On Water Storage, Part 2

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Yesterday, I let you in on how our family is currently storing water and what our future goals are (I have my eyes on you, 55 gallon drum!). I forgot to mention that once we build our dream home, hopefully in the next few years, we plan to engineer a rain water catch system. Rain water can be used to water plants and gardens, but if adequately filtered and treated , can also be used for drinking water in an emergency situation for your pets or yourself. All of that rain water running off of our roofs, into the gutters, and onto the ground going to waste!

I left off yesterday briefly explaining that we reuse 1 and 2 liter soda bottles for water storage. This is a convenient, cost effective, and durable manner to store your water. IF you are going to reuse containers, there are a few ground rules as well as strict cleaning and sanitizing guidelines to follow.

To start, DO NOT use milk jugs or bottles that contained fruit juice for water storage. The milk proteins and fruit sugars are difficult to completely remove from the bottles and given time, will create a hot bed for microbial growth that will contaminate your water and potentially make you sick. We don’t want that.

The following cleaning and sanitation instructions are straight from FEMA and the American Red Cross and are accepted across the prepping ‘verse:

Prepping Containers:

1.) Thoroughly clean the container with dish washing soap and water. Rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

2.) Create a sanitizing solution by combining 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach (cheap at discount stores) to a quart (1/4 gallon) of water.

3.) Swish the solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces.

4.) Rinse the bottle with clean water, let dry completely. I wait until I have a large number of bottles, at least 10, before I start to clean and sanitize that way I can reuse the sanitizing solution in the bottles I have for that day.

Filling Water Containers:

1.) Make sure your hands and working surfaces are clean. I recommend wearing gloves and rubbing them with hand sanitizer. You don’t want to contaminate the lid with your dirty hands when you are recapping.

2.) Fill the bottle to the top with tap water from your sink. If your water utility company treats with chlorine, there is no need to add anything additional to keep it safe and clean. Most cities and companies have this information on their website, if not, a quick call to the water company and you’ll have your answer 🙂

If the water you are using comes from a well or another water source that has not been treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to each gallon of water. (2 liters is ~1/2 gallon, so 1 drop of bleach for each two liter bottle is sufficient)

3.) Tightly close the container using the original cap. Do not touch the inside of the cap, again we don’t want to contaminate!

4.) Write the date on the outside of the container. Store in a cool, dark place.

If you want some added protection, you can wrap the lid with Parafilm to get a good seal. This is a material we use in the biology and chemistry labs quite often.

5.) Replace the water every six months. If I have water coming up on it’s “expiration”, I just refill our dogs’ automatic water bowl with it, re-clean, re-sanitize, and refill!

In a nutshell, that’s how we prep and store our water. Simple, cheap, and effective…three of my favorite things!

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On Water Storage

When I found myself emotionally and physically ready to start disaster preparations for my family, I sat down to do research in order to discover what I could do right now to ensure my family’s health and wellness in the case of an emergency situation. I was hoping to find a step-by-step, how-to, checklist type of document but to no avail. I guess I can say that I’m not surprised because each family and situation is different, so there won’t be a completely universal guide on how to prepare.

I approached it with this mindset:

If a disaster were to strike tomorrow, what necessities do I need to ensure my family’s health and safety for 2 weeks?

(In the beginning of my prepping journey, I started with the small, achievable goal of a 2 week need)

We have enough food to stretch us for two weeks (even if the power went out), our pets (2 dogs, 1 hedgehog)have ample food, we have warm clothing, and it’s not extremely cold yet where I am (Ohio) so we could absolutely keeps ourselves comfortable in regards to temperature.

What don’t we have enough of? Water. We can survive weeks without food, but only three days without water. We live in a country where safe drinking water is bountiful. So much so, that I think most of us take its availability for granted (guilty here). There are several places in the world where water scarcity and water stress is a very real thing.

When I sat down to make my 2 week prep list (which I’ll share soon!), we had two 36-count packages of bottled water. That’s it. Loosely translated that is only 9.5 gallons. For reference,

The CDC and FEMA recommend 1 gallon per person and pet per day. 

My water “storage” at the time would have lasted my husband, daughter, 2 dogs and I less than 2 days if disaster were to strike. Sure, I could fill up the bathtubs, the sinks, or drink from the toilet reservoir (not the bowl), but I don’t want to rely on those sources. What if our local water municipal had been compromised or contaminated and we couldn’t trust what was in the system? We would have to scramble to find  water in potentially dangerous conditions. This is exactly what motivated me to start prepping for disaster situations.

As I stated before, every family and situation is different. What works for my family may not work for yours – but I’d sure be happy to help you with recommendations! According to the CDC and FEMA’s recommendations, my family of 3 plus 2 dogs would need at least 70 gallons of water for a two week supply. Here is what our water storage plan looks like right now:

  1. Commercially packaged bottled water (16.9oz): While these are convenient and inexpensive ($2-$3 per pack), this makes up only a small percentage of our water storage. We have around 3-5 packages on hand at all times. Waste is a topic that is extremely important to me and pre-packaged water bottles are a HUGE source of waste/trash. While they can be recycled, in a real life SHTF (sh*t hit the fan) scenario, you most likely will not have access to recycling or even trash pick up.  Amount on hand = 27-45 gallons.
  2. Larger Commercially packaged water (1 gallon and up):  We have 25-30 one gallon jugs of water from the grocery store in our stockpile. I like these because they are larger (less waste) and can be refilled much easier with tap water once we’ve used them (after proper cleaning with dish soap and sanitation with bleach). It’s also easier to measure and keep track of water consumption. Amount on hand = 25-30 gallons
  3. Food grade water storage containers: This is the ideal. If you can fork over the up front cash needed to buy these containers, do it. They are by far the safest and most fitting to use for water storage.  There are thousands of different types of water storage containers out there. For me, it was quite overwhelming when I started to check these out. 55 gallon drum: if you have the space, these are great! Make sure you have a means of getting the water out when it’s needed. Check this one out on Amazon. Amount on hand = 0. Like I said, we are in the beginning stages of our prepping journey whilst on a budget. This is at the top of my list though! I know there are some resources out there that recommend buying used food grade containers and simply cleaning them well. I have a few issues with this: First, you can’t be completely sure what was in these drums before you got a hold of them. Most things can be cleaned and sanitized, but there are some that cannot. Second, I live by the mantra that you get what you pay for. Water is essential to survival and probably the most important part of your preps. It’s one of the things that I’m okay with spending money on to get quality in return.
  4. Recycled PETE containers: This is one of our favorite ways to prep! We collect 2 liter pop bottles from friends and family to refill. It’s important to be extremely sanitary when refilling containers because you don’t want to contaminate them. In my next post, I will go over how we clean and sanitize reusable bottles as well our plans for filtration of outside water sources. Amount on hand = 10 gallons (20 two liter bottles). 

Currently on hand we have 72-95 gallons of water which is sufficient for a 2 week prep scenario. We are moving in baby steps, but I feel it’s easier physically and mentally to set small goals and achieve them rather then setting several too big goals and feeling defeated and discouraged.

This post is much longer than I anticipated! I’ll be back later this week with a part 2 on water storage!