The Rule of Three reads that a human can live without air for three minutes; without water for three days and without food for three weeks. Of course, those are just general parameters. Who really wants to experiment to find out what his or her personal limit is? Amazingly, of those three crucial needs for survival, two of them — water and food — are relatively simple to secure. Though air and food are both certainly vital, it seems water has been in the headlines a lot recently.

The most alarming news came from West Virginia where nearly a half-million people found out what it’s like to be without water. A massive chemical spill polluted tap water for the entire region, leaving the water useless for drinking, cooking, bathing or even washing the dog. People were warned to not even touch it. Within hours of the official announcement, store shelves were stripped bare of any bottled H2O. It got rough.

Are you equipped to survive something like that? Too often we forget about how fragile our social infrastructure is. Storing food and water is fairly easy and is something everyone should approach responsibly. For now, we’ll leave the Snickers-stashing for another time and cover how to store water.

Thirsty, my friend? “It’s relatively easy to store a safe supply of drinking water,” my friend Phil Rhodes confirmed. “You need good water for starters then the right container. In a pinch, almost any container will do, of course, but for long-term you want to be more thoughtful.”

Rhodes should know. Futuramic Systems, the family business over on Saddle Creek, has been meeting the water needs and concerns of the Omaha area and surrounding states since 1969. I relied on Futuramic to install a cost-effective reverse osmosis system in our house nearly ten years ago. We haven’t bought bottled water since and I cannot calculate how much money it’s saved us in that respect. They even test our water so I know exactly what’s in it. Rhodes is also my “go to” guy when I have a question about water.

“For water storage, the optimal container is a food-grade one made specifically for drinking water without anything that will leach into your storage,” Rhodes said. “You can buy them in almost any size and configuration. Usually they’re obvious as the blue plastic containers you see. You can get them in a lot of places. You can check online and often find used 55-gallon drums that once held food syrups or things like that. Of course, you want to wash them out thoroughly in a case like that.”

Futuramic also can supply them. The specialized water-safe containers are probably best and remember, if you opt for the large size 55- or 25-gallon size, you’re going to need a pump or siphon tube to get the water out when you need it. Remember this, too: 55 gallons of water will weigh over 450 pounds. You’ll need something a little bit more portable for traveling about. Each gallon of water weighs almost 8.5 pounds so consider that. The five-gallon clear plastic water bottles seen in grocery stores and delivered by the Arrowhead guy are also suitable for long-term storage, especially if you’re careful about humidity and temperature where they are stored. All water should be stored in a cool, dark, secure place. Two-liter plastic bottles, similar to soda bottles, are acceptable. 

Clean and pure No matter what vessels you choose to hold your water, the water should be pure to start with and the container clean. Hydrogen peroxide or bleach are both adequate disinfectants for treating water to kill bacteria and stabilize the water for long term storage.  Use only unscented bleach and in very weak concentrations. Food grade hydrogen peroxide is probably best. One tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide per gallon is an oft-quoted amount. Bleach is about 10 drops per gallon of water.

“Water can be stored indefinitely in a cool, dark, dry place when properly treated,” Rhodes told me. “If unopened, it may taste flat after a year but should still be safe.” He told me that he stores water for his family and rotates it out after six months or a year.

How much should you store? Well, according to government disaster scenarios, the minimum amount of water per person is one gallon per day. That amount is widely variable based on individual needs but even at that conservative figure, that means about 50 gallons for two people for just a month’s supply. A 55-gallon drum in your hall closet or basement sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well, to a quarter-million people in West Virginia for the past two months, it’s not. That’s how long they’ve been without their regular water supply. Think in terms of Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy. Or a real blizzard. Water service could be disrupted for a long time, not just a day or two. And in some scenarios, getting it back on could take months. Do it now.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

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