With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.

Many people are surprised at how much water they need per person to stay hydrated, cook food, and clean themselves on a daily basis. After all, we rely on the water delivered to our homes, and many people take this for granted. But, in an emergency situation, all bets are off, and it may be extremely difficult to gain access to clean water. Even if water is still delivered to the tap, it may look clean, but it can be contaminated, making it unsafe to use. This is why it’s important to have an emergency supply of water available in your home at all times.

What Type of Water Should I Store?

If you seriously get into disaster preparedness, it can be an engrossing hobby with many real world benefits. It is possible to harvest water and clean it with small quantities of unscented, regular bleach to disinfect it and store it for long periods of time in food grade plastic tubs. There is plenty of information on how to do this available online, but it is far outside the scope of this particular article. Here will focus on how a casual user would prepare an adequate stockpile of bottled water to see out a disaster that causes an interruption in the usual water supply.

How Much Bottled Water Do I Need?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to store at least 4.5 litres of water per person for each day. So, if you have a family of three and you want to prepare a disaster stockpile of bottled water, you would need 13.5 litres of water (3 x 4.5 = 13.5) for each day. That is just drinking water, an average person in a modern home uses 36.5 litres of water each day for cooking, washing, showering, and flushing the toilet. During an interruption to the water supply, the community may be without water for a few days, so it’s a good idea to store at least three days of emergency water. It’s also important to mention that you need to store water for any pets or other animals that live with you or on your property.

Where Should I Store My Water Supply?

It’s a good idea to store your water away from direct sunlight in an easy to access area. A basement or storeroom is ideal, but a supply of stored water can take up a considerable area. Many people keep a few spare bottles of water at work or in their car for emergency use, and this can keep them hydrated as they make their way home. During an emergency, unscrupulous people may hike up the price of water, and unprepared people could become desperate. In order to protect your family, it’s important to secure your emergency water supply and keep it a secret from people in your vicinity. If word gets around that you have water and others don’t, it can create an ugly situation that you need to avoid at all costs. In a lengthy disaster situation, the government will step in to provide emergency relief, and for this reason, it’s a great idea to have some water carriers on hand.

Which Bottled Water Should I Store?

The best source of clean water in a disaster is bottled water unless you have a whole house water filtration system. If you have a home water treatment system to continue cleaning available water that’s still supplied to your home, you are in a very good position. But, it’s still a great idea to store a bottled water that you like to use daily and keep it in the original container. A sealed bottle of water should not be opened until you need it to keep the contents as clean as possible. Avoid reusing containers used for the storage of milk or juice or other drinks. These containers will contain bacteria that could make you sick and lead to stomach issues or diarrhea. The last thing that you need in a water crisis situation is to become dehydrated through illness, so stick to using dedicated water carrying bottles. To keep the water fresh, it’s a great idea to store them in order of date; then you can periodically drink and replace a bottle. Rotating your emergency water supply in this way will ensure that it’s as fresh as it can be if there is an interruption in the usual water supply.

How Should I Store My Bottled Water?

It’s important to avoid stacking bottles of water on top of each other because they are heavy, and they can cause the bottles underneath to spring a leak. The best option is to store the bottled water upright on a dedicated shelf in your basement or garage. Heavy duty metal shelving is easy to find; it’s affordable and modular, meaning that you can create as much or as little shelving as you need to meet your needs. Easy access is important, and the area must be at a low risk of flooding. Take care to rotate your supply at least twice per year and replace any bottles that may have leaked.

When Should I Use My Stored Water?

If your taps are not working or there has been local water contamination or flooding, it’s a good idea to switch to your emergency water supply. But, if you have your own water filtration system and the water is contaminated but still running, you may be able to continue as normal for some time. The local authorities are obliged to inform you if there is a health related emergency, and those without stored water will need to boil their water and/or use bleach tablets to make it safe to use.

How Can I Wash and Stay Clean?

This is a challenge, washing uses a great deal of water, but it’s important to try and stay clean to avoid illness and diseases. Unless you have your own filtration system, it can be hard to continue with showering and washing, so the focus should be placed on hands. When your hands are dirty, they can transfer bacteria to your face, foods, and other people. Stocking up on some hand sanitizer will help, choose one with a minimum of 60% alcohol and use it consistently throughout the day. Moist towelettes are also a godsend, and a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and purified water makes a great general cleaner that you can even use on your skin.

If you need more advice on installing a whole house water filtration system, contact your local water treatment professional for help and advice.