Emergency Drinking Water

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Many people today are worried about what might happen to their water supply during an emergency, and also how to store drinking water in case of a natural or manmade disaster. The Greensboro Water Resources Department provides the following information concerning the safety and supply of your drinking water during an emergency.

Where does our water come from?
Greensboro’s water comes from Lake Townsend, Lake Higgins, and Lake Brandt. The water is treated at one of two water treatment plants and delivered to your house via underground pipes.

What has the Water Resources Department done to prepare for emergencies?
Emergency preparedness has always been a major concern for the City of Greensboro, but even more so since September 11, 2001. The Water Resources Department has taken steps to ensure that its readiness program meets industry standards and the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Homeland Security Department. In addition, the Water Resources Department has conducted a comprehensive review of its facilities and safety and security procedures to ensure it is able to respond to emergencies.

The Department is planning well. But I would still feel safer if I stored some water. Should I do that and how do I do it?
Yes, absolutely, the Water Resources Department recommends that you store water to use in the event of an emergency. The following procedure is recommended by the EPA, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency):

  1. Plan for up to one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and food preparation.
  2. Store tap water in clean, non-corrosive containers.
  3. Two-liter plastic soft drink bottles with screw caps are perfect for water storage. They are tough and made of food-grade plastic. Do not use plastic milk containers for long term storage because they will split easily over time due to "environmentally friendly" biodegradable plastic.
  4. Before storing the water, treat it with a preservative such as chlorine bleach to prevent growth of bacteria.

    Use household bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite but no other products, such as soap or fragrance. The label may say "Not For Personal Use" but it is safe to use if the only active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite, and you use only the following small amounts:
    • Available Chlorine: 5.25 percent
    • Drops per 2 Liter Bottle: 4 drops
    • Drops per Gallon: 8-10 drops
    • Equivalent Amount per Gallon: One-half of 1/8 teaspoon
  5. Seal the bottles tightly, label them, and store in a cool dark place.
  6. The maximum shelf life if disinfected in this manner is about six months.

Where can I get more information?
The following agencies can supply you with more detailed information about all types of provisions and preparations needed to safeguard your family during an emergency, and also how to obtain and purify water of questionable origin:

Environmental Protection Agency
FEMA Safe Drinking Water
FEMA Emergency Food and Water
American Red Cross National Disaster Education