Emergency Water – How often should you refresh your water?

When was the last time you went into your emergency bin? There’s a good chance it was during last year’s Great ShakeOut.

Understandably, you had much more on your mind during the annual earthquake drill than the quality of your emergency supplies. So, you may not have noticed your emergency water is expired.

Our clients often hire us to review their emergency supplies and see what needs updating. One of the most common issues we find is old water.

So what is treated water?

Treated water in air-tight containers has a shelf-life of 5 years. If it’s not treated, it can go bad in 6 months.

With many of our clients, the water isn’t just a little outdated—it has expired for years or even decades. We have found 55-gallon water barrels with 20-year-old labels.

I would imagine that concerns you. No one would want to face a regional emergency and not have access to clean, potable water.

It is easy to let this one slip. Out of sight, out of mind. The fact is emergency preparedness requires constant vigilance and updating.

Since water treated with chlorine bleach expires in 5 years, you should schedule a refresh every 4 years. This gives you plenty of time to do it properly without risking an emergency without clean water.

Tips for handling emergency water

Here are some easy tips to remember when handling your emergency water supply:

  • Make sure you treat your water with unscented chlorine bleach, with two tablespoons per 55-gallon drum. Other varieties of bleach can include poisonous contaminants.
  • Properly seal your barrels with airtight bungs. Water in improperly sealed containers goes bad much sooner. Regularly inspect your bins to ensure there is no sign of leakage from any of the barrels.
  • Make sure all your barrels are labeled with the date of their refresh and the expiration date.
  • Your barrels should be easily accessible in your bins. Place them near the front of your bin’s entryway. 55-gallon water barrels are quite heavy. You don’t want to have to move them unless you must. Do not place anything on top of your barrels.
  • Always have multiple water barrel wrenches and water pumps on hand. Most of the bins we inspect these days have manual hand pumps, but electrically powered hand pumps are available now, making dispensing water from the barrels much easier and quicker. You should also have 50-foot hoses on hand and 4-ounce drinking cups.

With most of California in severe or extreme drought and reservoirs dipping well below total capacity, it is easy to imagine an emergency where you have no access to running water.

Stay on top of your emergency water supply, so you never need to see that become a reality.

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