Drinking Water Safety in Emergencies

Germs that might make you and your family sick can enter your water during floods and storms. These germs can cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headaches, or other symptoms. Have the safe water you need before, during, and after the storm.

Stock Up on Water

Bottled Water

  • Keep enough NYS-certified bottled water to last your family for 3 to 7 days. This means having 2 gallons per person per day. Bottled water is the best choice for drinking and preparing food if your water is contaminated. Use the Water checklist to be sure you have what you need on hand.
  • Individual needs can vary depending on age, health, physical condition, activity, diet, and climate. Increase your supply accordingly.
  • Generally, an adult should drink 2 quarts of water per day. Your clean water will be used for other purposes, which is why extra is recommended.
  • Use a clean container to hold water.
  • Contact your health department about bottled water availability.

Drink Even if You are Low on Water

  • Try to drink the amount of water you need to drink, even if you find your supply of water is running low. Being well-hydrated will help you think more clearly. Drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow.
  • An adult should drink two quarts of water per day. Children, nursing mothers, and older adults will need more. Very hot weather can double everyone’s needed amount.
  • Ice and fruit juices can serve as water substitutes in emergencies.

Find Hidden Water

If you cannot find water, try to access water from these sources. Always disinfect this water before using it for drinking or preparing food.


Let air flow into the plumbing by turning on the faucet on the highest level of your home and collecting water until nothing comes out. Keep that faucet turned on, and empty any remaining water from the lowest drain in your home. Use a section of hose and a container to collect water if needed.

Hot Water Tank

Turn off gas or electricity to the hot water heater and open the drain. Turn off the water intake valve (if it’s not already off) and turn on a hot water faucet on a higher level in the house to start the water flowing. Do not turn on the gas or electricity to the hot water heater when the tank is empty, or you could damage the unit. When power is restored, any hot water heater pilot lights will need to be re-lit.