it comes to storing bottled water, the International Bottled Water Association recommends storage space be away from direct sunlight and no hotter than room temperature.
Here are five common myths about water storage:
#1 Water can expire
• Yes, water can become contaminated, but it does not “go bad.”
#2 Storing in plastic is safe
• If storing water in plastic, make sure containers are UV-resistant and food-grade. You can also use clean water barrels or metallized bags.
• Polyethylene-based plastics (#1, #2, and #4) are best for water storage.
• Do not use containers made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic.
• Used stored water for drinking and cleaning wounds only
#3 I’m safe as long as I have a water barrel
• Don’t rely on a barrel for all situations. If you have to flee, you won’t be able to take the barrel with you. Also, one barrel may not last long depending on the number of people using it.
• Plan to store enough water for a minimum of two weeks.
• You can fill barrels from the tap, but make sure to use a sterilizing chemical to prevent bacteria and algae from contaminating the supply.
#4 I can stack barrels to save space
• Most water barrels were not meant to be stacked. Use containers with groves if you want to save space.
• Traditional water barrels should be stored standing upright.
• Do not store barrels directly on concrete or a garage floor. Place cardboard or wood between the barrel and the floor to prevent flavors and odors from gas and other chemicals from leeching into the water.
#5 My water is purified, so I don’t need a filtration system
Chlorine dioxide and other water purifiers kill about 99.9% of microorganisms and are great to use on river water when hiking. However, purifiers do not remove materials like dirt and silt. Your best bet is to use both a filter and a purifier before you drink.
That being said, always use caution when drinking rainwater or drinking from a stream. Look upstream for signs of decaying animals. If you find any, do not drink.
Rainwater can be collected from gutters using a system like the one pictured at left. Make sure to use a filter and a sterilization method before drinking. And remember than in some cases, rainwater may be contaminated by radioactive or acidic materials.
If it’s nuclear, avoid drinking it at all costs. If it’s acidic, you can treat it with sodium carbonate or another alkaline solution, but you will need to test the acidity before ingesting.