Most families rely upon electricity to provide them with water. Whether you are using a municipal water supply or have your own well, it will be electricity that powers the pumps to get water out of the tap. Naturally, when there is no electricity, there will be no water. All of us have experienced temporary water shortages when a thunderstorm or blizzard has downed some power lines, and generally the situation has been normalized within a few hours at most. However, should a catastrophic emergency or disaster strike, it is possible that you could be without water for days or weeks. Do you either have enough water stored safely in your home right now, or do you have the ability to purify water from outside sources such as rivers or lakes? If the answer is no, you should think now about how to make sure that you and your family will be able to drink clean water regardless of how long you are without power.
Bear in mind that you will be able to go without food for a much longer period than you will without water, and the hotter the temperature is, the more water you will need. You should plan on one gallon of water per person, per day.
One good way to make sure that you will always have potable water available is by storing your tap water ahead of time. Water barrels, specially made for just this purpose, will have a 30 or 55 gallon capacity and will come with siphon pumps. These barrels are opaque, but should be kept out of the sunlight to inhibit the growth of algae. If the water in the barrels has been purified beforehand, it will remain good for up to 5 years.
Purifying Water At Home
If the emergency persists, you may have to rely upon local water sources for your drinking water. These will have to be purified, as even water that looks clean can contain bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and cysts that can cause serious illness. Boiling water will kill all organic pathogens in the water, and it is a good idea to allow the water to come to violent boil for at least 5 minutes to be sure that it has been cleansed. Keep in mind that while boiling will kill germs, it will not remove chemicals, and will serve rather to concentrate them. Do not use the water until it has cooled.
Bleach can also be used to clean water, and it is recommended that 3 drops of ordinary bleach be added to a quart of water. If you are purifying a gallon of water, you will need 1/8 teaspoon. After the bleach is added, the water should be stirred to distribute the bleach, and then wait half an hour before using. Should be water be cold or dirty, double the recommended amount of bleach and let the water sit for one hour. You should be able to detect a faint odor of bleach afterwards.
I believe this is the most reliable way to purify questionable water, and investing in a quality water filter should be considered a necessity. Be sure that you choose a filter designed specifically to remove organic and inorganic contaminants a pitcher filter will be completely inadequate. The Katadyn Hiker Unit will be useful not only on the trail, but will be an excellent emergency filter as well. This filter can purify 200 gallons of water before the filtering element has to be changed.
For long term, dependable use, consider the Big Berkey Water Filter. This filter costs several hundred dollars, but is well worth the cost. This filter will remove almost 100% of pathogens, chemicals, and sediment from your water, and the filter candles will purify thousands of gallons of water before they need to be replaced. The candles can be washed off every week or so to extend their useful life.