Winter storms can leave you with power outages and water-supply issues, too. When this happens, local officials may order you and your family to boil water before using it, but you might struggle to find water altogether. If you’re left with limited water access, here are some ways to preserve what you have and how to find more, if needed.
Water Sources in Your Home
In winter storms, pipes can freeze, water treatment centers can lose power and water mains can break. When your access to water is limited like this, don’t use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, prepare food, wash your hands, make ice or prepare baby formula. Anything requiring water that is not necessary, such as laundry, can be put on hold until safe water is more accessible.
During emergencies, FEMA says you can access safe water sources through:
- Your hot-water tank
- Your pipes
- Your ice cubes
Water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds or swimming pools, are not safe water sources. If there are broken water or sewage lines in your area, it’s recommended to shut off incoming water, so your water sources don’t get contaminated.
If you’ve exhausted your water sources in your house and have to find water elsewhere, there are ways to treat natural water, such as rainwater, or water from streams, ponds and lakes. However, stay away from floodwater and water with floating material, an odor or a dark color.
How to Treat Water
If you need to access water from outside your home because no other reliable, clean water source is available, FEMA says that there is no perfect way to treat water. However, the below options can help kill microorganisms:
In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute. Let the water cool before drinking. The boiled water will taste better if you pour it back and forth between two clean containers, adding oxygen back into it.
Household liquid bleach can kill microorganisms, but regular, unscented household bleach that contains 5.25 to 6% sodium hypochlorite is the only product FEMA recommends using. Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor.
Boiling and chlorination are the best options to kill most microorganisms in water, but if you have a water source that resists those methods, distillation can do the trick.
Here’s how to distill water:
- Fill a pot up halfway
- Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside down
- Boil the water for 20 minutes, leaving the water that drips from the lid into the cup distilled
Follow updates from your local officials to find out when your water is safe to drink again or when more water will be available in your community.
Emergency Medical Attention
In an emergency, we’re here to help. If you or a loved one needs medical attention immediately, call 911. To stay prepared all year long, learn more about AdventHealth emergency and urgent care near you.