Water that you’re going to store for long-term (6 months or more) needs to be treated before it’s stored. As we’ve discussed previously, some water comes pre-treated from the municipal water system and may be ready to store right out of the tap!
Just because the water is ready for storage doesn’t mean you can simply hook a hose to your faucet and start filling containers!
Before storing your water you want to make sure it’s adequately filtered. Again, water from the tap may be just fine, if yours is not, run it through a filter (or multiple filters) prior to storage.
Before storing water in a container you MUST have a sterile container! Containers used for storing drinking water should be purchased “new”, not “used one time only”. Even still, new containers should be thoroughly rinsed, though use of soap or detergent should be approached cautiously. Remember, if you don’t get every molecule of your cleaner out you’ll eventually be drinking it.
Instead, many recommend additional “treatment” (or “super-treatment”) of water that you put into containers for the first time. To do so you generally add even more chlorine to the water so it can sterilize the inside of the container.
Keep in mind you also need to sterilize your drinking-water-safe hose as well. You can’t just hook up the garden hose.
Avoid using household bleach! Let me say that again: avoid using household bleach!
It’s not that bleach won’t work, it will! However, more often than not the bleach that you use to make your “whites whiter” isn’t just bleach! It’s bleach plus a whole bunch of detergents that are very bad for you. Unlike chlorine, which evaporates rapidly, these detergents can stick around for a long time, and if you keep “re-treating” the same water with the same “bleach” you’re probably building up more and more detergents in your drinking water.
If you ONLY buy unscented bleach without any dyes or detergents, you might be okay. I wouldn’t risk it. With my water, I don’t risk it. Instead, get the real stuff: chlorine.
You can pick up chlorine from pool supply stores, emergency preparedness stores, or online. Look at the contents and make sure you’re getting the highest percentage of sodium hypochlorite as possible. Remember, if it’s 95% chlorine that means it’s 5% something else – and that “something else” could kill you or make you very ill.
Follow the directions on your chlorine container and add to the water. Chlorine is a gas, but it’s not very useful in that form, so it’s usually packaged into a liquid or a solid.
Liquids usually dissolve in water faster than solids do. Add it to your water, allow to mix, and let stand for 30-60 minutes. You should be able to smell chlorine at the end of this time period. If you do not, repeat until you do.
Close your containers and labels them with a description of their contents and when each was prepared. You’re all set for 6-12 months. At that point, you may want to repeat the processes.