This is an article series in which we answer your questions about being prepared for an emergency. Got a question? Post a question in the comments of this article or email Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org. To download a print-formatted PDF of this article, click here.
Question: How much bottled water should I have stored away in case of an emergency? What type should I buy?
Answer: Bottled water should be a key component of your emergency preparedness plan. Today I will talk about commercially produced bottled water as opposed to storing your own water, which I will cover in a later article.
Many organizations recommend having at least three day worth of bottled water, but three days should be a very minimum. I recommend having at least two weeks worth of bottled water. This means one gallon per person per day, of which ½ gallon would be used for drinking and ½ gallon for hygiene, cooking, etc.
I recommend that you purchase cases of ½ liter (16.9 ounce) bottles. I like the small bottles instead of the larger 3 or 5 gallon bottles for emergency preparedness for a few reasons. First of all, the smaller bottles last longer, the seal is better and they are easier to carry. Second, you are better able to keep track of how much water you are using when you use the small bottles. Third, remember that every time you open a bottle of water you potentially expose it to contamination, thus by using small bottles you are only risking a small amount of water at a time.
What brand should you buy? I recommend AquaFina (produced by Pepsi) or Smart Water. I recommend these brands because they are high-purity water, produced under high quality control standards and they are available everywhere. Smart Water is more expensive, but AquaFina is fairly inexpensive. Other brands can be good also, such as Nestle, Sparklets and Arrowhead. I like the larger brands simply because of the quality control processes that they have in place. Purified water is better than spring water.
Keep the bottles of water sealed until you need them, and store them in a dark place at room temperature or cooler. The bottles should not be exposed to high or low temperature extremes if possible. You should plan on rotating out your bottles of water after a year or so, or until the expiration date on the bottles. When you rotate the bottles out, you can reuse them by filling them up yourself. This has to be done properly however (we will cover this in a future article).
When an emergency strikes which may have threatened the safety of your water supply, you should immediately switch over to bottled water for a couple days so that you can assess the situation and the level of danger and figure out what your options are. Don’t forget to replace any bottled water that you use.