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Emergency Water Supplies
So far we have really only talked about food for your storage plans. Oddly enough, water is actually a more crucial element that you should not overlook.
Storing potable (drinkable) water can be a challenge because you will need a lot of it and it takes up a lot of space. It's also very heavy. Commercially bottled water will store fairly well and it will provide instant drinking water when you need it. Just keep your bottles somewhere cool and out of direct light. Unopened bottles should last about a year. Just like with your food stores, try to keep them rotated so that you don't have anything expired on hand.
Keep your bottles of stored water on a low shelf or right on the ground, so that if any of them were to fall, there is a lesser chance of breakage.
How Much to Store
This is a tough question, and we'll focus mainly on drinking water first. Just don't forget that you also need clean water for a lot of cooking and hygiene. So for drinking, you should have 1 gallon per person per day. You can probably get by on less but you wouldn't want to restrict your drinking water too much if you don't have to.
For added washing use, you should probably double this ration per person though you can be more restrictive with water use when used for cleaning. Even though you don't need to wash up every single day, you should not ignore hygiene needs completely. Staying healthy and keeping a good morale can be helped quite a bit by staying clean.
Purifying Water as You Go
One way to minimize how much water you have to store is being able to rely on non-potable sources of water (nearby river, pond or even just rain water) and then having a way to purify it. The simplest way to do this is to have a few jugs of unscented household bleach on hand. You can purify about 1 quart of water with 4 drops of bleach, as long as you give it a good stirring and then let it sit for half an hour. This won't eliminate any chemical toxins but it will kill off any bacteria or other living pathogens. Small tablets can also be purchased for purifying water, usually in camping supply stores. They are more portable but bleach is far more cost-effective.
A good quality water filter is another option. These use microfiltration to clean the water, as opposed to chemical treatment. Katadyn and Berky are 2 of the best manufacturers of these. You'll need a larger model if you intend on purifying a lot of water for your entire household over the course of weeks or months. Keep spare filter cartridges on hand as well.
And don't forget the more old-fashioned approach. You can always boil water to make it potable. Kept at a rolling boil for 5 minutes is usually enough to make any water drinkable. This is a fine choice if you don't foresee any fuel shortages. Also, use a lid to minimize loss due to evaporation. It will also boil quicker with a lid on. Once its cool, just pour it off into a clean container for later drinking. Paper coffee filters can be added to your stash of supplies for pre-filtering any potentially dirty water before you try to boil or purify it.
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