National Preparedness Month
In case you didn’t catch it, September is National Preparedness Month! This is a month designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Department of Homeland Security that encourages Americans to prepare for natural disasters. September 2011 was when I first started hearing about and learning about “preppers.” It intrigued me! And a few short months later when I found out about our new little one on the way, I got started on this crazy preparedness journey that makes me feel so much more confident and secure for my family’s well-being.
Now, I think being prepared helps my family out in hundreds of ways, and isn’t only for big, natural disasters that may occur or the end of the world scenarios that so many preppers talk about. I think it helps us when my husband gets paid a few days late, or when we’ve all caught the stomach bug and are stuck in our own little isolation camp that is the hall bathroom. I think it would help us if we had an unexpected illness, injury, or job loss that caused our income to dramatically drop. Prepping is beneficial in so many ways!
National Preparedness Month has always been a great time for me to reorganize my preparations, hone some skills, and stock up on a few extra essentials. If you aren’t already following The Prepared Bloggers on Facebook, you should! (Or better yet, just go to the new website HERE!) This month we are all teaming together to bring you “30 Days of Preparedness,” where you will get a new challenge each day. You will find everything you need to get your preparedness knowledge and skills into shape. Thanks for joining us as we work our way through 30 Days of Preparedness.
Have you ever heard of the Rule of 3s? According to scientists, the average human can survive for 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter (in extreme weather), 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. These four areas of preparedness are where I focus 90% of my preps. Today is my day to post for our 30 days of Preparedness, and we’re going to be discussing Water Storage & Purification. Since water is one of those 4 most important areas of preparedness (In my humble opinion), it is something I am constantly working on and trying to improve.
How much Water do you really need?
Most people will tell you that you need to store 1 gallon of water per person, per day. However, if you take into account that the average Joe should be consuming about 3 Liters of water per day on a regular basis, that already leaves a shortage because we haven’t taken into account bathing, dishes, laundry, or cooking. Pregnant women, persons with medical conditions, or those who are under stress or working outside (AKA sweating a lot) will need to drink even more water! (Please tell me about a survival or emergency situation in which you wouldn’t be stressed and/or sweating…..) Misty Marsh from Your Own Home Store has a fantastic article about her 48 hour challenge without water from National Preparedness Month last year. She concluded that her family needed more along the lines of 2.3 gallons of water per person per day to survive and maintain a “normal” lifestyle. Because of this, my family’s goal is actually 2.5 gallons per person, per day. I would much rather have too much water stored than too little! Also, don’t forget about your Pets! Day 5 of the 30 Days of Preparedness talked about pets, so I won’t go into much detail here, but if you have cats, dogs, horses, cattle, or chickens don’t leave them out! They will need to be taken care of, too!
Our goal is to have 31 days worth of water stored in our home, plus multiple ways to purify or filter water after that 31 day supply has run out. That means we need 232.5 Gallons of water stored for the humans, plus about 7.5 more gallons for our dog. I’m ALMOST there! And once I reach that goal, I might even bump it up to 3 or 6 months. 😉
Where and How should I store my water?
There are practically hundreds of ways to store water in your home. I’ll talk about several different types of containers you can use in a little while, but first, let’s talk about storage conditions. There are 6 common enemies of food storage: Temperature, Moisture, Oxygen, Light, Pests, and Time. Not all of these apply to water storage, but some of them are very important to consider! (Temperature and light are particularly not good for water) You want to store your water in a cool, dry, dark place if at all possible. This will help keep your stored water from growing algae or other contaminates that would make it un-drinkable. With that being said, 240 Gallons is a LOT of water! And if you have a bigger family you’ll need even more water, which means more space! Store it wherever you can find a spot. Our water is currently stored in our garage. It’s not the ideal place, and I hope to move it to a better location soon, but for now it works! Again, I would much rather have hot water (and a way to purify it should I need to) than not have water at all.
Another note: Water doesn’t ever really “Go Bad.” You’ll notice that water bottles and water pouches have an expiration date on them. This is mostly because the FDA requires products have an expiration date of some kind. It doesn’t mean that after 2 years your water is suddenly unfit to drink. The main problem people have with “old” water is that it starts to taste stale. You can quickly and easily remedy this by pouring the water from one cup to another repeatedly. This adds more oxygen to the water particles and “freshens” it back up.
Types of water storage containers:
I think having a variety of containers in terms of materials, shapes, and sizes is always going to give you a more rounded water storage supply. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
- Rainwater Collection- Catching rain water is a cheap & easy way to store water. Even if you don’t want to use it for drinking, it can always be used for flushing toilets, bathing, watering the garden, or your pets/livestock. Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own DIY Rain Barrel, if you decide to go that route. My parents have a larger rain water catchment system on their barn to help provide for their horses and cattle. They’re in a drought right now so it’s probably empty, but when the rain comes it will fill up quickly!
- WaterBOB– These things are really nifty! They’re more to keep in a drawer until you hear the tornado sirens, but still a valid option! The theory is that as soon as you are notified of an impending emergency, you would throw it into the bathtub and fill it up with water. You could just fill up your tub without the waterBOB, but if you have small children around like me, it could be a safety hazard. Plus I’m not sure I’d drink out of my tub today lol 🙂
- Waterbricks– Waterbricks are one of the more popular choices for water storage. Linda from Food Storage Moms used waterbricks to store an extra 56 gallons of water under her bed! (See, you DO have space!) They are one of the more expensive options, but I have a few and I think they’re worth it! They’re much more sturdy than some water containers, they’re stackable, and they’re small enough for me to easily carry. Water is HEAVY y’all!
- Aquatainers- I have a few of these that I picked up at Wal-Mart in the camping section (About $14 at Wal-Mart as opposed to the $24 on Amazon plus shipping….just sayin!) They have worked very well for me so far (I’ve had them approximately 2.5 years), but I’ve heard stories of them leaking or breaking so beware. They hold 7 Gallons, so like the water bricks are manageable to carry, and they’re stackable, which I love. Compared to the Waterbricks they are much less expensive. (Twice the water stored for about half the price, but they aren’t nearly as sturdy as the Waterbricks, and they’re heavier when full because they hold more water.
- Water Barrels- The 55 Gallon drums are a great choice if you want a LOT of water storage, but you can also find barrels in 30 gallons, 20 gallons, or 15 gallons, which have smaller footprints and are easier to move. Check local listings and Craigslist to find some used ones for cheap. (Just make sure they are food-grade!) I have two that previously held soda syrup and have a faint cherry smell. 🙂 Washed them out with some dawn and bleach, and now they’re good as new! Also, I would stick with the blue or black ones if you’re wanting to keep them outdoors. The white/transparent ones can allow too much sunlight and promote algae growth. Note that it would be very handy to have a siphon pump or a filter pump available (we have one of each) for your barrels so you can get the water out easier.
- Water bottles- Storing plastic water bottles (the disposable kind like Nestle or Desani sells) are a little bit controversial. One one hand, people will tell you not to use them because if you leave them in the heat (such as a car trunk or garage) they will leach chemicals into your water. But how do you think they got to that nice & cool, air conditioned store? From a hot warehouse on a hot truck! Others say that they don’t start the chemical leaching unless they’ve been left in over 100 degree temps for several months to a year straight. Sooo…. I’ll leave this decision up to you. I do have a few cases of bottled water in my garage for ease of use. We rotate through them every so often, and I know they would be much more convenient in an emergency situation than a gallon container. We also have a wide assortment of stainless steel, glass, and BPA free reusable water bottles because I’m a water bottle junkie 🙂
- PETA Bottles- PETA (or PET) is a type of plastic that is used to make 2 Liter soda bottles, juice bottles, and the like. These are great to use because they’re sturdier than milk jugs, less hazardous than BPA plastics, and are recyclable). So next time you empty a 2 Liter soda bottle or apple/orange juice bottle, don’t throw it away! Wash it out, fill it with clean tap water, and store it! Even if you don’t use it for drinking, it can be handy for washing dishes, laundry, or hygiene.
- Water Pouches- These are what I have in my Car Emergency Kit and my husband’s Get Home Bag. They are more portable than the larger containers and I feel much safer drinking them after being in the heat of my car.
- Glass & Stainless Steel- Excellent choices for those concerned with plastic and chemicals. The downsides, of course, are that glass is heavy and breakable, in which case, you might consider stainless steel.
- Quick Tip: If you DON’T have water stored and an emergency were to happen right now, also remember your toilet tanks and water heater tank already have water in them! Use that to your advantage. Every last drop can be useful for something.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. There are TONS of great ways to store water!
What you SHOULDN’T use:
- Gallon water jugs or empty milk cartons- This type of plastic is too thin and flimsy to be used for long term storage. They’re great for everyday use, but if you’re wanting something to save for emergencies or have on hand in your storm shelter, this is not a good option.
- Thin plastic containers- Like the water jugs or milk cartons, you want to make sure the containers you’re storing your water in will last. The not-as-good-quality containers have the potential to spring a leak or just plain break, leaving you without water and out the money you paid for them. The Aquatainers mentioned above seem to be on the verge of a “too thin” line. Again, I’ve never had any problems with mine, I just want to make you aware. The sturdier your plastic, chances are the better it will last. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra money to buy quality containers.
- Transparent containers- As I mentioned when I talked about water barrels, you want to choose opaque containers as often as possible. The WaterBricks are a light blue, the Aquatainers are a dark blue, most 55 Gallon drums come in dark blue or black… you have several options there. Light and moisture (water) equals bacteria, which you definitely want to avoid! If you do have a lot of transparent storage, try to keep it in a cool, dark room.
Rotating Your Water Storage
Rotating your water storage periodically is necessary for a few reasons. You want to make sure the water you have stored is still drinkable (no bacteria growth, bugs, or other contaminates), and you want to check your containers for any leaks or defects. Again, water doesn’t just “go bad” at some magical point in time, but it can become undrinkable. You can pour your containers out (using the water for your garden, the kiddie pool, washing your car, grey water, etc), re-clean the containers, and fill with fresh water. I try to do this about once a year for each container, rotating as I go so they are each in different stages. Some experts will tell you every 6 months is more appropriate while others say you don’t need to do anything for 3 years. This timeline is completely up to you.
Being able to purify clean drinking water is almost as important as having the water available. 99% of the time, if you use a clean container and keep it out of the heat and light, with an airtight seal (so no bugs can get in) you won’t have any issues; however, in an emergency situation it would be very upsetting to open up a 55 Gallon drum only to discover that it was dirty and undrinkable. Having some methods to clean that water just in case it gets contaminated is not a bad idea.
Filtration vs. Purification
Many people get filtration and purification confused. (and rightly so because they are very similar) Filtration entails ridding water of impurities through boiling, using a barrier (filter), or chemical. Filtration focuses on larger particles in your water including bacteria and microbial cysts, and is the best way to improve the taste of your water. Purification is essentially the same except that it focuses on the overall safety of the water rather than taste (biological contaminates, viruses, radiation, chemicals, etc). Chlorine and Iodine are your typical purification agents. Both filtration and purification are necessary in emergency situations to make sure your water is clean enough to drink.
Note: The water filtration system in the door of your fridge or fridge water pitcher is NOT sufficient. Nor are the Bobble or Brita water bottles. Those types of filters are more to make already clean water taste better instead of ridding the water of bacteria. Like the water fountain at the mall. It is already safe to drink, it just tastes weird. What I’m talking about today are filters that make dirty water clean enough to drink. Pond water. Lake water. Puddle water. or that water in your barrel that has been there for 5 years and has algae growing in it.
Types of Water Purification and Filtration
- Boiling water- The easiest and most common way to purify your water. It’s pretty fool-proof. Technically your water only has to reach a temperature of 185°F for 3 minutes for it to be purified. You’re told to boil it because most people don’t have a thermometer handy to measure. Since water boils at 212°F, it’s a great visual indicator that you’ve reached that goal. Once your water boils it is immediately safe to drink (you might want to let it cool back down again though.) 🙂 You can use a WAPI instead of boiling to save on time and fuel.
- Iodine, Liquid bleach, Pool Shock, or Bleach tablets- With all of these methods, it is assumed that you are using water that looks clean. If it has dirt or sediment in it, you’ll want to pour it through some sort of filter first to remove them. (Same with boiled water) A clean t-shirt, cheesecloth, or coffee filter will do the trick. A good rule of thumb: If your water is still cloudy, double the purification agent.
- Iodine is my least favorite option because it tastes funky to me; however, Iodine is a good mineral to have in your system. Use about 5 drops per Liter of water and let sit for 30 minutes before drinking. (Iodine tablets and crystals are also available. I’ve never used those, but directions should be on the package.) You can use Kool-Aid or other flavored drink mixes to mask the Iodine (or chlorine) taste if it bothers you too much.
- To purify with liquid bleach, you’ll need about 2 drops of chlorine bleach (the regular kind, not concentrated) per Liter to purify your water. Let it sit for 30 minutes before drinking. Another thing to look out for: Chlorine bleach looses it’s effectiveness after about 6 months of being open, in which case it won’t purify your water anymore. So date your bottles!
- Pool Shock is just crystalized, concentrated chlorine. It’s best used for larger amounts of water instead of smaller, personal sized bottles. Survival Mom has a great handout on how to use it HERE.
- Bleach tablets- You would have to reconstitute these into liquid bleach and then purify using the bleach method mentioned above, but the tablets have a much longer shelf life and tend to be much cheaper ($2.75 for a bottles of 32 tablets at Wal-Mart) than your typical bottle of Clorox.
- Whole Home water filtration systems– These are pricey systems, but if you don’t have a good city water filtration system, it might be completely worth it. Check them out here or contact Dan for an estimate.
- Counter Top Filters There are two mainstream brand filters that I know of, and I’ve heard great things about both of them: Berkey & ProPur both make quality water filters in a variety of sizes and prices. I have a Royal Berkey and could not be more pleased with it! Check out my 5 Reasons Why I Love my Berkey HERE.
- Portable Filtration- The technology made available for portable filters these days is absolutely mind blowing! There are SO many good choices and only so much time for me to tell you about all of them. Here are a few highlights for you:
- Lifestraw– A Great option for Bug Out Bags! This little filter is ultra light and portable. It can be hung around your neck for quick access. You just put one end in the water, and suck from the other end like a straw! Filters up to 1000 Liters of water.
- Lifestraw Family- Great for families with smaller kids who don’t know how to use a straw. Same technology as in the Lifestraw, but uses a lightweight holding tank and gravity to filter instead of suction. Filters up to 4,755 Gallons of water.
- Sawyer Mini- Similar to a Lifestraw, the Sawyer mini uses suction to filter. It filters a considerable amount more water (100,000 Gallons!), but the filter isn’t as small as Lifestraw so it doesn’t get the smaller particles. The Sawyer also has several parts and has been known to be “finicky.” There’s a lot of debate over which one of these two is better, but I’ll let you decide 🙂
- Seychelle Water Bottle- Filters up to 100 Gallons of water, depending on the source. Not as great of a filter in that it doesn’t filter radiological particles, but it will remove bacteria, cysts, and viruses.
- Sport Berkey– Another water bottle option. It filters down to radiological particles, and is good for up to 160 refills from ANY water source OR 640 refills from city water.
- DIY filters- Ahhh the exciting realm of DIY! Who can resist?
I’m kind of a water filter/purifier collector. I have Lifestraws, Seychelle bottles, Berkey Sport bottles, a Royal Berkey, and a pump filter that goes in our 55 gallon water barrels plus methods to boil water (of course), bleach, chlorine tablets, and a few homemade filter options. Did I mention I think water is important? 🙂
What About You?
Your challenge for the day is to first, make a plan: How many people do you need to store water for? How many gallons per person per day would you like to have stored, and how long is your water storage supposed to last for your family? Calculate those numbers! Then, decide what kind of water storage and/or purification systems you would like to have. Once you have a plan, put it into action! Fill up those empty coke bottles or purchase some water storage containers, and GET THEM FILLED!
Take one post each day, learn as much as you can about the topic and make it a part of your preparedness plan.
Day 1 – Ready, Set, Get Prepared! Welcome to 30 Days of Preparedness from PreparednessMama
Day 2 – The Family Meeting Place and Escape from Laughingbear Adventures
Day 3 – I’m Safe! How to Communicate with Family in an Emergency from PreparednessMama
Day 4 – Does Your Family Have a Fire Escape Plan? from Home Ready Home
Day 5 – Preparedness For Pets from The Busy B Homemaker
Day 6 – The Escape Exercise from Laughingbear Adventures
Day 7 – It all Falls Apart Without Mental Preparedness from PreparednessMama
Day 8 – It’s a Matter of Emergency Kits from A Matter of Preparedness
Day 9 – Nine Great Emergency Light Sources Other Than Flashlights from Food Storage & Survival
Day 10 – Cooking Without Power from Mama Kautz
Day 11 – The Importance of a Shelter & Staying Warm and Dry from Trayer Wilderness
Day 12 – The Importance of Having The Right Tools In Your Pack from Trayer Wilderness
Day 13 – Practice Living Without Electricity from Food Storage Made Easy
Day 14 – How We Choose The Right Gear – (including the MultiFlame Tool) from Trayer Wilderness
Day 15 – Water Storage & Purification from The Busy B Homemaker
Day 16 – Food and Water for a 72 Hour “Go Bag” from Homestead Dreamer
Day 17 – 8 Foods You Should Be Storing and How from Melissa K Norris
Day 18 – Planning Your Pantry from The Organic Prepper
Day 19 – Stocking Up on Non-Food Items from Living in Rural Iowa
Day 20 – Dutch Oven Cooking: Off-Grid Before Off-Grid Was Cool from The Backyard Pioneer
Day 21 – Preserving and Canning the Harvest from Timber Creek Farm
Day 22 – Personal Protection & Awareness from Living in Rural Iowa
Day 23 – KISS First Aid from Herbal Prepper
Day 24 – Mommy, I have to go Potty! from Mom With a Prep
Day 25 – Fire Starting 101: The Why and How of Lighting a Fire for Survival from Food Storage & Survival
Day 26 – How to Filter and Purify Water from Prepared Housewives
Day 27 – How To Make A Shelter from Trayer Wilderness
Day 28 – Put Your Preps to the Test with 24 Hours Unplugged from The Organic Prepper
Day 29 – What Is Char and Why You Should Have It To Start A Fire from Trayer Wilderness
Day 30 – How To Utilize Bushcraft Skills and Forage From The Wild from Trayer Wilderness
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