beanplating my stored emergency water. Ok to drink? glass vs plastic?
February 18, 2021 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Back near dawn of the Coviding (April 2020), I bought 6 clear glass gallon water jugs, with screw top lids. Filled em all up with regular tap water, didn't put any kind of chlorine in it. Stored them all in temperature controlled pantry, stays dark most of the time. I didn't vacuum seal them or anything special, just tightly screwed the lids on. The water seems fine to all my senses. Good to go? More on the insides.

I've read stuff about algae or bacteria growing in glass potentially if I had left them say, in sunlight or heat, but that didn't happen. Can't really afford a water ingesting disturbance right now. Or ever, but now especially.

I have an unused Lifestraw I could use just to be extra safe if that were necessary.

I ask 'cause there's yet another emergency, down here in Austin... a ton of us now have no running water and we're under a boil notice for those that do. All the city services are super out of whack.

For the future, when I get there: I have read online about various long-term water storage ideas. Is plastic better? I read up on this a bit here , but figured I'd ask my favorite hive mind to be sure.

I mean, plastic weighs less and may be opaque, ok. I'm just a single dude in a small house without a lot of storage.

Thanks MeFiter survivors. : )
posted by bitterkitten to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would use the life straw, not because I really think there’s an issue with the water but because you don’t want to find out that there was with a bout of diarrhea when there’s no more water to be had.

Boiling (2-3 min at a rolling boil) would also be an option but I realize that heating water might be difficult right now
posted by raccoon409 at 6:21 PM on February 18, 2021

Bacteria needs something to eat to thrive. The water will taste stale, but if it was safe to drink when you bottled it in clean glass it will be safe to drink now. Give it a shake to aerate it, and sip some and wait half an hour to see how you feel if you need that reassurance. I predict you will be ok.
posted by mhoye at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

If you're able to boil it, I'd do that. It's probably fine but on the chance it's not, diarrhea on top of no running water wouldn't be fun.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

In the future, glass is superior to plastic. Heavier, yes, but is non-porous and does not leech anything. There is a reason that only the very cheapest windows, bottles and test tubes are plastic.
posted by mhoye at 6:28 PM on February 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Should be fine. No harm in boiling it, of course, if it reassures you. I'd save the Lifestraw for later use.

I literally use (well rinsed) 2-liter pop bottles. It's food-grade plastic. I swap out every six months just to be safe, but I feel fine within that limit.

Congratulations on your foresight!
posted by praemunire at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

It is very likely fine. Boiling it may offer additional peace of mind, but if you bottled chlorinated tap water especially, the lingering chlorine probably took care of any tiny amount of bacteria that managed to get in before you sealed it up, and there wouldn't be anything in there for it to survive on in any case.
posted by Aleyn at 6:50 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

If your tap water is from a city system it probably had chlorine in it when you filled the bottles. And food grade glass bottles are great they're easy to clean and they don't leach any organics in the way some plastic bottles can over long storage times.

Water stored this way should last essentially forever assuming the following:
a) the bottles were clean when you filled them
b) they were tightly sealed
c) the water has no obvious signs of contamination such as cloudiness or odor

On the other hand, if it's well water that has been sitting there 9 months I'd use the lifestraw.
posted by Horkus at 6:52 PM on February 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. First couple sips from first opened bottle, tasted totally fine to me, water all clear. Not that that guarantees anything, but surely better than if I had seen cloudiness, anything floating in it, or weird smell.

Yup, regular tap water from the tap from City of Austin.

I did just boil the hell out of the first dose - but by simultaneously cooking some white rice, which I didn't eat yet. But I don't think that would be the proper way to boil if I was being extra cautious. Presumably that would be: boil for the allotted time, let cool - then put the rice in - then do the cooking.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2021

If you're on city water, it's fine. The chlorine will kill anything that might make you sick. I'm on a live spring and stored water gets, uh, excited about itself after a month or two in a glass jar. Live spring and well water should be boiled if stored for over 4 weeks.

If you can boil water, dont waste the filter on your straw. Maybe give it to someone who doesnt have power and cant boil water?
posted by ananci at 7:42 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Not sure why, if you're boiling rice, you would boil first then add rice.

Depends on your personal preferences for rice cooking, but you should be good keeping it on a rolling boil for 5 minutes of cooking. Everything, rice included, will be at or near boiling point and way above pasteurisation temps. Whatever is going to die in boiling water will die.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Stale"

As a technical term, does not really apply to water. If it tastes "off," that's either leachates or microbial growth. Usually, this involves a bottle of water where drinks by mouth have been taken from it. Backwash introduces bacteria and food - anything that can provide a carbon source.

Algae growth shouldn't happen with treated municipal tapwater unless the container becomes contaminated (can happen from splashes, or potentially airborne in ideal environments).

Stored water is often attributed as "stale" but that's usually a case where the dissolved gasses have left. "Flat" is a better term. Flat water is perfectly safe - if you have a wine aerator, you can run it through one of those. Most faucets in N.Am. have mesh screens on them to enhance aeration.

Generally "bad" water that might pass a visual and taste inspection is from parasites. Like algael growth, these shouldn't be an issue using treated municipal tapwater as your stored water source since they shouldn't be present in the first place. Even then, while some can go into "hibernation" of sorts, without a host/ new inoculate (typically feces) and especially without a carbon source, will have die off during the long storage period.

Glass is a great material for storage containers; you can chemically sterilize them "just in case" with dilute bleach before each fill-up. Don't worry about residual bleach (but do rinse it out with clean water), sodium hypochlorite quickly degrades into water and sodium chloride (table salt, it won't be iodized though).
posted by porpoise at 10:05 PM on February 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Adding to the chorus of should be fine. A way to keep your pantry water fresh is to buy one more bottle and then keep one in the fridge for drinking water. When that one runs out, fill it up and put it on the left hand side of the shelf, and grab the bottle on the right hand side (or whatever rotation approach works for you).
posted by rockindata at 5:20 AM on February 19, 2021

Best answer: It's fine and you were smart to store it.
posted by theora55 at 5:46 AM on February 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

usually a case where the dissolved gasses have left

My late father-in-law, who was in the water business, used to say that many people now thought ‘fresh’ water had to have a faint tang of chlorine, like the stuff straight out of their tap.
posted by Phanx at 6:30 AM on February 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

There is a reason that only the very cheapest windows, bottles and test tubes are plastic.

The reason things made from plastic are inexpensive is that plastic is inexpensive, not that it's inferior.

Walk into a supermarket. Any bottled water will have a two year best before date.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 4:00 PM on February 21, 2021

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