Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Make sure your drinking water is safe in midst of disaster


Most Oklahomans have easy access to clean water anytime they get thirsty or head to the kitchen to prepare a meal. But, in the wake of emergencies like the recent tornado outbreak in the central part of the state, finding a safe water supply could be far more challenging.
Make sure your drinking water is safe in midst of disaster

“You can go longer without food than you can without water, and it needs to come from a clean, safe supply, otherwise you run the risk of disease outbreak,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website www.ready.gov recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and cooking. It does not all have to be H2O, though. Juices from canned fruits and vegetables count, too.

Commercially bottled water is the safest, most reliable source in an emergency and has an indefinite shelf life. However, you also can get clean, usable water from pipes, the water heater, ice cube trays and other beverages.

“The water in swimming pools and waterbeds shouldn’t be used because it’s been chemically treated,” Peek said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, you can use the water from the toilet tank, but not the bowl, if it’s clear and hasn’t been treated with cleansers such as those that change the color of the water.”

To store water in your own bottles, use food-grade plastic or glass containers that have been thoroughly cleaned with dish soap, water and rinsed. If you decide to reuse storage containers, chose 2-liter soft drink bottles, and further sanitize them using a solution of 1 teaspoon of nonscented liquid household chlorine bleach per 1/4 gallon of water, said Barbara Brown, OSU Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“Avoid plastic jugs or cardboard containers that had milk or juice in them previously because milk protein and fruit sugars can’t be completely washed away and the risk of bacterial growth increases when water is stored in them,” Brown said. “Not to mention cardboard leaks easily and isn’t designed for long-term storage.”

Once properly cleaned, fill bottles with tap water, tightly close the original lid and take care not to contaminate the inside of the cap by touching it with your fingers.

“Be sure to clearly label each container ‘drinking water’ and include the date,” said Brown.

If the water company has treated the tap water, you do not need to add anything else to make it safe. If the water comes from a well or other untreated source, add 2 drops of nonscented liquid household chlorine bleach to each gallon.

Keep your supply in a cool, dark place.

In the event the water supply becomes contaminated, try water purification tablets or a commercial water treatment unit.

You also can add 1/4 teaspoon of unscented chlorine to each gallon of water and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, repeat the process and let it stand for another 15 minutes. If the water remains unclear, dispose of it.

Another option is to add 20 drops of tincture of iodine per gallon of water or boil the water for 5 to 10 minutes, cool and swish back and forth to improve the taste.

For more information, contact your local county Extension office and visit http://www.dasnr.okstate.edu/tornado.


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu


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