Updated March 19, 2003
NOTE: THESE PAGES HAVE BEEN DRAMATICALLY UPDATED
IN DARE TO PREPARE 4th EDITION
Drums holding approximately 55 gallons can be purchased reasonably from your area beverage dealer like Coke or Pepsi. Even though they are primarily white, an exterior coating of black spray paint can overcome the light blocking problem. Occasionally the paint may need retouching. Prior to painting and filling, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned any syrup residue from the container. Over time the syrup may have leached into the plastic. By storing your water, these flavorings may reintroduce themselves to the fluid. They can't hurt you and repeated washings will help dissipate this taste.
While a 55 gallon container is too large to be moved easily, it's good insurance against water shortages. On the drums we purchased, the entire top does not come off, but they have two 2-1/2" openings with resealable screw type caps. When looking for additional food grade containers, the bottom will be stamped with HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene) and coded with the recycle symbol and a "2" inside. HDPE containers are FDA-approved forfood.
Containers without these designations aren't OK because of possible chemical interactions between the water and the plastic. Deyo Note: HDPE plastic melts or becomes soft at 130oC or 266oF.
Four and Five Gallon Containers
Also from the local beverage dealer, we purchased for next to nothing, 5 gallon containers, in opaque dark blue with screw type tops and built-in handles. Soft drink companies recycle these containers for their own use, so phone first for availability.
Soft Drink Bottles
Additionally, save 2-liter soft drink bottles. They are ideal for water storage. Even though they are clear and water purity will deteriorate more quickly, their small size will make changing water easy. They can easily be tucked into unused corners of your home, under beds and end tables or suspended from ceiling rafters in basements. Two liter bottles are excellent to tuck in cars and backpacks. If you want to use soft drink bottles for water storage, to prolong the water's purity, store treated water in a dark room.
Check your area restaurants especially ones like Dairy Queen, Taco Bell and TCBY yogurt places. They purchase ice cream, yogurt and assorted toppings in large, hard plastic pails with resealable plastic lids. We understand these can be purchased for next to nothing. I found a number of these pails in assorted sized at Sam's Club though they aren't always available.
Don't use containers retaining strong odors from previously stored foods, ones that held toxic products or ones made from biodegradable plastics for milk and distilled water. They may break down within 6 months and you'll have a mess on your hands.
Removing Stubborn Scents
If you want to use food storage containers that still have a residual scent like pickles, the best way to clean them is wash thoroughly with soapy water and a little bleach. Let them sit with the lid off for a week, preferably where the direct sunlight can heat them. Wash again, wipe dry and allow to set in the sun upside down to drain any excess water droplets and dry completely before storing dried types of items in it. The smell should be gone by this point.
Before storing tap water, only a couple additional items need to be considered. If you are storing in opaque airtight containers, bacteria-free tap water can be kept indefinitely. They key question: is it bacteria-free? To be truly safe, treat with chlorine, iodine or stabilized oxygen. Store in a dark area and check your water for taste every 6 months. Water stored under these conditions need not be replaced for several years. If your storage container is light permeable, plan to change the contents every 6 months.
Tanks and Cisterns
Another type of water storage to consider, should your property permit it, is freestanding above ground or in-ground tanks. These tanks are quite common in Australia, rural North, Central and South America where public-scheme-town water is not readily available.
This system uses rainwater caught from rooftops of homes, barns and other outbuildings. It is run through pipe or gutters that carry rainwater from the roof collection area to the cistern. Cisterns (storage tanks) are made from a variety of materials including reinforced concrete, fiberglass, stainless steel, tin and even brick.
In Australia, generally speaking, concrete tanks cost more. Ideally, they are poured on-site so they aren't damaged during transport. In order to select the right construction material for your area, factor in if the location is earthquake-prone or extremely windy. If earthquakes could be a problem, concrete or brick aren't the best choices. The tank could crack with shifting ground. This potential problem can be overcome by adding a plastic liner. While fiberglass tanks are less expensive, concrete isn't subject to UV radiation damage. Over time, you can expect fiberglass tanks to become more brittle. However, if you live in a very windy area, fiberglass tanks are less desirable especially when first being filled or empty during cleaning. An area school had an above-ground metal tank delivered to the property. Before it had time to fill, a windstorm "stole" the tank and it was last seen rolling down a country road. This could easily happen to empty fiberglass tank, but this situation can be avoided by securing these tanks when empty. Stainless steel is a good choice but fairly expensive by comparison. With a tin tank, the plastic liner is a necessity to avoid a "tinned can" taste.
To set up your own tank water storage system, a few things are needed:
1. a tank with a solid, secure cover (those not covered are prone to debris blowing in and the occasional dead animal or bird which contaminates the water)
2. a coarse inlet filter to trap leaves and other rooftop debris
3. an overflow pipe
4. a manhole, sump, and drain to facilitate cleaning
5. a pump to extract sediment that will eventually collect on the tank's bottom
Advantages Of Roof Catchment Systems
1. they are easy and inexpensive to construct
2. maintenance can be performed by the owner
3. they are an essential backup water supply in times of emergency if you're on town water and the pipes break
4. rainwater quality is likely to be higher than that of other water sources
5. rainwater provides an excellent freshwater supply where surface and
groundwater are unavailable, scarce, or contaminated
6. after the initial cost of the tank, the water supply is free
Disadvantages Might Include:
1. water supply is rainfall dependent
2. cost of constructing a home with a cistern is higher than one without
3. in areas near industrial sites, acid rain is common which could contaminate the rainfall supply
Rainfall storage tanks come in a wide variety of sizes. Some are portable and can even be loaded on the back of pick-up trucks. The amount of rainwater harvested depends on the total surface collection area, the volume of storage, and the amount of rainfall. Newer storage tank models also use the roof of the cistern as catchment area and come equipped with their own guttering feeding directly into the tank.
Using Swimming Pool Water
You should always view your pool as "backup" water; keep the water treated; you never know when it will be needed! The maintenance of the free chlorine residual will prevent establishment of any microorganisms. The maintenance level should be kept about 3-5ppm free chlorine. (See Water Purification for detailed information on purifying pool water.) If other stored water stocks are not available, remove the necessary pool water and boil it or just treat with chlorine to the normal 5ppm. It is best to err on the side of caution.
Covering the pool at all times when not in use is a very good idea. Try to keep the cover clean and wash the area you put it on when removing it from the pool.
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