What are your first steps when you hear that a storm is coming? Whether it’s a hurricane or a blizzard, do you have a supply of water available in the event that a storm knocks out the power or flooding contaminates your water source?
Even if you are fortunate enough to have your own water source, such as a well, it’s likely to run on an electric pump rather than gravity or a non-electric power source. Municipal water supplies also depend on power and supplies that may be affected by severe weather.
Each person needs a minimum of a gallon of water per day. Half, or two quarts of that gallon, are for drinking and the other half for cooking and personal hygiene. If you are active, working hard, or the weather is hot, you most likely need another two quarts of drinking water per person, for a total of one gallon just for drinking.
However, this amount of water doesn’t really allow for additional basic water needs, like washing dishes or flushing the toilet. Realistically, you are very likely to want a bit more water to effectively clean, to supply water to your pets, or to be able to use a bucket of water to flush a toilet, for example. You need to store as much water as you can, and you need to be able to quickly do so before a storm or event knocks out or contaminates your water supply.
First, fill your mop pail with water to flush toilets. Total time: 2 minutes. Estimated gallons depends on the size of your pail: 2-5 gallons.
Second, fill your bathtub with water. We’d tell you to fill this first, but that makes filling any mop pail more difficult. Bathtub water can also be used to flush toilets and wash hands, and for cooking of drinking IF boiled for three minutes. (We do hope you keep your tub pretty clean, and if you don’t this is a good reason to start, right?). Total time: 5 minutes. Estimated gallons stored: 25 gallons for a standard size tub and up to 100 for larger tubs.
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Third, move to the kitchen and fill your largest clean and lidded pots with water. Kitchen pots provide a safe way of temporarily storing drinking water, as well as water you can use for cooking. Go for your largest pots, the stock pots and stew pots. Do you preserve by canning food? Haul out the hot water bath canning kettle, which should be big enough to hold four or five gallons. Total time: 3 minutes. Estimated gallons stored: 5 gallons.
Fourth, while still in the kitchen, fill one-gallon plastic storage or freezer bags with water and close them securely. Place them one at a time lined up vertically into a lasagna or baking pan (as if they were lined up like books on a shelf) and place them in your freezer, if possible. These plastic storage bags filled with water will freeze if given enough time. Frozen water will keep your freezer colder longer, and when thawed supply drinking water. Once frozen, they can be moved to the fridge to keep it cooler longer if needed, as well. Total time: 5 minutes. Estimated gallons stored: 10 gallons.
Total time: 15 minutes
Total gallons stored: 42-45 gallons (and even more if your tub is larger than standard size).
If each person uses a bare minimum of 1.5 gallons a day, your stored water of 42 gallons might actually supply enough water to survive for three days for up to nine people. That sounds like very little water for too many people, doesn’t it? While one or one and a half gallons a day per person may allow you to survive, you’re going to want to use more water per person in an emergency, even if that cuts the length your water supply will last.
Realistically, 42 gallons should be enough water to last three days for an average American family for drinking, personal hygiene, cooking, pets and flushing toilets. Also, you always want a portable water filter that will allow you to drink lake or river water (or even your bathtub water if it’s dirty).
Have a bit more time? Here are a few more ways to store water:
Look for 5-gallon pails around the house and clean and fill those. It would be smart to have a clean stack of lidded 5-gallon buckets in the pantry, garage or cellar available to fill with water if you are planning ahead. Look for food-grade buckets, or ask the local bakery for their used frosting and baking mix pails.
If you have more than one bathroom, take another five minutes to fill tubs in other bathrooms.
Scrub out a kitchen sink and fill the sink with water, but think twice if you only have a one-bowl sink, since you may need that sink to prepare food or wash items.
Fill your ice cube trays. You may need ice, not necessarily for cold drinks, but ice cubes or even a pack of frozen peas may come in handy for minor injuries. If your house is anything like mine, the ice cube trays are never entirely full.
Fill a top-loading washer for an extra supply of water to flush toilets or cook with. You may need a short length of hose as a siphon or a cup to measure out water into a pail.
What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
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