Water must be stored if you do not have the abundance of resources that we have around here. That may not be as simple as it sounds. Water is bulky and heavy. If you figure you need about a gallon of water every day for every person – half a gallon just to stay hydrated and the rest to reconstitute dehydrated food or make coffee or whatever – and that each gallon weighs eight and a half pounds, you can see the problem with storing very much of it.
You should only store water in containers that have been made for that purpose. These are made of food-grade plastic – usually blue. Other plastics can leech chemicals into the water. Wash your containers with soap and water and store them out of direct sunlight. Water does not go bad as such, but it can grow bacteria and other baddies.
You can store water in store-bought bottles or jugs or in 50 gallon drums. Keep these in a cool dry and dark place like your garage or basement. Be prepared to purify (section IV below) even your stored water after it has been standing a long time to kill any bacteria or other pathogens that might have grown in it.
Even my fondness for water does not keep the hauling of it from becoming a chore when each morning at 5 am I dutifully fill a gallon milk jug to take out to the chicken house. I was told that an episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ featured Laura – Half Pint – taking warm oatmeal to the chickens in order to get them laying again in the cold winter weather. Facing that same problem myself I cooked up some oatmeal and spread it in my girls’ feed trays. The resultant mess of flung oatmeal paste that was then trod underfoot was a nightmare scene that was not soon cleaned up. I wouldn’t be surprised even today, these two years later, if I was to find tiny bits of oatmeal remnants stuck in the far recesses of their cages.
The perfect remedy later presented itself. I began to take warm water from the tap to them on those long frigid mornings. That and the addition of a daylight lamp set on a timer, thanks to my friend Bruce, has been the perfect solution, and eggs are delivered up even in the darkest season.
Pause now for a few moments and think about what you really need as concerns water. They say you can only last three days without water, so you probably need at least that much, per person, on hand. But what do you need beyond that? If the tap dries up today for whatever reason, what is your plan to keep the water flowing into your life? So the first thing you need to consider is ‘how much?’ If you have several sources of getting water, and a way of purifying it, you won’t need to store as much.
Some basic considerations for storing water should be your budget, how much storage space you have, how long will you be storing it, and what containers will you use? We have our regular one gallon plastic containers for daily and weekly use, with some empty 5 gallon plastic containers standing by empty. There are, also, glass containers which should be sterilized before pouring your water into them. Then, too, there are stainless steel containers – (never store water in any metal container except stainless). There are large bags, or bladders that can be filled and left in a tub, shower or sink, and there are larger water tanks that can hold a thousand gallons or more.
We catch the rainwater from our roof via a gutter and downspout system into horse troughs. This water is contaminated and not safe. (We use it for gardening). The roof collects dust and bird droppings and whatever the shingles themselves might put off. The same might hold true for a backyard swimming pool, which may be contaminated with bugs, bird droppings, urine, or who knows what else? But in an emergency these sources can be purified and used for drinking water. Any water that has not been stored properly should be treated as if it is contaminated. Don’t just drink it down or you may be sorry later.
With that in mind, then, do not store your water in any container that has been used for other purposes. It is nearly impossible to get the traces of sugar or bacteria out of the container, and that will taint your water during storage. Keep your stored water out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Plan on rotating your supply of water every year – use the ‘old’ water for the garden, for washing dishes, in the bath… but don’t use it for drinking water. (It is probably fine, but no reason to risk sickness when you don’t have to).
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