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Water Wednesday Recap – Emergency Water Supplies

The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30.  NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.  Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.  However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

Water Wednesday in June is featuring Hurricane Preparedness.  Last Water Wednesday, we invited the Family and Consumer Sciences Agents, Katherine Allen in the UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension and Lisa Hamilton in the UF/IFAS Volusia County Extension to give a Hurricane Preparedness Talk Part II – Emergency Water Supplies. If you missed the Part I, here is your recap.

Do you know how much water you need during an emergency?

A safe drinking water supply is important during an emergency.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) recommend that households store one to one and one-half gallons of water per person for a minimum of a three-day supply. For a family of four that is a minimum of 12 to 18 gallons of water.

Purchasing and storing an adequate supply can be costly and take up considerable space.  In addition, thin plastic water jugs can degrade over time, leaking and/or becoming contaminated.  To reduce costs, storage concerns, and ensure a safe water supply, consider sanitizing household containers for storing needed water.

DIY a safe water supply for hurricane season

DIY Containers: Sanitize household containers and fill with water when a storm is approaching.

  • First, wash the inside and outside of each container with soap and hot water.
  • Next, sanitize containers with a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented household bleach per quart of water.
  • Close the container tightly and shake well, making sure that the bleach solution touches all of the internal surfaces of the container
  • Let the container sit for 30 seconds and pour the solution out.
  • Finally, rinse thoroughly with plain clean water. Avoid using milk containers because they can be hard to clean.  Bacteria can grow quickly in a milk container, contaminating the water stored in it.  However, if there is no alternative, special care should be taken when sanitizing these containers.
  • After containers have been filled with clean water, label them with the words “Drinking Water” and mark the date of storage.  Direct heat and light can slowly damage plastic containers, resulting in eventual leakage, so they should be stored in a dark, cool, and dry place.
  • Lids should be tightly closed to prevent contamination. Store water away from gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances because vapors from these materials can penetrate plastic.
How to store these emergency water supplies?

Water can also be stored in a freezer. Frozen water provides the added benefit of helping to keep frozen food cold for a longer time if power is out for an extended period and you can use in coolers to keep food cold and then drink once melted.

Use only plastic containers to store water in a freezer, as glass may not be able to withstand the pressure of expanding ice.

To minimize exposure to bacteria, open a container just before use and then refrigerate it if power is available.   If no refrigeration is available, keep the container up high, away from children and pets.   Use water from opened containers within 1 to 2 days if possible.

For more information on this topic, review this UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publication.  Or contact Lisa Hamilton, UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County at 386-822-5778 (hamiltonl@ufl.edu) or Katherine Allen, UF/IFAS Extension Suwannee County at 386-362-2771 (nrgkate@ufl.edu)

To learn more about hurricane preparedness, please watch the recordings on our YouTube channel UF/IFAS Extension: Water Resources. This blog article is contributed by Katherine Allen, Lisa Hamilton, and Yilin Zhuang. With special thanks to Laurie Osgood and Andrea Albertin in the UF/IFAS NW Extension District.