Thirst for Thought: Will Your Drinking Water Supply Sustain You During Disaster?

Health & Wellness on 07.06.11
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The Fiskars Rain Barrel / Image credit:

When you think about feeding your family, a clean, fresh supply of water might not come to mind. But you've got to have water for drinking and cooking! It seems that every week, we hear of a new natural disaster devastating a town or an entire region. When a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake or fire strike, people are often left without power and safe drinking water for days, even weeks at a time.

In addition to our first-aid kit, canned foods, radio and flashlights, we store 12 gallons of water as an emergency supply for our family of four, and we change it out once a year just to keep it relatively fresh. It’s not the most practical or efficient way to ensure safe drinking water in an emergency, and recently I set out to research better methods.

Here are my favorites.

Rain Barrel: If you have a backyard, one of the cheapest ways to harvest and store fresh, safe water is to use a barrel to collect rainwater. If you’re storing long-term, you’ll have to treat the water for algae and insert beneficial bacteria. It’s easy to do -- just add the preserver, which will keep the water fresh for five years.

Heavy-duty Filters: We recently got a Big Berkey water filter for our new house. It's one of the best systems available, filtering out bacteria, parasites, and chlorine while leaving in the beneficial nutrients. You can pour in any fresh water supply (H2O from a hose, creek, lake, or even a stagnant pond), and the gravity filtration system will deliver clean, clear, and safe drinking water.

It’s a pricey piece of an emergency kit, but if you use this system for your regular home drinking water, it comes to about 2 cents a gallon. And, you’ll never find a better-tasting water than this! Our new home’s water supply is private well water, and we haven’t had a chance to test the water yet. In the meantime, we’ve been using the Big Berkey to filter for consumption


On the Go: Do you have emergency water stored in your car? I always recommend storing several small bottles of water in the trunk -- you never know where you’ll be when disaster strikes.

We used to carry a Camelbak Mule (pictured here) in the car, which is basically a cross between a backpack and a water bag. We also take this on long walks, bike rides, or hikes. Just fill up the water bladder with good water, and off you go! The backpack makes it more convenient to carry than water bottles, leaving both hands free.

Berkey comes through again with their Sport Berkey water bottle, which provides the same level of filtration technology as its larger products. We now keep two empty Sport Berkeys in our trunk for emergencies -- with that filter, we’re confident that we can filter treated and untreated fresh water sources.

Another great water filteration system for families on the go is the Katadyn Mini Black. Its ceramic filter makes it safe to drink water from ponds, rivers, and streams because it removes 99.999 percent of bacteria.

More on Being Prepared -- for the Expected and Unexpected
Why Isn't There an Emergency Help Line for Mothers? : Parentables
Mom's Carry-on Bag: What to Tote When You Fly : Parentables
Prepare for a Family Vacation With This Pre-trip Checklist : Parentables