Clean Water Supplies During And After Hurricanes

It's important to insure that you have clean water supplies both during and after hurricanes.

It s one of Mother Nature s ironies that a hurricane, which brings so much water to a community, can threaten water supplies as well. That s why it s important to insure that you have clean water supplies both during and after hurricanes.

A hurricane affects water supplies in several ways. High winds knock down power lines, which can cause pumps to stop working in city water systems. Lost power can also slow down or stop water treatment plants. In either case, clean water supplies are threatened.

Heavy rains from hurricanes can also wash out roads, resulting in broken water lines. Flooding can contaminate wells. And dangerous conditions mean it could take days or weeks for municipalities and residents to make repairs.

So the secret to clean water supplies during and after hurricanes is proper planning. It s suggested that you ll need a minimum of a gallon of clean water a day per person to survive. Not all of that is for drinking; half of it is for cleaning and cooking too. The gallon estimate is for a healthy adult; children, nursing mothers and the elderly or sick may need more.

When you get warning of an approaching hurricane, plan on a week s supply of water per person in your household. Don t wear yourself out traveling from store to store looking for bottled water. By all means purchase some bottles water for convenience, but also collect tap water in bathtubs, glass jars, and washed out soft drink bottles. Make sure any bottles or jars are tightly sealed, and don t use bathtub water for anything other than cleaning or bathing. If you label the containers and keep them in a cool, dark place, they ll keep for several months: long after the end of the hurricane season.

After the storm, if officials have not yet declared your water supply safe, there are a couple of different ways you can purify water. Boiling is the safest and easiest. Boil water for three to five minutes, making sure to sterilize containers in boiling water as well. After you boil the water, experts suggest that if you pour the water back and forth between clean containers a few times, it should taste better.

You can also use household bleach to insure clean water supplies. Use regular bleach only, not scented or color-safe. Put 8 drops of bleach in a gallon of water and let it sit for a half an hour. If the water does not smell like chlorine, put another 8 drops in and let it stand for another 15 minutes. That small amount of bleach will be safe to drink, and it will kill most microbes in the water.

Distillation is a third way to purify water, but it is a very time-consuming and complicated process. If you wish to distill water after a hurricane, contact your public health department for tips.

Some stores also sell chlorine or iodine tablets to disinfect water. Follow the directions on the package for their use.

Use the water you have disinfected to brush your teeth, wash your hands, clean your contact lenses and feed your pets. If water looks dark, smells funny or has things floating in it, do not use it.

The importance of clean water supplies during and after hurricanes cannot be underestimated. Bacteria and microbes in contaminated water can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration and even death and access to hospitals and doctors can be limited during or after a major hurricane.

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