The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-16-2005, 02:04 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Bigfork, Montana
Posts: 2,815
How Long Does Water Stay Fresh?

If I wanted to stockpile fresh water for a long period of time... say a few years... can I just buy some large, sealed, plastic watercooler-type 10 gallon containers and put them in my garage in a fairly dark location? Will the water stay fresh for years?

I live in Northern California near the coast so there is no chance of freezing, although my garage can get into the 90's during the summer.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 09-16-2005, 02:26 PM
bouv bouv is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
As long as there is nothing in the water when you fill the containers, and the containers are also clean, itwill keep forever. Nothing about water makes it inherently "break down." However, the container itself is usually the thing to go. If you want to stockpile for an emergency, I say jsut buy several 1 gallon jugs of water from the store (at what, $1 a piece?) If you don't ahve an emergency after one year, use the water for something and buy more. $10-$15 a year isn't so bad, really.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 09-16-2005, 02:29 PM
leandroc76 leandroc76 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
http://ask.yahoo.com/20031125.html

it's a shame I even answered this.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 09-16-2005, 02:50 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 11,298
Water loses oxygen over time and gets a flat taste. If you fill the bottles yourself, changing them out every 6 months is recommended. I keep 6 gallons in my freezer. It takes up space, so the freezer works better, and the water won't taste stale when its needed.
It also depends on how you seal the bottles, and how clean the water is to begin with. If you fill clean jugs with tap water, it already has bacteria in it (yes, your tap water has bacteria) the bacteria will grow over time and you'll have swamp water. If you could ensure sterile containers, filled with sterile water using sterile tecnique, you could hold it longer.
Just keep in mind if and when you need it, you need it to be safe. Your life could depend on it.
Wouldn't it be sadly ironic to survive the BAD THING then get sick and die from the water you saved?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:08 PM
Perderabo Perderabo is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Ashburn, Va, USA
Posts: 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by picunurse
If you fill clean jugs with tap water, it already has bacteria in it (yes, your tap water has bacteria) the bacteria will grow over time and you'll have swamp water.
I guess that some bacteria can convert light into food. But if I store the water in a dark place how can any bacteria grow? They have no food. I would think at best a few species might be able to become spores and wait for food. Can they eat water somehow?
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:12 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
You can always boil the water to kill the bacteria, as in home canning.


In my high school they had canned water that had been put there ages before as part of Civil Defense -- my high school basement, like many such public buildings, was supposed to serve as a shelter should the Rooskis try to nuke us. They had a lot of stuff, including dried biscuits, a generator, and lots of water. I'm sure it was pasteurized to remove buggies and allow it to keep for a long time.


I wonder if they ever changed the biscuits? Those would have a shorter storage life than the water.
__________________
"My name is Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Look on my works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!"
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:15 PM
Nic2004 Nic2004 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
This is good information to know. In Fla. we need to have water storage on occassion. We, however, use the same approach with water as with batteries. The newer, the better.
We have a typical water cooler in our house and I keep three five-gallon bottles in circulation at all times. The oldest on the cooler and more recent in a cool place. In addition, I have two more empty to be filled in the event of an emergency. Generally, this is done via exchange or refilled at several locations for this purpose. If we are told of a hurricane, we fill all the bottles, scour and bleach the bath tub and fill it, and have several filtered one-gallon waters in the freezer. These will be used in the coolers to keep other stuff cold til they melt and then can be drank. The water in the bath tub is typically used to flush toilets, wash dishes and lightly bathe (after boiling).
I realize California has a problem with the lack of notice associated with earthquakes. The same process, with a few more five-gallon bottles, may work the best and keep a fresh supply at hand.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:17 PM
Perderabo Perderabo is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Ashburn, Va, USA
Posts: 373
If boiling worked, we would not need autoclaves. I think that distilling water will sterilize it though.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:36 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Quote:
If boiling worked, we would not need autoclaves. I think that distilling water will sterilize it though.

??

Explain. Aside from some bacteria living in geyser areas, most bacteria die when water is boiled. That's what I was told in Boy Scouts, and it's the basis for pasteurization and home canning (which won't get hotter than the boiling point of water).


I was under the impression that an autoclave was a device into which you put things to be sterilized using high temperatures and water. What's it do that's different than boiling?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:36 PM
lorinada lorinada is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Perderabo
If boiling worked, we would not need autoclaves. I think that distilling water will sterilize it though.
Which, of course, is boiling it.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:38 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
http://www.mealsforyou.com/cgi-bin/t...ge.15+nLinks.0

http://www.alin.or.ke/tech-note/data/canning.htm

http://experts.about.com/q/767/3870557.htm


Seems that, unless you're worried about botulism, boiling water will do.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 09-16-2005, 03:59 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 847 mi. from Cecil
Posts: 28,634
Quote:
Originally Posted by Perderabo
I guess that some bacteria can convert light into food. But if I store the water in a dark place how can any bacteria grow? They have no food. I would think at best a few species might be able to become spores and wait for food. Can they eat water somehow?
Not true. If you have ever lived somewhere with hot water that smelled of rotten eggs (sulphur), you have experienced sulfur reducing bacteria that live in the darkness of your water heater:
Quote:
Sulfur-reducing bacteria, which use sulfur as an energy source, are the primary producers of large quantities of hydrogen sulfide. These bacteria chemically change natural sulfates in water to hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur-reducing bacteria live in oxygen-deficient environments such as deep wells, plumbing systems, water softeners and water heaters. These bacteria usually flourish on the hot water side of a water distribution system.
Though annoying, this bacteria is generally harmless, and does not produce illness in humans.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 09-16-2005, 04:28 PM
Perderabo Perderabo is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Ashburn, Va, USA
Posts: 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
??

Explain. Aside from some bacteria living in geyser areas, most bacteria die when water is boiled. That's what I was told in Boy Scouts, and it's the basis for pasteurization and home canning (which won't get hotter than the boiling point of water).


I was under the impression that an autoclave was a device into which you put things to be sterilized using high temperatures and water. What's it do that's different than boiling?
Simply bring water to boil raises its temperature to 100C and that does not kill enough stuff. An autoclave is like a pressure cooker and allows higher temperatures. An autoclave will go up to 121C and that is hot enough to kill almost anything.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lorinada
Which, of course, is boiling it.
While that is true, distilling water involves converting it to a gas and then back to a liquid. Living creatures cannot withstand being converted to a gas. So they will be left behind or they will be dead.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 09-16-2005, 05:25 PM
friedo friedo is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 20,441
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself
Not true. If you have ever lived somewhere with hot water that smelled of rotten eggs (sulphur), you have experienced sulfur reducing bacteria that live in the darkness of your water heater.
Interestingly, where I went to school, the cold water in certain buildings reaked of sulphur. But the hot water was fine. I always assumed the water heater had some sort of filter on it which removed the stank.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 09-16-2005, 08:45 PM
Nic2004 Nic2004 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Almost every city issues "Boil Orders" for residents when a system has been compromised by pipe work, damage or storms affecting the supply. SOP following storms.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 09-16-2005, 09:04 PM
baloo baloo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorinada
Which, of course, is boiling it.
There's a difference between boiling and destilling. Destillation means converting the water to gas and then condensing i to a liquid again. In this process you lose all forms of dissolved material in the water like salts and particles (but not other liquids with a boiling temperature lower tahn water). Boiling is, of course, just heating it up 'til 100 C until vapor forms.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 09-16-2005, 09:31 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Ottawa Valley, eh.
Posts: 16,001
Quote:
Originally Posted by picunurse
Water loses oxygen over time......
That's impossible. It IS H20 after all. It can't possibly loose oxygen and remain "water."
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 09-16-2005, 09:35 PM
baloo baloo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaffan
That's impossible. It IS H20 after all. It can't possibly loose oxygen and remain "water."
I hope picunurse means dissolved O2. Still, no dissolved O2 would escape a perfectly confined container
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 09-16-2005, 09:38 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 11,298
Quote:
Originally Posted by Perderabo
I guess that some bacteria can convert light into food. But if I store the water in a dark place how can any bacteria grow? They have no food. I would think at best a few species might be able to become spores and wait for food. Can they eat water somehow?
Your water has lots of stuff in it, not enough to make you sick, usually, but stuff.
I keep forgetting I can't leave anything out. Sometimes the bacteria can eat up everything available, die and still make you sick. When bacteria die, some release endotoxins, (Second endotoxin site) the dreaded botulism is an endotoxin. Not all are that bad, but you could get sick.
Your normal drinking water will have a bacteria load below an acceptable number. The local government checks it periodicly. If the number climbs to an unacceptable level, you'll get a boil order ( yes, boiling will make water safe to drink, but its not sterile, and distillation is the accepted way to sterilize water. Autoclaves are for solid things that can withstand high heat and pressure.)
If water with a normal bacterial load, is left to stand for a long period, the load increases to unacceptable levels.
This is what you have to avoid.
In a perfect world, you could boil the water before drinking it after the BAD THING happens, but you won't remember.
Just store the water, for 3 months or so, then use it to water the lawn, wash the containers and refill for another 3 months. If the BAD THING happens you'll have fairly safe water.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 09-16-2005, 09:44 PM
pudytat72 pudytat72 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 656
For Y2K preparations, we bought 1 gallon jugs of distilled water (I think we bought 16 for 4 people) and we bought a new 55 gallon trash can and filled it with water and 2 cups of bleach(not for drinking purposes) and put the lid on it.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 09-16-2005, 11:20 PM
wevets wevets is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaffan
That's impossible. It IS H20 after all. It can't possibly loose oxygen and remain "water."
I think s/he means dissolved oxygen, which is lost to the respiration of bacteria and other microorganisms even in a completely enclosed container.

Also, autoclaves not only sterilize material by increasing temperature, but also by increasing the pressure.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 09-17-2005, 06:32 AM
Eleusis Eleusis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
If your water has enough shit in it to grow harmful bacteria to a dangerous point, it probably wasn't safe to drink in the first place.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 09-17-2005, 10:55 AM
guizot guizot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 6,266
Here in the earthquake zone we keep on hand four gallons of water per person, but we renew it every year or so because they say the plastic of the containers can affect the water over time, giving it a bad taste.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 09-17-2005, 01:04 PM
TimeWinder TimeWinder is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Redmond, WA
Posts: 3,276
Not what the OP asked, but most big drugstores will also have a variety of tablets that can be dropped into water and will sterilize it (or at least make it drinkable). Very small quantities of bleach have the same effect. These treatments are meant for microorganisms; they won't clean lead or mercury out of water, for example, but it's the microorganisms you probably care about in an emergency.

I'd stick a few packs of these tablets or a jug of bleach (check to make sure it says it can be used for water purification, some have additives) next to my water stores, and not worry about bacterial growth. Don't drink the bleach by mistake.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 09-17-2005, 06:48 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 11,298
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eleusis
If your water has enough shit in it to grow harmful bacteria to a dangerous point, it probably wasn't safe to drink in the first place.
Please re-read post #19.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 09-19-2005, 06:43 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Quote:
Simply bring water to boil raises its temperature to 100C and that does not kill enough stuff. An autoclave is like a pressure cooker and allows higher temperatures. An autoclave will go up to 121C and that is hot enough to kill almost anything.
You obviousl;y didn't read the links I posted.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 09-19-2005, 10:36 AM
drachillix drachillix is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimeWinder
Not what the OP asked, but most big drugstores will also have a variety of tablets that can be dropped into water and will sterilize it (or at least make it drinkable).
sodium metabisulphite AKA campden tablets.

Homebrewing places sell them for sterilizing equipment. 1 tablet is enough to do a gallon of otherwise safe looking water. A pack of 50 is around a dollar.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:02 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.