Get prepared and stay prepared with an emergency drinking water supply

Whether it’s an earthquake, wildfire or other disaster, Southern California households know that emergency situations can arise without warning. It’s always important to be ready – and what could be more vital than access to drinking water? While our communities may go for many years without a disruption in potable water service, every household should prepare for the possibility by having an emergency supply of water on hand.  

Preparedness is everyone’s job, and that’s why the California Department of Public Health advises each household to have a three-day Emergency Supply Kit. During the first few hours or days following a disaster, essential services may not be available, and people must be ready to act on their own. ​ 

Clean drinking water may not be available in a disaster scenario, if there is a disruption to the systems that keep water flowing to the tap. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. That’s why as part of emergency preparedness, each family should plan to have an adequate supply of water on hand.  

It might surprise you to learn that you don’t need to pay for bottled water to build your own emergency supply. Tap water is safe, clean and provides great value over bottled water. Here are some tips for storing your own supply of water to be ready in the event of a disaster.

How much water should I store? 

As a general rule, you need at least one gallon of water per person per day for each member of your family. This is considered a minimum level for drinking and sanitation. Be sure to store enough for at least three days for all members of your household, according to Ready.gov.  

As a rule of thumb, store more water than you need so that you don’t run short in an emergency. In the relatively warm climate of Southern California, you may want to double this amount because high temperatures can increase your need for water – especially if a disaster occurs during the summertime. 

What’s the best way to store water? 

There are several ways you can make sure your emergency water supply stays fresh and safe for consumption. To prepare your own containers of water, you can purchase food-grade water storage containers to store tap water. A warehouse store is a good place to find large containers, which are also available through online retailers.  

For those on tight budgets, it may not be necessary to spend money on containers. The California Department of Public Health suggests storing water in clean plastic containers such as milk jugs or large soft drink bottles. Before filling with chlorinated water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and sanitize the bottles by cleaning with a solution of one teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. As an alternative, you can buy commercially bottled water and store it in the sealed original container. 

Be sure to store your water supply in a cool, dark place. Avoid locations near a window or stove; many households opt for storing water in a closet or outdoor shed. Make sure the containers are sealed tightly to avoid leaks. 

Rotate your supply 

Part of emergency preparedness is ensuring that your supplies are in good condition. This includes water, which should not be stored indefinitely due to the risk of contamination.  

Plan to replace your home-bottled supply every six months with fresh, clean tap water. Check the condition of your water containers and replace, if necessary. If you purchased commercially bottled water, always use it by the printed expiration date. 

Other emergency supplies to have on hand 

Once you have your water supply stocked up, it’s time to turn your attention to overall emergency preparedness for you and your family. Water is just one of the supplies that every household should have on hand during a disaster. As a best practice, every household’s Emergency Supply Kit should include water, food, a First-Aid kit, a flashlight and hygiene items – to name a few. For a full list, visit Ready.gov/kit.  

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