5 Important Household Water Safety Tips
We get asked quite frequently 5 questions, these 5 important household water safety tips below are important to know in case of an emergency. We listed the answers to these 5 questions and hope you find them informative.
How long can I store drinking water?
Drinking water that is thoroughly disinfected, such as water from your public water supplier, can be stored for at least six months in capped containers that will not rust or break, such as plastic. Make sure the storage container is completely cleaned before filling. Water that has been boiled for one minute, or three minutes at high altitudes, can be stored for up to one year.
Bottled water should be stored unopened in a cool place; under warm conditions the water may taste like the plastic it is stored in because plastics sometimes leach chemicals. Replace the water every six months and keep it sealed; this will also minimize the “flat” taste that occurs after extended storage. Keep stored water out of the direct sunlight and away from other stored chemicals.
If possible, store water in a refrigerator to help control bacterial growth. Water is not sterile or devoid of living things, but it should be safe from harmful microorganisms. The chlorine residual from your tap water might only last about a month or less in stored water.
How much water should I store for emergencies?
A good rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day. Emergency planning experts recommend storing enough water for at least three days, which means a family of four should store about 12 gallons (45 liters). People with special needs, such as nursing mothers, young children and family members with illnesses, may require more water to be available.
How do I treat my water in an emergency?
If the water has been contaminated by living organisms, the most effective method of disinfecting it is boiling. Bring the water to a boil for one full minute (three minutes if you are at a high altitude), then allow it to cool before storing. Use caution because heating and boiling are burn hazards.
When boiling is not practical, you can chemically disinfect your water. Commonly used household chemical disinfectants are chlorine and iodine. Chlorine can be found in common household bleach. Make sure the bleach does not have additives.
Check the label: if the available chlorine in the product is around 1 percent, add 10 drops to one quart or liter of water; if it’s 4 to 6 percent chlorine, add 2 drops; if it contains 7 to 10 percent, add one drop. If the percentage is not listed, add 10 drops to one quart or liter of water; double that if the water is colored or cloudy. Mix the water thoroughly and allow it to stand for 30 minutes.
After this time, the water should have a slight chlorine odor; if not, repeat the chlorine addition and allow the water to stand an additional 15 minutes. If the chlorine taste and odor is too strong, let it stand exposed to the air for several hours or pour it back and forth from one clean container to another to aerate the water and reduce the remaining chlorine. If sediment settles to the bottom, decant off the top layer of water and leave the sediment behind.
Common household iodine from a medicine cabinet or first-aid kit may also be used. Add five drops of 2 percent U.S.P. tincture of iodine to one quart or liter of water. If the water is colored or cloudy, add 10 drops. Let the water stand at least 30 minutes before use. Iodine tablets are also available from outdoor outfitting stores, as they are sometimes used by backpackers and campers to purify untreated water. These stores also have portable filters.
Note that chlorine and iodine are only somewhat effective in protecting against Giardia cysts and may not be effective at all against Cryptosporidium oocysts. Therefore, use chlorine or iodine only on groundwater supplies (wells), which are not likely to have these contaminants.
Water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs or springs needs to be boiled. A good item to have on hand for emergencies is a ceramic filter, such as those used for camping and backpacking. Remember that boiling or the use of chlorine or iodine do not remove chemical contaminants.
If your water service stops during an emergency, remember the water in your hot water tank, melted ice cubes and the water in your toilet tank reservoir can be used as long as this water was collected before the emergency occurred. If you have the ability to do so, boiling this water is always a good idea before drinking.
Should I use hot water from the tap for cooking?
Cold water is best to use. Hot water heaters and plumbing are not designed to preserve water quality. Water in hot water heaters loses its chlorine and promotes the growth of bacteria. Hot water is also more likely to contain rust, copper, and lead from your household plumbing and water heater because these contaminants generally dissolve faster into hot water than into cold water.
On the subject of hot water, insulating your hot water pipes will help the water in them stay warm between uses. So after the first use of the day, hot water will come to the tap sooner, thus conserving water. Hot water should be kept between about 110 °F and 120 °F (43 °C to 49 °C) to prevent the growth of microorganisms that could be a health issue while reducing the chances of scalding or burns.
Should I use hot water from the tap to make baby formula?
No. As noted in the previous question, hot water may contain impurities from the hot water heater and plumbing in your home. Before you draw it, let the cold water run for a couple of minutes if that tap has not been used for a while, overnight or all day, then heat the water on the stove. Catch the wasted water you flush out of the tap in a container and save it for plant watering as a conservation measure. Or better yet, collect fresh drinking or formula water after you have been using a lot of cold water, such as for washing clothes or lawn watering. This will have moved fresh water into your house and you will not have to waste more water to get good tap water.