Maintaining a Safe Water Supply

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Please see Section 5 of the Emergency Resources Guide Volume 1 for updates and other related info.


Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. It is used not only for drinking, but also for hygiene purposes and food preparation. Store at least two quarts, and up to one gallon per person per day. You should store at least a one- to two week’s supply for each person. If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.


If you need to find water outside, you can use these sources. Be sure to purify the water before drinking it.

  • Rainwater
  • Streams, rivers, and
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs

Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink flood water.


☐ Boiling: Boil water vigorously for 1 to 3 minutes. To improve the taste, aerate water by pouring it from one clean container to another several times.

☐ Purification tablets: These are available at most drug stores. Follow the directions on the package carefully.

☐ Bleach purification: Liquid household bleach can be used to purify water. It MUST contain 5.24% sodium hypochlorite. Add the amount of bleach listed below, and then stir. Let water stand 30 minutes before drinking. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Powdered flavored beverage mix may be added to offset the chlorine taste.

  • For 1 gallon of water: If water is clear add 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon). If water is cloudy add 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon).
  • For 5 gallons of water: If water is clear add 1/2 teaspoon. If water is cloudy, add 1 teaspoon.

☐ Distillation: Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back into water. This process eliminates salt and other impurities from the water. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down. Place the lid upside-down on the pot and make sure the cup is not dangling into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.