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Water Storage Container FAQ | Drinking Water | Water

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The following Water Storage Container Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is designed to answer basic questions about commonly used containers for storing water, either short- or long-term.
  Water Storage Container FAQ Version 2.3, September, 2003  2003, Al Dolney Version 2.3 Comments, suggestions, constructive criticism,e-mail me at Merlin@ar15.comV2.3 Changes:- Added comments about temporary water storage General comments: The following Water Storage Container Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) isdesigned to answer basic questions about commonly used containers for storing water,either short- or long-term. All of these containers discussed below (except wherenoted) are made of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which is certified by the FDAfor storing potable water (i.e. drinking water). It is up to the reader to ensure thatused containers have not been previously used to store dangerous chemicals,petroleum products or anything else that would contaminate potable water. For thisreason, I do not recommend the use of used containers for potable water unless youare sure of the source and what has been previously stored in the used container.Although this is not a water storage FAQ, the following water storing advice is prettymuch common sense and is available on many preparedness sites and it repeated herefor your convenience. If you disagree with specific storing advice, fine, use whatworks for you in your area and circumstance. For long-term water storage, usestandard storage common sense: store in a cool, dry, dark place. If stored outside,protect the containers from light and ensure the containers are robust enough tosurvive freezing temperaturesand allow enough headroom (usually 1/4 of volume).Do not store potable water containers near sources of gasoline, kerosene or otherpetroleum products, pesticides or other poisons or chemicals; the fumes from these  products can and will penetrate the plastic water container material and be absorbedby your stored water.Large barrels need to be secured if stacked especially if stored in an earthquake-pronearea. In no case should barrels be stored more than 2 high due to danger of collapse.Do not store large quantities of water in your attic or other areas of your home orapartment unless you know the underlying structure can take the extra weight. Forexample, most apartment complexes will not allow waterbeds on the second or higherstory of their buildings. A 200-gallon waterbed will weigh over 1600 lbs.Here’s what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)1[1] says aboutpreparing containers and water for storing: ãContainers for water should be rinsed with a diluted bleachsolution (one part bleach to ten parts water) before use. Previouslyused bottles or other containers may be contaminated withmicrobes or chemicals. Do not rely on untested devices fordecontaminating water.ã If your water is treated commercially by a water utility, you donot need to treat water before storing it. Additional treatments oftreated public water will not increase storage life. [emphasis added]ã If you have a well or public water that has not been treated,follow the treatment instructions provided by your public health serviceor water provider.ãIf you suspect that your well may be contaminated,contact yourlocal or state health departmentor agricultureextension agent forspecific advice. 1 [1] * FEMA Guide H-34, “Are You Ready?”,pg. 13, dated Sept.2002  ã Seal your water containers tightly, label them and store them ina cool, dark place. It is important to change stored water every sixmonths. If you wish to treat our water prior to storing it, I recommend the chlorox.com site forthe latest information on disinfecting water with chlorine bleach. Any “clorox” typebleach product will work, as long as it only contains 5.25% or 6% sodiumhypochlorite as its active ingredient and does not contain brighteners or scents. Perthe Clorox site use the following amounts of bleach to disinfect water: 4 drops perquart, 16 drops per gallon, 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons; shake or stir the water and let sitfor 30 minutes before using. If, after 30 minutes, you cannot smell chlorine, retreatand wait 30 minutes. On my used barrels from the local bottling plant, I treat mystored water with a saturated iodine crystal solution, just for insurance. Again, if youhave confidence in the cleanliness of your local tap water, using it as-is is okay also.Some may advocate the use of potable water-compatible hoses to fill large barrels.However, I just use my garden hose, running the water for several minutes to ensure Iam getting fresh water direct from the water main in front of my house. Again,YMMV; use what you’re comfortable with.Except for those containers, which I note that I have no experience with, I have listedwater storage containers in order reflecting my personal preference and experience.Currently, I have over 450 gallons of water stored, with approximately 330 gallons inthe storage containers discussed in this FAQ. With one exception, none of thesecontainers have leaked. Your personal circumstance and preferences (cost, need forrobustness, convenience, storage space, amount of water to store, etc.) will determinewhat’s best for you. This FAQ is designed to help you determine what to containersto store the amount of water you feel you need. All prices shown represent the NorthAlabama area during 2002.Freezing water containers: Most of the containers listed here are freezable, withcertain limitations. Sufficient headroom must be left in order to prevent splitting orbursting the container since water expands when it freezes into ice. Headroom isnothing more than air left at the top of the container. The only exception to the  headroom rule are store bought 20 oz. water bottles that can be frozen as they comefrom the store; all larger containers need to have headroom to ensure the containerwill survive the freezing and water expansion process. Usually ¼ of the container’svolume is sufficient headroom.Cleaning previously used containers: First make sure you know what has beenpreviously stored in your used containers. This usually means that you bought thecontainer new with its srcinal contents (e.g. pop bottles) or youhave confidence of its previous use from a commercial source (e.g. a Coke Cola or Pepsi bottler). Underno circumstances would I use containers that I was not sure what they may have beenused for in the past. For example, I do not recommend that peoplecollect used popbottles from the street for use as potable water containers.To clean small used containers, I rinse out several times, allow the container to soak filled with hot water a couple of times, then fill with tap water and call it good. Forlarger containers like barrels, I will use a solution of chlorox and water (1/8 cup pergallon of water) and rinse several times afterwards. I do not recommend that you useany type of detergent or other cleaning solutions to clean your containers. If thecontainers are really dirty, grungy or contain visible signs of algae, I would not usethem, unless you can ensure you can fully clean the container or use them for non-potable water uses.To clean new containers, I usually just rinse them out a few times, fill them with citytap water and call it good to go. I have tested my city water (Madison, AL) severaltimes for chlorine and it always has a very high level of free chlorine. YMMV,especially if you are using well water. All of my smaller containers are filled from thewater tap; the larger containers are filled with a standard garden hose, well flushed toensure clean, fresh water is stored. For the ultimate in cleanliness, a water potablehose could be used; these are available from RV suppliers. I personally don’t feel itsnecessary, but feel free to use what you think is best.Attributes assessed for this FAQ: Cost, robustness, size, convenience, and FDAapproved materials along with other comments as necessary.
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