We recommend that you store 2 gal. of water per person per day: 1 gal. for drinking and cooking, 1 for washing and sanitation. This would be about 28 gal. per person for a 2 week supply. According to the Provo City Water Dept., it is best not to add bleach to your water storage since our city water supply is already chlorinated, but rotate your water storage yearly. If you believe your water might not be pure enough at the time you are going to drink it, you can purify it by one of the methods below.
Have more than one source of water storage:
have something like 55-gal. barrels AND some 5-gal. jugs. For
have some water storage indoors in case you have to shelter in-place
an extended period of time. Also be sure to have some sort of
pump or short hose for use with your large barrels.
Water purification has three facets: 1) filtering
out particles of dirt, debris, and micro-organisms which are large
to be filtered out (this includes parasites and bacteria -- Giardia is
a parasite); 2) purifying the water by killing any
which are too small to be filtered out (this includes viruses);
absorbing any harmful chemicals which have dissolved into or entered
The filtering part of this is quite easy and most water in non-disaster circumstances only needs this.
If viruses have contaminated your water supply, you must either boil the water, or treat it with bleach, iodine, or some other substance known to kill viruses. Many camping filters are not equipped to do this step, although some have iodine in them for this purpose. The problem here is that iodine has a shelf life of 3 years, and so if your water filter is old enough, the iodine in it won’t be effective. Also, will the iodine in a camping filter really kill viruses with less than 1 second of exposure as they pass through the filter?
Getting out harmful chemicals is very tricky -- activated charcoal will take out some, but all --?
The best thing to do is to filter any water that has dirt and debris in it; then if you suspect exposure to viruses -- boil or treat the water. If you suspect chemical contamination, either don’t use that water, or filter it with activated charcoal and hope for the best! (We don't recommend using water that you suspect has been chemically contaminated. It's too risky.) (NOTE: Activated charcoal has a shelf life of 5 years.)
Boiling: according to the Red Cross, boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Boil for 8-10 min. at altitues of about 4,500 ft. -- Utah and Colorado.
Disinfecting: Again, according to the Red Cross,
only agent used to purify water should be household liquid
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water if the water is cloudy, stir
and let stand for 30 minutes. (If it’s clear, only add 8
If the water does not have a slight bleach odor [after 30 minutes],
the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.” Use household
(5.25% sodium hypochlorite as its only active ingredient).
How much bleach to use for purifying water (according to the Red Cross):
|amount of water||clear water||cloudy water|
|1 quart||2 drops||4 drops|
|1 gallon||8 drops||16 drops|
|5 gallons||1/2 teaspoon||1 teaspoon|
|55 gallons||5 1/2 teaspoons||11 teaspoons|
Tincture of Iodine: Common
iodine from the medicine chest may be used to disinfect water.
5 drops of 2% U.S.P. Iodine to each quart of clear water. For
water, add 10 drops, and let the solution stand for at least 30
Filters: You can buy a good water filter
purifier (see the 3 Steps manual, pg. 25 for an explanation of
Large Quantity Home-made filter: You can
make a wonderful and inexpensive filter yourself that will filter about
1000 gallons of water. Get a 4-6 gal. bucket and cut a hole in
side as shown below. Place a piece of cheesecloth or a piece of
bed sheet over the top with a dip in the center. Tie a
rope (cotton clothesline works great) around the top of the bucket
one of the ridges to hold the material in place. Layer sand and
charcoal in the bucket = 7 layers, 1/2” thick each. Place a
or pan inside the bucket under the material to catch water. Pour
water into the bucket over the sand and charcoal layers. Let the
water filter through to the collecting pan underneath.
the bowl occasionally. This device will filter about 7-8 gallons
The finer the sand, the better: (Lowe’s, Home Depot); and you can get activated charcoal at Pet Smart in the aquarium section. You’ll need about a quart of charcoal and about a gallon of sand. (Charcoal = about $4-9/ quart, and sand = about $4-6 for 100 lbs! -- it’s “dirt” cheap!)
**Note: radioactive fallout can be filtered out of water. NEVER boil water with fallout in it before filtering.
Sanitation is a big issue in a disaster.
toilets might be unusable, and “going in the bushes” is not
if you want to avoid disease. Even latrines can cause
In densely populated areas, improper handling of human waste can be a
of epidemic. More people can die of cholera caused by improper
than die from the initial disaster. In the event of a
you should stop flushing your toilets and stop using your drains
until notified by the city that it is all right. Even if
your water is running and the system seems to be working, flushing
and using drains can cause sewage to back up into your homes.
The best thing is to collect waste in a safe way, such as in a porta-potty lined with a plastic bag (or in a home toilet emptied of water, sanitized, and then lined with a heavy duty garbage bag) taking care to cover the waste between uses to keep flies and other pests away from it. (You can cover each layer with a little dirt, kitty litter, or better still -- lime and Borax. Lime speeds up composting, and Borax cuts odors. Getting these two is a lot cheaper than buying composting chemicals.) If possible, find out what the city wants you to do with the collected waste. They will be working to get sewage facilities up and running and will let you know as soon as possible where and how to dispose of the waste. They might have you bring it to central dumping holes or tell you that it’s safe to use your home toilets. They might tell you to bury waste in a trench in your yard. It is good to have some lime on hand (get at Intermountain Farmers/IFA) to layer over the waste in your porta-potty and in the latrines to speed up the composting. If you get lime, put it safely in plastic buckets that are kid-proof.
IF it is necessary to bury the waste, it should be buried several feet deep in the ground, poking holes in the plastic bags with a pitch fork or other tool to aid in composting. Cover each layer with dirt and lime to keep off insects. If you will be burying the waste, it is best to collect and bury solid waste separately from wet waste. Burying waste can contaminate ground water where the ground water levels are shallow. This is not a problem in all areas, but you should find out the situation for your area now -- before a crisis hits. We don’t want to do anything to contaminate our drinking water supply.