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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Make sure your drinking water is safe in midst of disaster

STILLWATER, Okla. – In the wake of recent severe storms and flooding in parts of Oklahoma, finding a safe water supply is a priority.

“The risk of disease increases if the drinking water comes from unsafe or unclean sources,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Generally, recommends having on hand 1 gallon of water per person per day for drinking and cooking.

Commercially bottled water is the safest, most reliable source in an emergency and has an indefinite shelf life. But, you also can get clean, usable water in your home from pipes, the water heater, ice cube trays and other beverages. Juices from canned fruits and vegetables count, too. Don’t drink reconstituted frozen juices unless you are sure the water you are using is safe.

However, water from swimming pools and waterbeds should not be used because it has been chemically treated.

To store water in your own bottles, use food-grade plastic or glass containers that have been thoroughly cleaned with dish soap and water. Two-liter soft drink bottles can be reused for this purpose, but the bottles should be sanitized first, using 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach per 1/4 gallon of water.

“Avoid plastic jugs or cardboard containers that had milk or juice in them previously because milk protein and fruit sugars can’t be completely washed away and the risk of bacterial growth increases when water is stored in them,” Peek said. “Not to mention cardboard leaks easily and isn’t designed for long-term storage.”

Once properly cleaned, fill bottles with tap water. Be careful to avoid letting the bottle come in contact with the tap and tightly close the original lid without touching the inside of the cap with your fingers to avoid any contamination.

Each container should be labeled as drinking water and include the date. Store the containers in a cool, dark place.

If your water supply does become contaminated, try water purification tablets, a commercial water treatment unit or add 1/4 teaspoon of unscented chlorine to each gallon of water and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, repeat the process and let it stand for another 15 minutes. If the water remains unclear, throw it out.

Another option is to add 20 drops of tincture of iodine per gallon of water or boil the water for 5 to 10 minutes, cool and swish back and forth to improve the taste.

For more information, contact your local county Extension office.


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Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078