Water supplies, including drinking water, could be affected in an emergency, so it is essential to have a supply of stored water.

How much water to store

Keep at least a three-day supply of water — a minimum of three litres of drinking water per person per day (at least nine litres per person for the three days). This equates to four 2.25 litre soft-drink bottles.

It is strongly recommended that you store more if possible. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double the amount required.

Children, nursing mothers and ill people will also need more.

Be sure to include drinking and clean-up water for your pets. The amount needed will depend on their sizes and the conditions. Remember that pets often drink more water than usual when under stress.

You will need more water if you want to wash, cook or clean with water, or if the emergency is prolonged.

Some parts of New Zealand could be without water for longer than three days during a significant emergency. Check with your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group to see how much water they recommend people in your region should store.

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The National Emergency Management Agency has information on finding your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

Prepare containers of water

If you are preparing your own containers of water, follow the directions below for selecting, cleaning and filling the containers with water.

  • If you choose to use your own storage containers, plastic soft-drink bottles are best.
    • Do not use plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them.
    • Do not use glass containers because they can break and are heavy.
    • Do not use cardboard containers, because they can leak easily. These containers are not designed for long-term storage of liquids.
  • You can also purchase food-grade, water-storage containers from hardware or camping supplies stores to use for water storage.
  • Thoroughly clean the containers with hot water (not boiling, as this will destroy the bottle).
  • Fill them to the top with regular tap water until it overflows. Add five drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach per litre to the water. Do not use bleaches that contain added scent or perfume, surfactants or other additives — they can make people sick. Do not drink for at least 30 minutes after disinfecting.
  • Tightly close the containers using the original caps. Be careful not to contaminate the caps by touching the inside of them with your fingers.
  • Place a date on the outside of the containers so that you know when you filled them. Store them in a cool, dark place.
  • Check the bottles every 12 months — for example, at the beginning of daylight saving. If the water is not clear, throw it out and refill clean bottles with clean water and bleach.

You can also fill plastic ice cream containers with water, cover, label and keep them in the freezer. These can help keep food cool if the power is off and can also be used for drinking.

Your hot water cylinder and toilet cistern are valuable sources of water. Check that your hot water cylinder and header tank are well secured. Do not put chemical cleaners in the cistern if you want to use the water.

If you use collected rain water, make sure that you disinfect it with household bleach. If you are uncertain about the quality of water, do not drink it.


Commercially bottled water

To prepare the safest and most reliable emergency supply of water, purchase commercially bottled water.

Store bottled water in the original sealed container and do not open it until you need to use it. Observe and replace according to the expiration or use by date.

Translated information about storing water