Emergency Sources of Water

rainwater tanks

In an emergency, if you have not previously stored water and commercial or public sources of water are not available, drain water from your plumbing system. Unless you are advised that the public water supply has been contaminated and is not safe, open the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater and salvage the water stored in the heater. A typical water heater holds 30-60 gallons of water. Discard the first few gallons if they contain rust or sediment. Let the water heater cool before draining it from the heater so it does not scald you. Turn off the electricity or gas to the water heater to prevent the heater from operating without water. Once water has been drained into clean, sanitized containers, add 5-7 drops of chlorine bleach* per gallon of water, and stir or shake the solution to mix it. Let it set 30 minutes before use.

Emergency Outdoor Water Sources

If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to treat the water first. Additional sources include:

Rainwater, streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water, ponds and lakes, natural springs.  Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink flood water.

Hidden Water Sources in Your Home

If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).

Do you know the location of your incoming water valve? You’ll need to shut it off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines.

To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the house.

To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.

Using Swimming Pool Water

You should always view your pool as “backup” water; keep the water treated; you never know when it will be needed! The maintenance of the free chlorine residual will prevent establishment of any microorganisms. The maintenance level should be kept about 3-5ppm free chlorine.  If other stored water stocks are not available, remove the necessary pool water and boil it or just treat with chlorine to the normal 5ppm. It is best to err on the side of caution.

Covering the pool at all times when not in use is a very good idea. Try to keep the cover clean and wash the area you put it on when removing it from the pool.

When and How to Treat Water for Storage

In an emergency, if you do not have water that you know is safe, it’s possible to purify water for drinking. Start with the cleanest water you can find and treat with one of the following methods:

  • Boiling and chlorinating: Water can be purified by boiling. Boiling times may vary from state to state, depending on altitude. In Colorado, the water is safe to use once after it has been boiled for three to five minutes and has cooled. If you plan to store boiled water, pour it into clean, sanitized containers and let it cool to room temperature. Then add 5-7 drops, or 1/8 teaspoon, of chlorine bleach* per gallon of water (1/2 teaspoon per 5 gallons). Stir or shake the solution to mix it. Cap the containers and store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Filtering and chlorinating: You can filter water if you have a commercial or backpack filter that filters to 1 micron. These are available in sporting good stores and are recommended for use when back-packing. They are not recommended to clean large volumes of water. Filtering eliminates parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium, but it may not eliminate all bacteria and viruses. Therefore, it’s recommended that 5-7 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of chlorine bleach* be added per gallon of filtered water (1/2 teaspoon for 5 gallons). Stir or shake the solution to mix it. Wait 30 minutes before using the water, or cap the containers and store them in a cool, dry place.

*Use liquid household bleach that contains 5.25 percent hypochlorite. Do not use bleaches with fresheners or scents as they may not be safe to consume. The above treatment methods use a two-step approach so less bleach is needed, yet giardia and cryptosporidium are destroyed through boiling or eliminated by filtering. Chlorine may not be effective against these parasites. Since adding too much chlorine to water can be harmful, it’s important to be as accurate as possible when measuring.

  • Distillation Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Most water filtration devices are designed for use on microbiologically safe water. Don’t assume they are safe to use on contaminated water. Check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Use the following guidelines to determine if filtration equipment is adequate to use with microbiologically contaminated water:

Filtration Equipment Safe on Microbiologically Contaminated Water?
Carbon Filter No
Reverse Osmosis No
Deionization Filter No
Pitcher Filter No
Faucet Mount Filter No
Steam Distiller Yes – but requires electricity
UV Sterilizer Yes – but requires electricity
Ceramic Filter Some – but only if rated for bacteriological protection

Equipment that is safe to use on contaminated water is often slow, costly, inconvenient and/or high maintenance. It makes the most sense to use the filtration equipment that best meets your normal daily needs and shift to water storage or alternative methods of water treatment in times of emergencies.

Source: The National Terror Alert

The best scenario in emergency situations is to have clean drinking water stored on your property.  This water can be from a number of sources, including rainwater (filter first), broehole water or municipal water.  Plastic water storage tanks are the most cost-effective way of storing enough water to last you weeks or even months and serve as back-up in the case of water supply cuts.

Also see Emergency Water Storage: Important to consider in today’s world.

JoJo Tanks (South Africa) offer a wide range of water tanks to suit every household, business or agricultural need.  See JoJo Tanks’ SMALL VERTICAL TANKS, LARGE VERTICAL TANKS, HORIZONTAL TANKS and LOW PROFILE TANKS as well as STEEL TANK STANDS

We are authorised JoJo Tanks dealers in South Africa.  Contact us for a quote on the right water tank for you.  Special discounts are available on multiple orders and to our commercial customers.

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