Clean water stored in a clean container should remain safe to drink indefinitely. Frequently, despite your best efforts, your stored water may go bad. Water professionals recommend that you rotate your stored water on a regular basis.
How can I store water so that it never needs to be rotated? Sterilizing water in canning jars in a water bath canner for 20 minutes effectively kills all microorganisms making the water safe to store indefinitely.
In this post, we will discuss how to store water in repurposed glass jars along with how to process water in canning jars so that it sterilized and never needs to be rotated.
Storing Water in Repurposed Glass Jars for Emergencies
We routinely fill our empty glass jars with water and store them in our basement. Canning jars take up just as much room full as they do empty. One bonus that comes from this little habit is that my canning jars are always clean and ready to go when I need them.
There are a couple of important principles that must be carefully followed, or you just might end up with water that could be dangerous to consume.
#1 – Container must be perfectly clean
This may sound a bit picky, but any bacteria left in the jar or inside of the lid can multiply and contaminate the water inside of the jar. In my experience, the lids are the most likely culprit and need special attention.
I scrub the jar and the lid in hot soapy water. Then they are run through a cycle in the dishwasher. This usually does the trick. Sometimes I will sanitize the lids in a bleach solution to make sure that the rubber seal on the lid is squeaky clean.
#2 – Water must be clean or treated
Water can easily become contaminated. You can fill your jars with tap water if your water comes from a chlorinated municipal water supply. That water is carefully monitored and is required to have a certain level of residual chlorine in it.
Water from an unchlorinated source must be purified or chlorinated before storing. You can add 2 drops of fresh, regular unscented bleach to a quart bottle and it is ready to be stored.
Chlorinated water stored in glass jars that have not been processed with heat will need to be rotated. Chlorine does a good job of killing viruses and bacteria but does not kill protozoa. Heat is the best way to disinfect both the water and the container for long term storage.
Sterilizing Water in a Water Bath Canner for Long Term Storage
If you want to avoid using chlorine or if you want your water storage to last indefinitely, you can follow these simple steps and never worry about rotating that water again.
Processing water in canning jars is one of the safest ways to store water. This method sterilizes the water, killing all organisms. No regrowth of organisms can occur, and the water is safe for long term storage. This water may be safely stored indefinitely.
Follow these simple steps to sterilize water in canning jars in a water bath canner.
- Clean the canning jar
- Fill the jar with clean water, leaving 1 inch of headspace
- Place a new lid on the jar and hand tighten the ring
- Place the jars in a water bath canner
- Bring water to a rolling boil
- Process the jars in the boiling water for 20 minutes
- Remove jars from the canner and place on a towel to cool
As the jars cool, you will hear the lids start to pop. This is evidence that you have a good seal that will maintain the sterile environment inside the jar. Label the jars and store them in a cool, dry location.
You can find a good reference article from the University of Nebraska here.
Limitations of Water Bath Canned Water
Boiling water in canning jars for 20 minutes disinfects the water and inactivates harmful pathogens. It does not have the ability to remove any harmful chemicals that may have been in the original water source.
If there is any possibility that the original water source may have been contaminated with pesticides or chemicals, the water should be run through a quality filter designed to remove chemicals before processing.
You can learn more about how to choose the right water filter for your situation in our post, Emergency Water Filters: Guiding You Through the Maze. Or check out this video.
How to Know if Stored Water Is Safe to Drink
This is another example of the importance of checking your preps. You do not want to be in a position of needing to use your stored water, and open it up to find that it has been contaminated.
It is impossible to tell if water is safe to drink just by looking at it. Signs that indicate there is a problem with your stored water include:
- Off or foul odor
- Cloudy or turbid
- Floating particles
- Bad or off-taste
Safe Practices for Storing Water for Emergencies
Water storage is one of the most important steps that you can take to be prepared for emergencies. It really boils down to simply putting clean water in a clean container. That may be just a bit more challenging than it sounds. Any contamination can affect the safety of your stored water supply.
Typical problems with stored water may include plastic or chemicals leaching into the water or pathogens that may have been introduced during the filling process. Repurposed containers that have previously held food products are at a higher risk for contaminating water supplies.
You can learn everything you need to know about storing water in these articles:
- How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness
- Tips for Storing Water in a 55-Gallon Plastic Barrel
- Making Water Safe to Drink: 7 Disinfection Techniques
- UV Rays Save the Day! Disinfecting Water with the Sun
Glass Jars are Ideal for Water Storage
Glass jars are wonderful storage containers for water. They do have a couple of drawbacks. Glass is heavy and it is fragile. One of the great benefits is that it does not harbor bacteria and leach chemicals back into the water.
Sterilizing some of your water supply is a great idea. It could be quite beneficial for medical needs, making infant formula, or a variety of other uses. The fact that it never needs to be rotated is an incredible benefit.
Water storage is critically important. Regardless of whether you use glass, plastic, or purchase it cans, the important thing is that you have some water stored for emergencies.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones