Alternate Safe Water Sources

There is more water around your home and in many other buildings than you might expect. Consider hot water heaters and pipes as supplements to your stored water.

Water Heaters

Water heaters usually have a spout for a hose attachment at its base to allow for draining the tank. Your hot water heater may hold up to 40 or 50 gallons of water, so have sufficient empty containers to hold that quantity or draw off smaller amounts a little at a time. If the latter is your case, it will help to have a second person at the nearest hot water valve to cut it off when each container is full.

To drain your water heater:

  • Turn off the gas/electricity
  • Shut off the source of water to the water heater **CAUTION** Wait for the water in the heater to cool down! Water in the tank may be very hot depending on how recently the heat source was turned off. After all, your water heater was insulated to keep your water hot for as long as possible.
  • Attach a hose to the hose bib at the bottom of the tank
  • Place the other end of the hose into a clean empty container
  • Open the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank by lifting the lever. (Leave the valve up as long as you are siphoning the water.)
  • If the water doesn’t begin to flow, turn on any hot water faucet in the house. (Performing this action should relieve pressure in the pipe.)
  • Turn off the hot water faucet to stop the flow.
  • BEWARE: Water heaters contain sediment, un-dissolved minerals, sand and/or grit that comes from your water source. This sediment settles at the bottom of the tank and can sometimes block the drain. If this happens, first check to be sure the water has cooled. Close the pressure relief valve and remove the hose. Then, with a screwdriver, coax the clog loose. (This can get messy, so be sure to have a bucket to collect the worst of the first flow of water and sediment.)
  • Once the water has started to flow, re-attach the hose but set aside the first few gallons for washing and bathing as this water likely contains the above mentioned sediment. When things return to normal, remember to let the tank refill with water and close the pressure relief valve (step #5) before turning on the heat source.


A clever new plastic bladder is now available for the storage of tap water. When circumstances dictate, line your tub with the empty bladder and fill to capacity (up to 100 gallons). The water can remain within the bladder for up to four weeks and is drawn down by using a hand-held pump attached at the top. When investigated by our staff, this item was sold out but check it out at


There is always water in your water pipes, but how much water depends on the size of your home. Here’s how to get at it:

  • Turn off the water supply to your home. (This prevents contaminated water from entering.)
  • Turn on the water faucet located at the highest point/floor of your home. (A small amount of water will probably trickle out.)
  • Take your clean, empty containers to the lowest faucet – which might be outside – and fill the containers at this location.


If you live in a single-story home, getting water out of your pipes can be problematic. Sometimes a garage is a bit lower than the rest of the house which means any water faucet is likely to be lower, also. Most single-family dwellings have a faucet outside close to the ground which is designed to drain the pipes. If you discover your water faucets are all at the same height, you need to store more water.

If you live in a condominium or apartment, you may not have a shut-off valve to your unit or have access to the water source. Look for it first; if you don’t find it, contact the management office to determine where it is and whether it is available to you in an emergency. If it’s not, you need to store more water.

Water Sources to Avoid


  • Water that is discolored, has debris or unidentifiable substances floating in it, or has a foul odor.
  • Floodwater – By definition, it travels over all sorts of places that are apt to be contaminated, picking up who-knows-what bacteria along the way.
  • Salt water – The salt in sea water dehydrates the body and will kill you if you drink enough of it. However, salt water can be distilled for drinking.

Next>> Month 6: Water to Avoid/ Treating Water