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. To download a print-formatted PDF of this article, click here.
Question: What is the best way to make and store my own bottled water to prepare for an emergency?
As I stated in a previous letter, I recommend buying at least a two-week supply of commercially produced bottled water in preparation for an emergency. It is, of course, possible to produce your own bottled water but it’s not as easy as just turning on a tap and filling a bottle. You have to think about the quality of water you are storing, the right type of bottle, and maintaining a sterile environment.
WARNING: Improperly storing water can cause bacterial contamination of your stored water, which could make your family sick at the worst possible time.
Let’s start with the type of bottle. If you want to reuse bottles, stick with plastic water bottles. The bottles should be made of HDPE or PETE (PET) plastics, which can be identified by the small rounded triangle with arrows inside cycling around the number 2 or 1 respectively. Don’t use bottles that previously contained milk or juice, because you will not be able to get them clean enough. Don’t use glass because it’s heavy and can break, and don’t use cardboard containers.
Next, let’s talk about the quality of water that you want to store. If you just fill a bottle with tap water or filtered water you could be introducing bacteria into the bottle. Even if there is just a tiny amount of bacteria in the water, this bacteria can grow and multiply over time. Also, contaminants in water can be food for bacteria. Ideally, you want to start with pure, sterile water. Freshly produced distilled water is the best because it should meet both of these criteria (a Survival Still is perfect for this).
The third step in the process is to maintain a sterile environment when filling the bottles. If you, for example, purchased a bottle of water, such as Aquafina or Dasani, you could save the bottle, fill it with distilled water and seal it up. Here’s what I recommend.
- Open the bottle of water and immediately pour it into a glass to drink. Don’t put the bottle to your lips or touch the opening with your fingers. Immediately seal it back up until you are ready to fill it with distilled water (don’t leave it for too long, maybe a few days).
- Fill the bottle with freshly produced distilled water, and then put 3 to 5 drops of hydrogen peroxide into the water. Hydrogen peroxide will kill bacteria after the bottle is sealed and then will break down into oxygen + water, so it doesn’t leave a harsh chemical in the water.
- Seal it up tight and then give it a shake. Store it in a cool dark place until it’s needed.
Please note that I am not recommending that you use hydrogen peroxide to purify unsafe water, only to ensure the safety of stored distilled water (there is a huge difference). This process can be used when you are rotating out your supply of commercially produced distilled water.