While frequently helping individuals and families set up their emergency drinking water storage, one of the most repeated tips that surfaces is that their water storage should be routinely rotated or replenished within a six to twelve-month period. For many, this comes as an unwelcomed surprise, as if water should just be able to set there for 20 years without any problems!
This brief article offers three points for routinely replenishing existing emergency drinking water storage. It was written for those who already have a basic understanding of sound practices in storing drinking water.
Security & Quality
Replenishing your water storage within a six to twelve month period ensures that the integrity of that water remains complete and that no unwanted influences have compromised the container or the immediate storage environment.
Some authors recommend accessing the water itself and simply closing it back up if all appears alright, but I disagree. The second that the stored water is re-introduced to an outside environment such as air, tools, or hands, the potential for contamination is a done-deal. Sterile technique outside of a lab is impossible which is why I recommend using tamper-proof caps after each replenishing session. This ensures a quick visual evaluation of tampering and compromise. Rest assured, if your technique was appropriate while putting the water into storage, routine replenishing and repeated form will ensure continued success. I also recommend writing the date of storage on each tamper-proof cap as a universal reference point.
The quality of the water is always affected by appropriate storage conditions:
- Using appropriate sources of water (U.S. tap water approved for drinking is a minimum)
- Using virgin (new & unused) containers approved for water storage
- Appropriate water preservative considering container & environment
- Proper filling & sealing techniques
- Out of direct sunlight
- Away from exposure to extreme temperatures
For those individuals who would rather add more preservative to the water within the replenishing time-frame, I suggest that you do the following (at your own risk of course):
- Minimize access to outside environments and factors such as winds, dust, chemicals, tools, etc.
- Operate in a clean environment:
- Clean hands, tools, sanitizing solution appropriate for contact with drinking water storage
- Perform a visual inspection of critical areas:
- Caps, gaskets, access points, container, storage location, supports, covers, etc.
- Once you’ve determined that you wanna take a shortcut, clean each critical area before re-storing your water.
Replenishing your water storage within a six to twelve month period also ensures that your water, container(s), and tools, are kept in optimum operating conditions. Successful bakers, chefs, mechanics, soldiers, and healthcare practitioners function best when their tools are in ideal shape…the same is true for you and for me.
Optimizing the lifespan of our resources is valuable because it saves us money long-term. I am consistently surprised at would-be home economists who brag about their ability to “prep on the cheap.” I agree that frugality should be practiced but not at the expense of becoming CHEAP! By cheap, I mean the practice spending a little money to buy as many products of inferior quality as possible than in spending more money to buy better or best quality products which likely will not need to be replaced. Those who act cheap cannot appreciate terms such as craftsmanship, lifetime manufacturer warranty, or even conduct real cost analyses! How to conduct a practical cost analysis will be the subject of a separate post.
In order to make the most of your resources, pursue these practices:
- Read the instructions & owner’s manual!
- Understand how to appropriately use your product
- Understand your product’s limitations
- Learn how to maintain your product in ideal operating condition
- Gather information and feedback from others who parallel you & your use of the product
- Contact the dealer/manufacturer for product support
- Establish a routine to maintain your product
Routine of Integrity
Properly maintaining your resources is a fundamental behavior that optimizes the life span of your tools (in this case water), refreshes your operating knowledge base (where & when to access it), and promotes improvisation when access to familiar resources is cut-off (alternative access to water & water filtration/purification). Habit is a synonym for the word routine, and denotes behaviors or customs that develop with repeated application. In this case, the habit or routine of integrity is a function of reviewing your water storage and making adjustments to ensure its optimum availability.
Within the context of establishing a routine, here are some personal steps that I take in my routine:
- Monthly visual inspection
- Routine cleaning of storage area
- Routinely adding to the water storage where possible
- For the last couple of months leading up to replenishment, I use the remaining water or place it into smaller containers for use within an appropriate time-frame.
I have a new, clean 55 gallon plastic container filled with water and stored in a cool room, sealed for over twenty years. I thought when I need to use some of that water, I would run it through a Berkey or similar filter. What’s wrong with that? If a filter will filter out dirty stream water, why would not it work for water that has been sealed for 20 years? Isn’t that what filters are for??? Confusing!
Denny, the issue is not the water filter. The issue at hand is water that has been sitting for 20 years without being stored within the confines/controlled environment of a sterile lab. Unless you plan or have the resources to seal the water in a vacuum, there are other variables which will limit the viability of that stored water. If you find a qualified expert that can guarantee what you’re stating then please share that expert’s contact information with us. We’d love to talk with him/her.
Thanks for your input!
Thank you. I am just trying to understand; If my 20 year old water taken from a sealed, clean container that is ran through a quality filter like a Berkey, it may not be be safe for drinking/consumption?
Since my reply to your initial comment, I found an online reference supporting the idea that water stored for 20 years in a clean, sterile environment could be safe. The individual that provided that online reference did not state if he/she was a qualified expert to speak as an authority on the subject, although I do find the idea interesting. However, upon further research it becomes clear that the container would have to be one which would guarantee a vacuum environment and able to withstand ideal storage conditions for that amount of time.
That said & in response to the hypothetical you present, I think that passing the water through the Berkey after a little aeration would be fine. Sorry for appearing so stoic in my response…although this is a blog, we are also a business which is obligated to stick to objectivity in our responses of a technical order.
Whats the point of preping if you give your self what could be (in an disaster situation) a fatal GI infection?
As a health care provider who ran a clean room I can assure you that no matter how clean you think you are, no matter how thoroughly you think you disinfected that every thing you touch is contaminated not just with microbes but the organic material they need to reproduce.
I ran an experiment for 2 years at a hospital pharmacy where every tech and pharmacist was challenged to scrub down (as per surgical protocols) and then provide finger smears on a sterile growth media. Over 2 years not a single person managed to have no growth after a mere week. At one point we even had surgeons trying different scrub protocols and chemicals. the results were allays the same.
Rotating water once a year is a small chore and even inaccessible storage can be pumped via inexpensive circulation pumps. Heck If you want to spend some money you can integrate your storage into you home supply and let it flush every time you run a tap.