Welcome back to the earthquake prep series. In our last installment, we covered food and water - the true basics of your emergency preparedness kit. Here, we'd like to dive a little deeper -- into water.
First we'll cover water storage and secondly we'll talk about water treatment.
If you have a swimming pool, don't even think about it. Ingesting small amounts of swimming pool water isn't particularly harmful, but several days' worth, while they fix the water pipes, is a bad idea. Pool water contains chemicals that could cause diarrhea or otherwise speed dehydration. Storing emergency water is a much better idea, and your pet will like it better.
Consider where and how you'll store it. The standard one- and two-gallon containers typically found in grocery stores are not designed for long-term storage, and are likely to begin leaking after about 6 months.
Also, water should not be stored directly on concrete, which degrades plastic bottles, causing them to fail, plus allows chemicals to leech into the water and contaminate it. A good idea? Place water stores on a wooden shelf or palette where container failure won't damage other supplies.
Is there an EASY option? Well, yes. Commercial water distributors assert that the 5-gallon containers they offer are good for 5 years if factory sealed, and stored properly. That's the easiest, if you get water delivery. We called the commercial distributors (Alhambra, Calistoga, Arrowhead, Sparklets etc.) and none of them would deliver a one-off order for emergency prep. Slightly less easy is to store your own.
What to store it in? Vessels made from plastic, glass, fiberglass, or metal lined with enamel are suitable. Avoid using any lids with paper components. We're not huge fans of plastic, but in this case, it seems like a better idea than the potential of broken glass jugs. We found that Whole Foods sells 2-, 3- and 5-gal BPA-free plastic jugs with screw tops and a handle. The 5-gal can be a bit difficult to lift, but the 3-gal is pretty manageable, particularly with the handle.
There are boxed water options as well, which are BPA-free and Coast Guard approved with a 5-year shelf life, available in 3-packs of 250ml each
But what if you live in a tiny apartment and barely have room to store all your shoes, let alone storing water? Water treatment is a more compact option, though you're betting that water will be available. Also, if you have your basic 3 days of water stored, or better 7 days for a stronger quake (or the whole 2-3 weeks worth for major M8 quake), and want to go beyond even that level of readiness, adding water treatment is an idea.
The classic water treatment technique is to boil it to prevent microorganism growth. If you're forced to get creative and pull water from the toilet (the tank, not the bowl, eww) or drain the water heater, boil it. Another classic is to add liquid household chlorine bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, and no soap or added perfumes, at a ratio of 16 drops per gallon (which equates to 4 drops per quart, or 8 drops per half-gallon, or 1 drop per cup, whatever's easiest to remember).
It is OK to use bleach that has Not For Personal Use warnings, as long as sodium hypochlorite is the only active ingredient, and only the small amounts recommended are used. If you don't have a dropper, here's a Girl/Boy Scout trick that's easy to remember: place a thin strip of paper or fabric (say a 1/4 wide and 2 inches long) into the bowl of a spoon and add bleach to the spoon. Carefully tip the spoon