Monday Mission: Quick Trick for Storing Water for Emergencies

Store water for emergenciesYour mission, if you choose to accept, is to take one small step toward being prepared for an emergency – having water on hand. This tip is so quick, you won’t believe it’s even Kitchen Stewardship®. Although maybe I’ll think of some things to ramble on about that will make the post longer and longer…  Winking smile
Super Quick Way to Store Water for Emergencies
When you use something from a canning jar, fill the clean jar with water before storing for next harvest season. If you get all the way to needing the jars before you need the water, you can pour the water out into your canner, where you’ll use it to process the jars. No waste, hardly any extra time needed. So simple! (Keep reading for info on how to actually USE the water for drinking if necessary.)
Here’s why I like this baby step:
  • The thought of “being prepared” for emergencies like lack of access to food, water, or transportation seems so daunting that I usually just ignore it all.
  • I have quite a bit of shelf space in the basement full of empty glass canning jars at most points during the year.
  • It takes only seconds for each one and isn’t an item on my “to do list,” just one quick habit to do before running a newly cleaned jar from the dishwasher to the basement (which can take me days to “get around to” anyway sometimes!).
  • Rings/lids/jars would always be together, circumventing the problem of “uh oh where are enough rings” during the canning process.
  • We’ve done the “simple baby step” of keeping a few gallon jugs of water on hand…did you know those jugs don’t last very long? Thank goodness it was on a hard floor and didn’t ruin anything when it leaked.
  • Although I technically could rely on my neighbor’s pool water in the summer and snow in the winter and run it through my Berkey filter…It’s a little more comforting to have at least some water in the basement of my own home.
I’d been thinking about doing this for a while and finally realized I didn’t need a “system” and I didn’t need to start by running downstairs to fill all my empties. I started with two jars. After a minute of work we had half a gallon of water on hand for an emergency, and we can put it through our Berkey to filter anything out if it starts to “go bad.” (Did you know water can actually go bad? One of the many facts I learned when posting on preparedness a few years ago…) Would we need more than half a gallon if we lost access to clean water? Sure. Experts recommend one gallon of water, per person, per day, so that’s 6 gallons a day for our family… …but by next week after a batch of chili with canned tomatoes, we’ll probably have a whole gallon. (I fill pint jars and empty spaghetti sauce jars too.) Baby steps, folks…just START. It will build to something that matters.RELATED: How to bake when you can’t buy flour & Signs of Dehydration in Kids.

How to Use Stored Water for Drinking

storing waterI would have thought that a canning jar fresh out of the dishwasher could be filled with water just about forever and be safe to drink…but, humbly, I would have been wrong! If there’s any bit of bacteria or mildew or anything in your jar, since the water itself wasn’t sterilized and the jar not “canned” in a canner, it’s entirely possible for water to “go bad.” You’ll need to take some steps to ensure that your water is safe to drink if and when you need to access it. Try not to store untreated water for more than 6 months. No matter what, if you need to drink your emergency water, get it ready for drinking by following this procedure:
  1. Bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute. (Three minutes if you’re a mile above sea level.)
  2. Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
    • The EPA recommends: “To improve the flat taste of boiled water, aerate it by pouring it back and forth from one container to another and allow it to stand for a few hours, or add a pinch of salt for each quart or liter of water boiled.”
If you are not able to boil your water, add one of the following sanitizing agents:
  • Liquid Bleach: 4 drops (about 1/16 tsp.) regular, unscented liquid chlorine bleach (Note: bleach expires after only 6 months, so unless you keep a rotating bottle on hand, this might not be the best option. If your bleach is between 1-2 years old, double the amount and you should be okay.)
    • Let water stand 30 minutes, preferably covered.
    • Smell the water. If it smells of chlorine, it’s safe to drink. If not, repeat steps 3 and 4 and smell again. If you can’t smell chlorine, toss the water and find another source.
    • This procedure is from the Red Cross.
  • Dry chlorine, called calcium hypochlorite (aka “pool shock”): Found in pool supply stores, it lasts for 10 years on the shelf. To use, make a solution of a heaping ½ tsp. in a gallon of water. (Do not drink this!) Add a scant 1 ½ tsp. of the solution to each quart of stored water. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking. (See examples here on Amazon.)
    • If using chlorine bleach or pool shock, you can allow the chlorine to evaporate after sanitizing by leaving the water in an open container for 24 hours. Also try pouring it back and forth between two clean containers to speed up the process.
  • Iodine: 5 drops of Pharmacopeia tincture of iodine for each quart of water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Find on Amazon specifically for water purification here; in a dropper here and the old-fashioned kind here.
  • Stabilized Oxygen: 10-20 drops Aerobic Stabilized Oxygen per quart of water; let stand 3 minutes before drinking. (You can also add just 3 drops per quart before you store it, and then you won’t have to boil or otherwise sanitize your water at the time of drinking.) Find it on Amazon here; some good reviews of this one and this one.
More extensive details on the preparedness practice of storing water for emergencies in my previous post on the subject.Sources for the disinfecting information: SurvivalTopics.com and EPARELATED: My Honest GRAYL Water Bottle Filter Review

Why You Should Print It

Store water for emergenciesI’m lucky that we invested in a Berkey filter for our day-to-day water filtration, and that will also translate into a preparedness effort since the Berkey takes no electricity and can filter out any contaminants that might grow in the less-than-a-year storage time. (It even filters out food coloring!)
Since an emergency situation would probably include loss of power and Internet, you should have these instructions printed and stored with your water jars. Here’s a quick printable to make it easy on you:Get The Printable InstructionsPrintable generously sponsored by LPC Survival…’cause if you had a Berkey, you wouldn’t need the paper.
Not sure why I might have canning jars on hand?Canned vegetables do lose a lot of nutrients, but there are a few foods that traditional foodies still could/should can:
  • tomatoes (how to can at the link)
  • chicken stock (those are the how-to-make instructions, not how to can – I don’t have a pressure canner so I can’t can stock)
  • home-cooked beans
  • cooked meats
  • and because I just like them and it’s expensive to buy non-food-coloring picking, I occasionally can my own pickles too
What’s your favorite quick “baby step” to be prepared for an emergency? Everyone can get some quick tips in the comments section!

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25 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Quick Trick for Storing Water for Emergencies”

  1. I don’t have a pressure cooker but I do have a water bath canner I use for canning tomatoes. Could I use it for water preservation canning water in quart jars? Thank you.
    I love that ideal especially when you look at the price of Blue Canned Water…..

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Yes, you can can water in a water bath canner. It is sooooo much more economical than buying it!

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Kate – the site is supposed to be very mobile-friendly, so I’m bummed it didn’t show up well for you. On this post, you can get a printable sent to your email of the main tips, so maybe that will help. 🙂 Katie

  2. Really loving the “no-waste” factor of this plan. Plus, it puts your mind at ease, knowing you have this as a backup, Thanks for sharing!

  3. Yes, unless water has been distilled and stored airtight or processed/sealed in a canning jar it will go bad because it contains microbes and organic particles that will rot. I opted to buy a large stove top distiller and I store water in gallon glass jars and cheap 5 gallon stainless steel stock pots. I only have a limited amount but I can always distill more and I distill everyday anyway because the tap water where I live is disgusting. Aerating the water before drinking is especially important with distilled water because distilling removes most of the oxygen. Simply removing some and pouring back in several times works because oxygen molecules automatically bind to available hydrogen molecules as it passes through the air.

    1. Anytime you distill water it removes all the nifty minerals and what not that makes it good for us. I suspect that’s where all the osteoporosis/etc issues came from, bottled and processed water in general. It pulls the minerals out of us instead leaving some behind. So if distilling I recommend keeping a couple of big chunks of Tibetan Pink Salt around. Pour your distilled water over it into a different container and it will grab those minerals back up. Pink salt is chock full of em, and the saltiest salt EVER. Available at Walmart!!

  4. It’s a mytht hat water goes bad. It can go bad if you don’t store it properly (e.g. if you leave it out in the open without a lid on it; some plastics can leech into it) but it doesn’t actually go bad. For more go here – http://time.com/3104999/old-water-sick/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7D7FjK4ffI or http://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/9395/does-water-really-go-bad-after-a-couple-of-days

    Short answer: the taste can change; but water doesn’t really go bad.

  5. I have been storing water in gallon plastic vinegar bottles as I empty them. I am assuming if they can withstand vinegar for long term storage, they shouldn’t break down with water in them. So far it has worked pretty well.

  6. Hi, thanks for posting this! yesterday I realized I needed a new method for storing water, since I want to avoid future plastic jug leaks! Do you think it’s possible to actually can the water so that it’s sterilized & will last a lot longer? I hoped that’s what you were actually going to post about. I’d like to know I can keep the water in the jars a lot longer & have no hassle emergency water on hand. Thanks!

  7. I have read the tip before that any time you are canning and don’t have a canner full to just do a jar of water. That way it should be safe to drink without additional treatment. If you did both methods, you would need a system for marking them or remember to always check the seal and treat any unsealed ones.

  8. We keep water frozen in milk jugs in the freezer. This keeps the freezer full and running at it’s most efficient level. If power goes out it will help preserve the frozen food and we can also add our refrigerator items to keep cold. We could melt it in an emergency and run through the Berkey. Without a Berkey you would have to use one of the above methods before drinking.

  9. Teresa Casper

    I have been doing this for years. It gives me a peace of mind knowing that I do have some water storage for my family. I have a filter for emergency purposes, how ever in the emergency preparedness classes I have taken it is recommended that you have a couple ways to purify water ready. One way Katie did not mention in this post is the sun. It is free and will work great if the water is already stored in glass jars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_disinfection

    Thank you Katie for sharing all the great tips and information you have gained. 🙂

  10. Thank you Katie. I don’t can, but I do have quite a few glass jars in my cupboard that I use for various purposes… and I’m just remembering all the empty sports water bottles that we keep stored in that “stuff we don’t really use” cabinet. You’ve given me the idea to simply fill those with water and tuck your instructions in the cabinet.

    I have had “emergency water” written on my white board for so long that it probably won’t wipe off anymore, so I clearly need this baby step!

    My easy trick is to buy dry “13 bean soup mix” in bulk and always keep a large container on hand. We eat it as a regular meal on occasion, but I purchase more when the container is half full. In an emergency, I know we’ll have enough soup mix to feed us for several days… ASSUMING WE HAVE WATER TO COOK WITH!

  11. So, after storing the water in my canning jars, would it or would it not be enough to just run it back through my Berkey? Will I have to boil or otherwise treat it before I drink it? Sorry if I just didn’t read your post clearly enough.

      1. Awesome, thanks! Just thought maybe I’d missed something. Berkey’s are a great investment!

      2. That’s good to know. That’s what I have been doing for years with the thought that I can just run it through the Berkey, but I didn’t know for sure. Besides our drinking water in glass jars, we save plastic jugs (like from vinegar) of water also for using as wash water in a emergency, and we’ve had to use it a few times already when the power was out and we wanted to use the toilet or wash dishes.

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