Here at Central Utah Water Conservancy District, you might say that we’ve found ourselves in the business of being prepared since the district was founded in 1964.
It goes beyond preparing water for our customers and reliable sources for future generations. As anyone who caught September’s Utah Prepare Conference and Expo in Sandy knows, we’re also engaged in preparing our fellow Utahns for whatever might come our way.
There’s a lot at stake here. While extreme winter weather conditions could leave you in dire straits without shelter and/or food, you’ll likely survive for a few weeks. However, you will only last days without potable water.
Water storage and treatment is of upmost importance. While no one wants to think they will ever be in that sort of situation, our recent rash of hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and other natural disasters underscores the need for preparation.
So, where do you begin?
• Commercially packaged water, if unopened, will last as long as its container remains uncompromised. You will want to aerate it after you do open it to freshen the taste. Pouring it from one container to another will do the trick. If you’d rather use your own containers, save some two-liter soda bottles (you can’t clean all the protein and sugar out of milk and juice bottles, making them hotbeds for bacteria). Wash the soda bottles with water and dish soap, rinse them, then add a quart of water with a teaspoon of non-scented chlorine bleach. Shake the bottle, making sure to cover every surface, and then pour the bleach-water out and rinse well again. Fill it with tap water, which is already chlorinated, and seal.
• If you’re in a situation without water, look for a flowing source such as a stream or spring. Even if the water looks clear, assume it is contaminated. You’ll want to filter debris from the water and then disinfect it, preferably by boiling it for one minute, allowing it to cool, and capping it for storage. If boiling isn’t an option, add two drops of non-scented chlorine bleach to each quart of water and wait for 30 minutes before using it. You can also add five drops of iodine (two percent solution) for each quart of water, but your kids are going to make awful faces at the taste!
• SODIS is not a new soft drink! When you’re gone through your stored supply of water and you don’t have the resources to build a fire, you can use solar disinfection, or SODIS. Fill a clear soda bottle with filtered water and leave it in the bright sunshine for five to six hours, long enough to let the UV rays do their work. Leave it in the sun for two days if it’s partly cloudy. You can also heat water in a solar oven to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) for at least 15 minutes, as recorded by a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI).
• While your primary concern is drinking water, you can use lesser quality water for sanitation needs. But use common sense; don’t contaminate your water sources. Do not bury human waste! Line a five-gallon pail with a garbage bag and use it as a toilet, covering it when it isn’t in use. Dispose of it when official waste-management agencies are available.