Storing emergency water near a gas water heater?
November 14, 2021 10:29 AM   Subscribe

So, this feels like an easy "no, don't do that," but I live in a pretty small apartment and my options are limited so I thought I'd turn to the hivemind just to make sure or maybe get a more nuanced answer given my space constraints.

I am trying to store emergency water (using those purpose-made blue plastic 7 gallon boxes). The only space easily available to me is next to a newly replaced gas water heater in a small 9ftsq that would have about 10 inches of space between the water heater and the storage containers. My concern is, I guess, the porous nature of plastic and the water being contaminated by the gas used to heat the water. Is this crazy? Also while the closet has some ventilation it is noticeably warmer/drier than the rest of the apartment... does this mean bacterial growth and or degraded plastic?

Anyway, all this to me screams don't store the water there, but given my space constraints I just want to rule out if I'm being overly cautious, especially for something I might never actually need to use. Thanks!
posted by flamk to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would not have any concerns at all about gas somehow contaminating the water inside plastic containers. There shouldn't be any gas outside the heater and if there is, it's more of a problem for you in the rest of the apartment than it is for water inside plastic jugs.

That said, it is less than ideal to store your emergency water supply in a warm location, though the risk of bacterial growth is pretty small. If I did this because there was no other option, I would aim to replace it more frequently.
posted by ssg at 10:48 AM on November 14, 2021 [12 favorites]

The natural gas for the hot water heater will not contaminate anything. It fully combusts and the exhaust exits out, and if there's a leak you'd either smell the rotten egg odarant added, or the gas leak would be on fire, or you'd asphyxiate from Improper exhaust ventilation.

I would store it as far away as possible, my concern would be the cardboard as a fire hazard depending the distance and the temperature.

I think you'll be fine with the plastic if the cardboard is fine.
posted by TheAdamist at 10:48 AM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about it at all. But to assuage any fears you have, you could get the water in glass bottles.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:15 AM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

As long as your water container is sealed they would not affect each other.

There is no leaking gas from your heater. Else things would go kaboom.
posted by kschang at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

the porous nature of plastic

I suppose porous plastic can be manufactured, for some filtration application; but you'd know that material was inappropriate for water storage because of the wet spot it would leave behind.
posted by Rash at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. Glad I checked first. I feel kinda dumb worrying about leaking gas, when as everyone is pointing out, I would definitely have other bigger problems to worry about if that were the case.
posted by flamk at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2021

What cardboard, TheAdamist? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
posted by dianeF at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I can understand you are worried about gas exchange though plastic (e.g. a plastic bottle of carbonated drink eventually goes flat), but if the container and outside air are at similar pressures this shouldn't be an issue.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just make sure you're not blocking off the louvers (vents) to the closet with your water jugs. Most gas water heaters need to "breathe" for proper combustion, unless they have a fancy dedicated intake vent.

Here's a little primer on venting and water heaters. As long as you're not blocking any louvers that let atmospheric air into the space, I'd say you're good. If you're supposed to have louvers but you don't, well, that's another problem!
posted by cnidaria at 1:14 PM on November 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

You got your answer but one addendum; when considering emergency water supplies remember the water in your hot water tank is one supply you can rely on.
posted by Nelson at 3:02 PM on November 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

7 gallons makes a very heavy, bulky item. The Red Cross used to recommend washing 2 liter sodapop bottles to store water before they just linked to I use 1 & 2 liter bottles, and some gallon juice bottles. The plastic is food safe. You can store water that way in the back of a closet, under the bed, etc.
posted by theora55 at 4:08 PM on November 14, 2021

CDC says 1 tsp bleach per quart of water will make sure that nothing grows in the warmish water.
posted by metahawk at 9:36 PM on November 14, 2021

Best answer: This is very late to the party, but in case anyone is reading this later - DO NOT ADD 1 TSP OF BLEACH TO A QUART OF DRINKING WATER. The ratio shown in that CDC document is for creating a cleaning solution to sanitize (and then dump out of) the containers themselves, not the water you are planning to store.

It is very very different than the amount you add to drinking water to purify the water itself, which is 2 drops per quart, as listed in the EPA guidelines for the emergency purification of drinking water.
posted by mercredi at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2021

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