Water During Emergencies
It is difficult to underestimate the importance of having clean, drinkable water. It is said that humans can live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Water should be a primary focus when preparing for disasters.
You may take a couple of different approaches to making sure that you have enough water after a disaster. You can stockpile enough water to last for an extended period of time or you can keep empty containers with the hope of being able to fill them before or after the disaster strikes. The advantage of stockpiling water is that you have a sure and ready supply. The disadvantage is that is heavy and takes a good deal of space. It also needs to be stored properly and rotated to remain fresh.
Remember that you will need water not only to drink but for sanitation and hygiene as well. Many of the worst bacteria-related illnesses are the result of fecal-oral contamination. Keeping yourself and your environment clean is extremely important during a disaster.
Standard emergency guidelines suggest that you store one gallon per day for each member of your family for at least a two week period. If the temperatures are hot or activity is high then that amount can double. Children, nursing mothers, or those who are ill may need more water as well. Don't forget about water for sanitation and hygiene as well. You must consider your family's personal needs and habits when deciding how much water to store. Your storage space and personal situation may also help dictate whether you store more or less water. You may need to adjust some of your habits.
Resources & Publications
Washington State Department of Health
- Preparing Water Shortage Response Plan (DOH 331-301)
- Emergency Response Planning Guide for Public Drinking Water Systems (DOH 331-211)
- Water System Security and Emergency Response Planning (DOH 331-199)
- Emergency Disinfection for Small Water Systems (DOH 331-242)
- Treating Drinking Water for Emergency Use (DOH 331-115)
- Emergency Drinking Water Sources (DOH 331-317)
- Truck Transportation - Emergency Water Supply for Public Use (DOH 331-063)
- Emergency Funding for Water Systems (DOH 331-420)
- Finding Water in an Emergency
- Private Wells - Information for Owners (DOH 331-349)
- Purifying Water During and Emergency (DOH Pub 821-031)
Environmental Protection Agency
- Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water ( EPA 816-F-06-027)
- Features of an Active and Effective Protective Program for Water and Wastewater Utilities (EPA 817-F-08-005)
- Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water Supply (EPA 600/R-11/054)
Washington State Department of Ecology
- Water Smart, not Water Short: 5 Ways to Secure Water for Washington's Future (Ecology Pub #09-11-008)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- A Guide to Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use
- Water Disinfection
- A Guide to Drinking Water Treatment and Sanitation for Backcountry & Travel Use
- Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities
United States Geological Survey
- Impacts of Liquefaction on the Potable Water System of Christchurch in the 2010-2011 Canterbury (NZ) Earthquakes
- Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) - Emergency Response Planning Template for Public Drinking Water Systems.
- Water Supply Forum: Regional Water Supply Resiliency Project Earthquake Vulnerability Assessment Technical Memorandum
- State of Alaska: Earthquake Information for Private Well Owners
- University of Canterbury: Earthquake Impacts in the Christchurch CBD