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Why Do I Need an Emergency Water Supply?

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In the event of a major disaster, roads will be cut off, mass transit will shut down, and it’s likely that power and the main water supply to your workplace will be compromised. Your building’s header tanks will probably have shifted and they will be empty. You and your colleagues could be isolated for several days, requiring you to be self-sufficient. During this time, the emergency water supply you have will likely be the only safe water source available.

How much emergency water do I need?

NZ Civil Defence recommendations have always been to store a minimum of three litres of water, per person, per day, for at least three days. In simple terms, this equates to storing a minimum of 9 litres of water per person in your workplace or household.

This is a recommended minimum as your emergency water may be used for a variety of other uses in an emergency, such as cleaning wounds and rinsing dust from eyes. So, aim for 10 litres of stored water per person to be on the safe side. Remember to account for potential visitors to your workplace when calculating your needs.

Solutions for storing water


An excellent solution for your home is to install a large outdoor water tank that captures rain water. Or, store bottled water from the supermarket if you have only yourself to worry about – it’s an easy solution for your home, or a small office.

NZ Civil Defence provides guidance on preparing your own containers of water: 


If you want emergency water at your workplace, guaranteed to be fresh when you need it, here’s what works best:

  • Water stored in BPA-free plastic containers
  • Water stored in dark containers (or out of direct sunlight)
  • Water maintained every six months.

There are managed and unmanaged water storage solutions for workplaces. The difference between managed and unmanaged is simple – if you want to guarantee that you have safe, drinkable water, you probably need a managed water solution. This involves hiring a specialist to install, secure, refill, and treat your precious emergency water supply. A variety of containers and barrels are available for water storage.

Why maintaining your own emergency water isn’t a great option

If you have a system whereby people in your office change the water containers regularly, then an unmanaged water storage solution might work for you. The problem is that everyone will need water after a disaster but no one wants to maintain it! Self-managed water solutions usually start with the best of intentions, but often are forgotten about or ignored because emptying and refilling water containers is time-consuming and tedious.

Should we use specialised storage containers?

Yes. It’s crucial that your containers be “food grade” and not used for any other purpose prior to storing water. This ensures that no residues from previous use will impact on the taste and health of your water. A container of “food grade” quality will ensure that no harmful chemicals will leach into the water from the plastic. The best containers are BPA-free and manufactured from high-density polyethylene.

Is it better to treat water during storage rather than at the point of use?

Water straight from the tap in New Zealand is generally very clean. But store that water at room temperature over a long period and it can become a breeding ground for a variety of potentially nasty bugs. At the very least it may taste really unpleasant from having sat around for too long. In a crisis, you’ll have enough to worry about without the added problem of having to treat your water before you can drink it. We recommend changing the water every six months, and lightly treating the water at the time of each refilling, to keep it fresh and bug-free.

For peace of mind, get in touch with us today to talk about managing emergency water storage at your organisation.



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