FEMA has some guidelines on water for an emergency. Most of them are accurate with my experience, but I’ll throw a few comments in where I have something to add. FEMA’s information is in italics.
Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts (half gallon) of water each day. People in hot environments, children, nursing mothers, and ill people will require even more.
I’m not sure my kids actually need to drink 2 quarts of water a day, but I’ll definitely add pregnant ladies to that high water needs list. A very dry environment, especially in addition to heat in that environment, can also increase your need for water intake.
You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene.
And a whole lot of other things–see the list here.
Store at least one gallon per person, per day. Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this quantity, store as much as you can.
When they say at least one gallon per person, per day, that is a bare minimum! If that’s all the water you can store, fine. But if you can store more, do it. You’ll be much happier when the times comes that you are actually trying to function with that little water.
To calculate a bit, for a family of five, one gallon per person per day for two weeks is 70 gallons. That sounds like a lot of water to have stored, and in a very small home or apartment may not be feasible. If you’re in that situation, just store as much as you can. And to visualize, 70 gallons is one 55 gallon drum and three 5 gallon water jugs or approximately 140 standard 2 liter soda bottles filled with water.
If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
You know if there’s disaster cleanup to be done, minimizing activity is going to be tough. One more reason to either have plenty of water stored or a way to purify more.
To prepare the safest and most reliable emergency supply of water, it is recommended that you purchase commercially bottled water. Keep bottled water in its original container, and do not open it until you need to use it.
Store bottled water in the original sealed container, and observe the
expiration or “use by” date.
If you can catch bottles of water on sale at supermarkets, stock up. They are a quick, portable source of clean water for your emergency kits or for any other emergency. They do have a shelf life, but like most products with commercially determined shelf lives are safe to use for some time after they have “expired”.
If You Are Preparing Your Own Containers of Water…It is recommended to purchase food-grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores to use for water storage. If you decide to re-use storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. The reason is that milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them.
I’ve heard this “don’t store your water in a juice jug” before and I continue to wash out juice jugs and store water in them. The juice jugs I use are PETE plastic–the same stuff the soda bottles are made out of, not the milk jug style jugs. I wash and rinse them thoroughly before filling them with water. Of course this is my opinion, but why would a juice sugar not wash off the same surface as a soda sugar? I’m perfectly okay with storing water in PETE juice jugs for myself. I’ve even used water that I had stored this way and never had it taste or look or smell any different than any water I have stored in a soda bottle. Totally your call how you store your water, but I’ll continue using the free bottles that come with my juice unless there’s some viable study showing I shouldn’t.
Milk jugs, on the other hand, are not fit for long term storing of water. They are a different kind of plastic and are difficult to get clean and prone to breaking down over time which will just make a big wet mess of your water storage area. Water that can be purchased in a milk style jug can be stored in that jug safely for about a year depending on storage conditions.
Aside from reusing PETE soda bottles, there are a myriad of various water storage jugs and containers available. We’ll be discussing some of them in another post.
Cardboard containers leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers, because they are heavy and may break.
I’ve never even heard of someone trying to store water in a cardboard container, but it must have happened somewhere. And I definitely agree with the glass containers–especially since many disasters bring with them a certain degree of destruction (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.) glass is not a good alternative for storing water.
As they said in the beginning, having an ample supply of clean water in an emergency is a top priority. These are basic guidelines for amounts and storage options. Adjust them as needed to your particular situation.