Are you prepared for a water emergency?

By Marie Owens, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District

Perhaps the most underrated menu item at your holiday celebrations this week has been water. We’re so used to a clean, safe and abundant supply of it being accessible in our homes that we rarely stop to think about it, let alone be thankful for it, unless the tap quits flowing.

The easy availability of clean drinking water right now often makes us complacent about our need to store water. Water is delivered to your home through a series of buried pipes of various sizes and materials. If these pipes are damaged, it could take from a few hours up to a few weeks to get them repaired to deliver water to your home again. We know that natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, may cause such damage. However, even man-made problems, such as construction accidents, can pollute or disrupt public water supplies. This past summer, several bodies of water in Utah were contaminated with toxic algal growth—problems happen and most often without notice.

Storing a supply of water is the least expensive form of preparedness but is priceless in the event of an emergency. An easy way to remember how to prepare is to use the “S.I.T.” method.

S – Store
Stored water must be pure, treated water to prevent microbial growth, and stored in food-grade containers (tap water stores well). Stored water should be protected from light and heat. Commercially packaged water can be stored for about 5 years; home filled stored water should be changed annually.

One gallon per person per day should provide enough for sanitary and hydration needs in an emergency. It is recommended that you store at least two weeks’ worth, or 14 gallons, of water per person.

I – Isolate
There are several gallons of clean water in the water heater and piping within your home at all times. If a natural disaster occurs, such as an earthquake, you should assume that the public water supply is no longer safe to drink and this may be your safest source of drinking water. After securing the safety of your family members, please isolate your home from the public water system by turning off the main water valve to your home. This will allow you to use this water even if the public water system has been contaminated.

T – Treat
Depending upon the disaster at hand, water may still be available but not safe to drink. Assume a boil order is in effect after an emergency until you hear otherwise from an official. In the valleys of Utah, boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes will kill pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, viruses, etc.). The higher the elevation, the longer you need boil the water to kill the same pathogens (as much as 12 minutes in the high mountains)

Do I need to put chlorine in the water before I store it?

No bleach is needed if you are storing chlorinated water from a public water supply. If you don’t know whether your tap water has been chlorinated, you can call your water provider or have your tap water tested. If you need to add chlorine add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops) of bleach per gallon of water if the water is cloudy and 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) if the water is clear.

Learn more at conservationgardenpark.org. Or visit Conservation Garden Park at 8275 1300 West in West Jordan.

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