Here’s a pop quiz for you: What’s wet, clear, and makes up over 60% of the human body? If you answered anything other than water, you might be in trouble (and if you answered vodka, you’re definitely in trouble). Water is the single most important nutrient for the human body. You’re average human being can go without food for a staggering 30-40 days, but will perish from dehydration in only a few days. And that’s in ideal conditions. Sweating, such as the kind brought on by heat or panic can cut that time down to a few hours. Hey, you know when a lot of people start to panic? When they find themselves in an emergency situation.
Yet, somehow water is one of the most often forgotten emergency food storage items. Don’t get caught high and dry when something unexpected happens; here are three tips on how to store water.
1. Get the right containers
Ideally, you should get yourself a few of those giant 55 gallon plastic water drums. These will allow you to store most of your water in one safe place. Additionally, you should also have a few smaller water containers on hand, just in case you need to go somewhere and don’t want to bring the drum along. Likewise, if you need to get water from somewhere else, these containers can be literal lifesavers. Make sure that you thoroughly clean out any repurposed container that you might decide to use, and avoid using old gallon milk jugs, as they are designed to be biodegradable and will only last about half a year.
2. Rotate it out regularly
If you think that you can just fill up a hundred plastic soda bottles with purified water and call it good, then you might be in for a nasty surprise. Plastic bottles contain a chemical called Bisphenol-A. Under normal circumstances, this chemical is completely harmless. However, over prolonged periods of time, the chemical can soak out of the bottles and contaminate your stored water. It probably won’t hurt you much, but it probably won’t do you any favors either. At the very least, it can make your water taste flat. Additionally, any chlorine purification tablets that you might have used also have a limited shelf life, and can degrade to the point that bacteria can begin to grow in the water source. Now, obviously it’s still better to drink old stored water than it is to not drink anything at all, in much the same way that it’s better to sit on a thumbtack than bear trap. But why take either bad option? Just mark your calendar and change out your water every six months or so.
3. Don’t panic
Whether you completely forgot to include water, or you find that the emergency is lasting longer than you expected it to, there’s still relatively clean water to be found in most homes. If you need water and don’t know where to get it, just look towards your hot water heater. Most hot water heaters hold around 50 gallons of water when full. Just shut off the main water valve after any major disaster so as not to contaminate what you already have. Likewise, water can be found in the toilet tank (don’t use water from the bowl), from melting ice from your freezer, or even taken directly from your home’s water pipes. Make sure to purify any water that you take from these sources, however, and don’t use any water that has already been chemically treated (if the toilet water is blue, then it’s not for you). If you have a swimming pool, consider using that water for bathing and washing your hands, but not for drinking. Overly chlorinated waterâ€”such as pool waterâ€”can cause diarrhea if too much is ingested. Above all, keep your cool. If you’re not wasteful, you can make your water last a long time. For survival purposes, people can generally get away with a minimum of 1 liter per day. So, be sure to store enough to outlast whatever catastrophe you might encounter.