Drinking Water Safety

Preparedness: Water Storage Before a Disaster

Q: How much water should you store?

You should have enough water to last three-seven days and that you should store a minimum of one gallon for each person for each day you expect to be without water.

The Santa Clarita Valley summers are very hot, so you may wish to store more than the minimum. Don’t forget water for your pets. If you have freeze-dried meals stored for emergencies, remember to calculate the additional water needed to reconstitute your food.

Q: How should I store my water?

Your water should be stored in a durable container out of the sunlight.

  • Option A: Storing water in one-gallon bottles would be difficult since the bottles don’t stack well, but one-gallon bottles are easy to transport. When you have purchased the total number of bottles you need, you will want to start a rotation program to keep the water fresh. Do this by adding a new bottle to your supply each time you go to the market and put your “oldest” bottle in the refrigerator for daily use.
  • Option B: Most markets sell three-gallon bottles which would still take a lot of space, but are still easy to carry. To keep your stored water fresh, you can rotate your supply by putting all the bottles in a row. Use a bottle off one end of your row and place a fresh one from the market at the other end of the row.
  • Option C: Buy water from a water delivery service in five-gallon bottles. You could use the same rotation plan used in Option B to keep your supply fresh.
  • Option D: Purchase a new, clean 50-gallon plastic barrel and the special wrench to remove the barrel caps. These can be purchased from several sources. Check the phone book for barrel and drum suppliers or earthquake products and services. A barrel takes up less total space than any of the options above and the price of the barrel should be less expensive than purchasing the water in bottles. Once the barrel is full it will weigh more than 420 pounds, so be certain to think about where you will store it. You will also need to purchase a small hand pump to get water from your barrel. These can be purchased at your local sporting goods or recreational vehicle supply store.

First time barrel use: Rinse out your new barrel and add 1/4 cup recently purchased liquid laundry bleach (see bleach specifications below) and fill the barrel with a clean hose. Let stand for 24 hours. Drain the barrel. Don’t waste this water; wash your car with it. Place the barrel in its permanent location and add 1/4 cup bleach and fill with water. Install the cap and tape a note on the barrel stating the date that you filled it.

Once a year: Drain the barrel, add 1/4 cup bleach, refill with water, and date the barrel. The chlorine will be gone by this time, so you can use the drained water for plants.


Response: Water Storage After a Disaster

Sources of Water After a Disaster

If your normal water supply is off and you have not stored water, the following places are possible sources:

  • Recreational vehicle or camper.
  • Your water heater. To drain, first turn off the water heater’s gas/electric supply. Close the water inlet valve on top of the heater. Open any hot water faucets or disconnect the water line on top of the water heater. Drain water into a container from the faucet at the bottom of the water heater.
  • Melted ice cubes.
  • The toilet tank, but not the bowl. Be sure to purify (disinfect) it before using it. (See water disinfection below.)
  • Water in canned vegetables

Do not use water from the following sources for drinking because the chemicals in them could cause you to become ill. Adding bleach or boiling will not make the sources below safe to drink but they may be used for bathing and flushing toilets:

  • Swimming pools
  • Spas or hot tubs
  • Your fish pond

Emergency Water Disinfection After a Disaster

If you are not certain that your water is safe to drink or your local water company has issued a “boil order,” (listen to your radio for boil order announcements) you should disinfect the water before drinking it.
You can disinfect water that you are unsure of by one of several methods:

  • Boiling: Bring the water to a rapid boil and let it boil for at least one minute. Never use charcoal barbecues indoors to boil your water.
  • Bleach disinfection: Water may be disinfected with recently purchased 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite bleach (household bleach). Do not use bleach that has active ingredients other than sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleach. You can keep your emergency supply of bleach fresh by rotating your supply. Buy a gallon of bleach and put this with your earthquake supplies, use your previous bottle for your laundry. This assures that your bleach is at its maximum disinfecting strength. It is also ok to use the new “Ultra” type bleaches as long as they are not scented.Using the chart below, add bleach to the water you want to disinfect.Mix the water and the bleach thoroughly by stirring or shaking in a container. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using. You should be able to detect a slight chlorine odor after 30 minutes. If not, repeat the process and let stand for an additional 15 minutes.
    Clear Water
    Amount of Bleach
    One Quart
    2 drops
    One Gallon
    8 drops
    5 Gallons
    1/2 teaspoon
    Cloudy Water
    Amount of Bleach
    One Quart
    4 drops
    One Gallon
    16 drops
    5 Gallons
    1 teaspoon
  • Reverse Osmosis Pump: Backpacking and boating supply stores have small reverse osmosis pumps that can remove minerals and bacteria. Carefully read the directions that come with your unit.