Hurricane Florence Drinking Water: How to Get, Prepare, Purify and Identify Clean Water

With Hurricane Florence quickly approaching the Carolinas as a Category 2 storm on Thursday, a key necessity for survival is clean and safe drinking water. Pictures on social media have shown multiple stores in the region with shelves lacking bottled water, but there are ways to prepare ahead of the storm.

Florence is expected to bring heavy rainfall, which CNN said Thursday could result in a predicted 10 trillion gallons of rain. The storm's likely targets include North Carolina's hog manure pits and coal waste regions, in addition to other various industrial sites. This could result in contaminated drinking water since these sites are near the area's local water supply.

After Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, several residents suffered from a cholera outbreak because of the area's lack of safe drinking water, according to a 2016 report by The New York Times.

Here is what to do to make sure you have safe drinking water:

Drinking Clean Water During Hurricane Florence
A satellite picture shows Hurricane Florence making landfall off the Eastern coast on September 13. NOAA via Getty Images

What Does Tainted Water Look Like?

Water that's contaminated shouldn't be too challenging to spot. "Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water are signs of impurities," according to the Water Quality Association. The WQA's website also says that "cloudiness and discoloration" in water indicates it is tainted.

How Much Water Is Needed During a Storm?

Each household should have 5 gallons of water per person, according to a 2011 report by CBS affiliate WFOR-TV. Pets, if present, would need 2 or 3 gallons as well. These amounts are needed in case the water supply becomes infected.

If you can't secure enough water ahead of the storm, water can be stored in clean bottles. WFOR-TV recommended 2-liter soda bottles as a good emergency source for storing water.

Can You Treat Water After a Storm?

As a safety precaution, all water, bottled included, should disinfected before consumption or use for hygienic purposes during a storm. Luckily, there are a few ways to adequately disinfect water.

  • Boiling. Boiling water is the easiest and safest way to disinfect water. According to the Food and Drug Administration, bringing water to a boil for one minute can help kill most disease-causing organisms.
  • Distillation. This process is beneficial to individuals with a heat source. To do this, boil the water and gather the vapor that liquefies. The International Water Association says this method "typically removes most of the dissolved materials," while the boiling assists in killing "biological contaminants."
  • Chlorination. Chlorine can be found in bleach. DrinkTap.org suggests using scented versions, and bleach with added cleaners should not be used. To do chlorination, add six drops of bleach to a gallon of water, then stir and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the water doesn't smell of bleach afterward, repeat the process and let the water sit for an additional 15 minutes. If the results are the same, toss out the water.

"It is advisable to use a combination of disinfection techniques for maximum assurance," says DrinkTap.org. "These measures are for temporary use in an emergency because although they can kill most microorganisms, they will not remove other contaminants such as metals or other chemicals that may have entered the water."

What Are Safe Emergency Sources of Water?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the following can be safe alternative sources for clean water: water drained from pipes or a water heater, melted ice cubes and liquids from canned items (including fruits and vegetables).