Water is our most important resource, but you never know when a disaster could compromise your local water supply. While the novel coronavirus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, according to the World Health Organization, many of you have reached out about emergency water filter options as you build out your disaster kits. We’ve put together the information you need on some clean water solutions to help ensure you have access to water that’s safe to drink during all kinds of emergencies.
CLEAN WATER THREATS
When drinking water is contaminated in municipal or developed areas, the immediate threat to human health is the introduction of waterborne pathogens—microscopic disease-causing bugs. These include bacteria, protozoa and viruses, all of which are normally removed by the city treatment center long before water ever flows out of your tap.
In a disaster situation, contamination of the existing municipal water supply can happen quickly. For example, a sewer line can break, intermixing sewage with your clean water supply and introducing those pathogenic agents.
Natural disasters can damage a range of water systems. If, for example, an earthquake or landslide sends debris or sediment into a reservoir or breaks a water main, you could be forced to source drinking water from surface water, which is unsafe to drink without treatment.
In squalid conditions—especially following natural disasters—poor sanitation can quickly lead to pathogens from human and animal waste mixing with the drinking water. Being prepared for the unexpected will help ensure that you and your family avoid sickness from the water you drink.
PREPARING FOR A WATER EMERGENCY
An individual’s water needs will vary depending on age, health and climate (water needs can double in hot temperatures). But in general, you should plan for a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day, to be used for drinking and sanitation purposes (food prep, washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). The best solution is to stock a supply of store-bought water (with expiration dates clearly marked) in a cool, dark place. The CDC recommends having at least a three-day supply on hand.
But because you don’t know how long you could be without water, it’s also important to have a water treatment solution: a personal, portable treatment system that will remove waterborne pathogens and other potential contaminants. These include:
- Viruses (e.g. norovirus, rotavirus and hepatitis A): Spread to humans by human fecal waste
- Bacteria (e.g. Salmonella and E. coli): Spread by humans and animals
- Protozoa (e.g. Giardia and Cryptosporidium): Spread by humans and animals
- Sediment/dirt/silt: Not particularly harmful to health, but unpleasant or inhibiting
- Organics (e.g. petroleum, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals): Harmful with repeated exposure
Your emergency water treatment solution must guard against the first three (the bugs) to protect you from immediate illness, but it’s best to remove all if you can. Of course, there are different options for getting there.
Having your own supply of water can be crucial in times of emergency. With the barrels from Legacy Supply Co you can safely store your water and even have the option to have your own water treatment to keep the water fresh to store.
Boiling water will also render it potable (safe to drink), killing all threats including viruses. However, boiling water can use a large amount of fuel, which may be a critical resource during emergency situations, and it doesn’t leave you with clear water.
PLAN B CLEAN WATER SOLUTIONS
It’s always best to plan ahead for emergencies, but if you missed your window, here are important methods recommended by the CDC and also detailed in the federal government’s Resolved to Be Ready campaign, which allow you to work with resources you have at home.
- Start with the cleanest water possible. If your available water is murky or sandy, let the sediment settle, then pour the water into another container to help filter out the sediment.
- Boil your water. Be sure to maintain a rolling boil for a full minute. If you live at high altitudes, it’s safer to boil for 3 minutes.
- Use regular household bleach. The CDC recommends adding 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of unscented, liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes before drinking.
- Distill your water to kill any resistant germs and remove other organics. Distilling requires boiling water and collecting only the condensed vapor.
As you can see, you have several options for disinfecting water in an emergency situation. It pays to be prepared for the worst, so use these tips if you’re in the process of building your home emergency water supply kit.