How to store water for an emergency

Is water storage important to Mormons?

Recently, a reader asked a question about how to properly store water. Most people know that we can live weeks on little or no food, but only days without water. Thus, having water in an emergency is critical to health and survival.

Does the LDS church ask its members to store water as well as food? Yes. Here are a few quotes from lds.org that clearly show the two, food and water, recommended together:

“We encourage members worldwide to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings.

“We ask that you be wise as you store food and water and build your savings. Do not go to extremes; it is not prudent, for example, to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once. With careful planning, you can, over time, establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve.”

How to properly store water

Luckily, there is no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to water storage. The issue is clearly addressed in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. As far as a Mormon resource goes, lds.org has a great page on water storage. Here are a few key ideas from that page:

  • Containers: Use food-grade containers. PETE plastic containers work well. You can use new or used containers, as long as they were only used to store food items. Smaller containers are fine, and are in fact easier to move around. Larger containers are also easily obtainable. Milk jugs do not work; they seal poorly and degrade over time. Any container should be cleaned and sanitized before use.
  • Pre-treatment: Water from a municipal source does not need to be treated. For other water, you may pre-treat with 8 drops of unscented, plain household bleach per gallon. Water with other impurities may require additional steps.
  • Storage: You should rotate your water storage. Containers should be protected from the elements (unless designed for outdoor use.) You can “freshen” water by aerating it before drinking, by pouring it between two containers (introducing oxygen also alters the PH of the water.)

How much water to store

FEMA states that in an emergency, you should have “at least a three-day supply of water and you should store at least one gallon of water per person per day.” For a family of five, that would mean storing 15 gallons, an easy task with basic containers and not too much space.

Of course, this is a minimal recommendation: if you can reasonably store more, you would in theory have the following benefits:

  • Storing more water allows you to survive longer while waiting for help in an emergency
  • Storing more water means less rationing, more water for cleaning, showers, etc
  • Storing more water means you can help your neighbors and those around you

How to use storage water

The critical thing to remember with water is that it must be clean and pure when you drink it. Ingesting contaminated water may result in far greater problems than dehydration. In fact, the illnesses that could be caused by drinking impure water would most likely cause your body to require even more water to recover.

Many organizations recommend boiling water before use if there is any question concerning its purity. Here is why they make that recommendation:

  • Boiling water kills water-borne disease
  • Any lay-person can boil water
  • No special instruments or measurements are needed to boil water
  • It is easy to tell when water has been boiled

However, there are some considerations to take into account when asking people to boil all the water they wish to consume:

  • Boiling water takes time, and must be planned for
  • Boiling water takes human energy, especially if fuel must be obtained
  • Boiling water takes fuel, which may be scarce or finite

The reality of water purification, at least in the sense of boiling water, is that you are achieving the temperatures required for pasteurization. Water is actually pasteurized at around 150F. You can reliably remove most contaminants by bringing water up to that temperature for a short period of time. This can be done with a fuel source and thermometer, but can also be done using the sun, an infinite resource.

Summary

Water storage is recommended, and is a logical extension of food storage principles. It can be done easily and cheaply, and more importantly, it can be done safely. If you already store food, make it a priority to get your water storage in order, so you can help yourselves, and others, in case of emergency!