Drinking water

Most people will be okay for food by keeping a good supply of tins in the cupboard. But often an emergency supply of water is where we let ourselves down.

How to prepare and store water

You need 3 litres of water per person per day and enough for three days. That's 9 litres each. You will need more water for washing and cooking. You don't need to go out and spend a lot of money on bottled water, here's how to do it yourself.

To store enough drinking water for three days, prepare six large, plastic soft drink bottles of water per person, including children. Add extra for pets.

  • Wash bottles thoroughly in hot water.
  • Fill each bottle with tap water until it overflows. Add five drops of household bleach, eg, Janola, per litre of water and put in storage. (Half a teaspoon (2.5ml) per 10 litres of water.) Do not drink for at least 30 minutes after disinfecting.
  • Do not use bleaches that contain added scent or perfume, surfactants or other additives - they can make people sick.
  • Make sure there are no air gaps and place the lids on tightly.
  • Label each bottle with dates showing when the bottles were filled and when they need to be refilled.
  • Check the bottles every 12 months (eg, at the beginning or end of daylight saving). If the water is not clear, throw it out and refill clean bottles with clean water and bleach.
  • Store bottles in two separate places - somewhere dark, away from direct sunlight. Choose a place that is not likely to be flooded.
  • You can also fill plastic ice cream containers with water, cover, label and keep them in the freezer. These can help keep food cool if the power is off and can also be used for drinking.
  • Keep a supply of ice cubes and fruit juices.

Other water sources

Make sure your hot water cylinder and header tank are braced with metal straps to stop them from falling over. In an emergency you can use the water in these tanks. The water in the toilet cistern is safe to use only if no chemical toilet cleanser is present.

Collect rain water by either placing a clean container outside to catch rain or by disconnecting the down pipe from the roof and filling a container. Boil water for three minutes before drinking or disinfect with household bleach (1/2 teaspoon to 10 litres). Reserve one clean utensil to use as a dipper.

Important things to know about water

Wash your hands well. If water is in very short supply keep some in a bowl with disinfectant added, but change it frequently.

Check your stored water by holding it up to the light. If it has anything floating in it or is not clear, strain and boil for three minutes or add five drops of household bleach per litre of water and let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking. (½ teaspoon to 10 litres.)

Water DOs and DON'Ts after an emergency has occurred

  • DO NOT collect drinking water from the roof if it is contaminated with ash, smoke deposits or other debris.
  • DO NOT drink water from the town supply unless you have been advised that it is fit for drinking.
  • DO NOT assume domestic water filters are effective. They can become contaminated.
  • DO NOT drink water from a private well if it has been flooded.
  • DO use spa and swimming pool water, if available, for keeping yourself clean and washing clothes.
  • DO NOT waste water on cleaning clothes.
  • Use a bucket or bowl for washing. Throw the used water over the land or put into a hole and cover with soil. DO NOT put it down the toilet or drains.
  • Switch off power to the hot water cylinder if the water supply fails.