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  • How to Store Water for Drinking, Cooking, and Household Use Free of Bacteria

    With cities around Metro Manila experiencing water interruptions, you may want to start storing water for emergency use
    by Cielo Anne Calzado .
How to Store Water for Drinking, Cooking, and Household Use Free of Bacteria
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Several areas in Metro Manila and nearby vicinities have been experiencing water interruptions that have left families with little or no water to use or drink. According to reports, these interruptions are expected throughout the summer since water in at least one of the dams has been dropping to critical levels. The news has provoked households to prepare an emergency water supply for future use.

    As you fill buckets and huge plastic containers with water, you need to make sure you’re doing it correctly to avoid contaminated water, especially if it is for drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that we need to store at least a gallon of water per day for each person and consider saving more if you are pregnant or in the event someone may get sick.

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    In addition to the one gallon per day, experts suggest storing an additional half gallon to a gallon meant for bathing, hygiene, and washing dishes. A family of four may need at least a minimum of 12 gallons of water.

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    How to store water efficiently and safely

    Storing water for long-term use involves using the right containers, disinfecting them, and doing extra steps to ensure the water you’ll use is clean and safe.

    Find the right water containers

    If you are storing water for drinking and food preparation, keep in mind that you can’t just use any plastic bottle. Good Housekeeping says you need to look for food grade quality plastic containers, so you’re assured that these adhere to health and safety regulations. “Food grade numbers are readily identifiable as resin codes #1, 2, 4, and 5, which appear within the triangular green chasing arrows on the back of the container or on the label.”

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    For your guidance, here are the safe plastic containers you can use:

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    • #1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – often used as water and soft drink bottles
    • #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) – these are commonly used as milk and fruit juice bottles. Good Housekeeping notes that this kind of container is chemically resistant and won’t break down quickly due to sunlight exposure, heating, and freezing.
    • #5 PP (polypropylene) – these are ice cream containers, canisters, and bottles that are resistant to high heat
    • #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) – According to GH, it’s mostly used in flexible packaging and does not react with food.

    When working with plastic containers, make sure you avoid those with the numbers 3, 6, or 7 as these deemed not safe for recycling and water storage.

    Clean used containers thoroughly

    If you’re recycling a couple of old plastic containers and bottles for storage, don’t forget to clean them properly. After washing the tub and lids with soapy (ideally warm) water, you need to rinse each thoroughly and make sure it’s sanitized. The US Homeland Security suggests, “rinsing them with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Leave the containers wet for two minutes, then rinse them again with water.”

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    Be mindful where you keep your water containers

    Placing water containers under direct sunlight may have adverse effects on the water you’re storing for future use. Various sources say it’s best to keep your containers in a cool, dark place away from gasoline, pesticides, and other similar substances. Doing this also avoids microbial and algae growth, which can make your stored water unusable. You can also place a few bottles in the freezer as a backup option.

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    Add labels to your water containers so you can easily distinguish drinking water from water sources meant for hygiene and other tasks.

    Your stored water has a shelf life

    Bottled water you can buy from supermarkets has a long shelf life. ThoughtCo. says that “it lasts essentially forever, as long as the seal hasn’t been broken, though it might not taste great a year or two or more post-bottling.” As a safety precaution, keep bottled water only for a year and make sure you used your store-bought water within that period.

    Stored tap water must be rotated every six months. Homeland Security News and Information recommends rotating your stored water with the water you use daily just to make sure you don’t have stagnant water in storage for longer than six months.

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    Be careful not to contaminate your stored water

    Merely brushing dirty hands on the rim of your container can contaminate the stored water. Drinking straight from the bottle may cause microorganisms to affect the quality of water, too. As a rule, always make sure your hands are clean when dealing with stored water.

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    Make your own drinking water

    In emergency situations, you might have to get drinking water straight from the tap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares reminders on how to make water safe for drinking. First, you can boil the water to “kill disease-causing organisms including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.” Boiled water can taste weird – improve the quality by transferring it from one container to another or by adding a pinch of salt for each liter of water.

    Aside from boiling, Good Housekeeping also suggests adding two drops of “non-additive, unscented chlorine to every two liters of water and let the water stand for 30 minutes before drinking.” A third option would be using filters you can buy in stores. According to the CDC, portable water filters can help remove parasites like Cryptosporidium and Giardia from drinking water. When shopping for filters, choose one with a small filter pore size to remove parasites. Take note that these filters do not remove bacteria or viruses.

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    For more tips on how to turn tap water into safe drinking water, click here.

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