What happens when you’ve put back enough water to get your family through an emergency and it sits for a while? Is it still safe to drink that old, stored water? Will you be able to trust that your stored water won’t do harm to your family if you need to use it? Let’s explore.
A Multi-Faceted Question
The first thing you should know is that it’s absolutely feasible for your water storage to become contaminated, even if it hasn’t been opened or used in any way.
There are a lot of factors that could determine whether your old water storage is safe to use. You’ll have to take into account several variables based on your water storage situation, and ultimately, the only way to determine for sure whether your old water storage is safe is by testing it or purifying it again.
Here are some factors that may have an impact on the water’s safety:
- What it’s stored in – If you purchase sealed, store-bought water bottles, they’re likely to remain uncontaminated longer than if you are filling you own water storage containers. Containers intended for water storage that have the seals intact are more likely to keep your water tasting fresh than other food-grade containers, containers with defective seals, or re-used containers.
- Temperature where it’s stored – Warm temperatures can encourage bacterial growth, so water stored in warmer areas of your home are likely to develop unsafe levels of bacteria sooner than water stored in cooler parts of your home. Aim to store your water at temperatures below 65 degrees F.
- Exposure to light where it’s stored – Light can also lead to excessive microbial growth. Keep your water in the dark for best results.
- How the water was purified before storage – While most bottled water is really just tap water, it has undergone additional filtration that takes care of any bacteria lingering in the tap water. Beverage companies do this to create a uniform taste and a clean product. When you store your own water, your method of purification can make a big difference in whether it holds up against the test of time.
The best way to guarantee that your water storage is safe is to buy commercially bottled water. This water is required by law to be free of dangerous contaminants, and it should stay that way so long as the seal remains intact. However, even commercially bottled water may, after a time, take on a flavor from the area where it’s stored, but it should still be good to drink.
If you’re using food-grade blue number 2 plastic water bottles that are intended to store water, you can help ensure that your water stays good by making sure the container is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized inside and out. Also, make sure that the bottles seal properly. You can test the seal by turning a full bottle on its side and waiting a few days to watch for leaks. Fill at refill stations found in your local supermarket or filter or boil tap water thoroughly to ensure the water is free from contaminants.
Generally speaking, other storage methods, like old jars or milk cartons, are not a safe way to store water long-term. Avoid using these containers to help ensure your water’s safety.
Testing Water for Safety
You can purchase water quality testing kits if you’re wondering about the safety of your stored water. These range in price from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars. These tests may involve test strips, adding water to prepared petri dishes and waiting to grow bacteria, or color-changing mediums that detect bacteria.
Other Tips for Storing Water Longer
One of the best ways to make sure your water storage stays good is to rotate it frequently. It’s recommended that you rotate every six months, but you can count on it to be safe for significantly longer than that. It will help you to rotate appropriately if you label each container with the date it was filled.
Keep your water in a dark, cool area of your home. Avoid storing water near chemicals or other potential contaminants. Rotate water that is kept in less than ideal areas more frequently to help ensure freshness.
If you choose to fill bottles up at home, make sure you use a food-safe hose to get the water into the containers. Garden hoses frequently contain lead and lots of contaminants. A water preserver concentrate may be used to help your stored water retain its flavor. You can also add 8 drops of household bleach to each gallon of water to keep water fresh longer.
Keep containers off cement floors if you’re storing in the basement or garage. Put them up on pallets or other shelving, or simply place cardboard between your water storage and the floor.
It might behoove you to keep water purification drops on hand if there are any questions about the safety of your water storage method. This will prevent any desperate use of potentially contaminated water in an emergency situation.
Using Stored Water
If your water storage is safe but still doesn’t taste great, you may be able to improve the flavor by oxygenating the water. Simply pour the water back and forth between two containers to help introduce oxygen back into it.
So long as water has been stored properly and was clean to begin with, your stored water should stay good for several years. If you have any questions about the safety of your water storage plan, consider a test kit now before you need it just to make sure.
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