Water is one of the most important, yet most often overlooked, preps.
The CDC recommends a minimum of 1 gallon per person (and pets), per day. Here are the recommendations from the CDC website.
- Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
- Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
- Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
- Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.
By these recommendations, a family of four, with one pet should have 70 gallons of water!
The recommendation of 1 gallon per person, per day is only for consumption and food prep purposes. When we add in personal hygiene and cleaning, this number soars.
Sure, you can buy some big blue barrels, fill and treat them and bingo, you are all set. However not everyone has room to store 55 or 110 gallons of water (it takes up a LOT of room).
When we teach our preparedness courses we perform a home inventory. One of the questions we ask our students is "At this very moment, how much water do you have stored in your home?". Surprisingly the majority of households have NONE stored (after all, they are students), the minority normally have 1-3 gallons. This 1-3 gallons generally is in the form of bottled water they keep as part of their normal grocery shopping.
Now we start getting creative and I ask them again; this time telling them to think of 'non traditional' water sources. Immediately the toilet tank comes to mind. Great, a few more gallons found. We then discuss the toilet bowl. Of course you don't want to drink or cook with this, but after boiling it is suitable for cleaning purposes.
So, now we are up from the 1-3 gallons to anywhere from 6-10 gallons depending on the number of bathrooms. This is looking like a good start but the suggestions for water sources pretty much drop off after here.
In almost all cases, there is anywhere from 30 to 120 gallons of clean, fresh water just sitting around in just about every home! To date, nobody in any of our classes has called out "My water heater!".
Yes, almost every home has a water heater. If electric, gas, solar or other, they all have one thing in common; they hold a lot of water!
In many cases you can't just turn on the faucet to get to this water. Natural disasters may make the municipal water system unavailable. Power outages leave wells unable to pump. And you can't just open the valve on the water heater to get the water.
Here are the steps to drain your water heater. Obviously you don't want to fully drain it, but these steps apply for getting to the water you need, when you need it.
Turn off the water supply. If you do not know where your water shutoff is, you should find it and show the rest of your family.
Turn off the water heater. If a gas unit, shut off the gas valve; if an electric unit, turn off the water heater breaker.
Attach a hose to the drain valve. Depending on where your water heater is located this may be unnecessary. However, often the drain valves are close to the floor, making it difficult to place a container under the valve.
Open the nearest hot water tap, preferably on a floor above the water heater. This prevents a vacuum from preventing water flow (like holding water in a straw by capping the end with your finger).
Open the drain valve. CAUTION! the water may be EXTREMELY HOT!
Don't be surprised if dirty water comes out. Almost all water heaters have sediment in the bottom. This will clear quickly and you will have the clear water you expect.
Once you have captured enough water, close the drain valve. Once the crisis has passed, reverse these steps to put your water heater back into service.