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    How to Can Water for Emergencies

    Authored by Carol J. Alexander

    Don’t store your canning jars empty. Instead, fill them with water for emergencies. That’s right. Canning water in a water bath canner keeps it fresh for drinking or washing during emergency situations. And, it’s easy.

    The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) recommends storing at least a two-week supply of water that includes enough for one gallon per family member per day. In addition to needing water for food prep and bathing, the average person needs at least two quarts of water daily for drinking. Sick people, those who live in hot climates, breastfeeding mothers, and children require even more. 

    Of course, if you cannot store this much, you can do what you can by filling those empty canning jars–both pints and quarts–with water. Here’s how to do it safely.

    Begin with safe water

    Only can pure water you would drink. While the canning process kills bacteria, viruses, and parasites, it will not remove other contaminants like chemicals or heavy metals. Part of the process requires you pre-boil the water for five minutes. Boiling the water helps to ensure its purity. But, the canning process is still necessary to ensure the jars seal and remain sealed while in storage.

    Step-by-step: how to can water for emergencies

    1. Always begin with clean jars without any cracks or chips. Keep them warm.
    2. Use new lids and prepare them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The rubber seals on some lids require softening in a pot of simmering water.
    3. Fill the canner about half full of water and heat until simmering. If you have hard water, add a splash of white vinegar to keep water deposits from forming on the outside of your jars. Keep the water hot as you add the jars.
    4. Fill a stock pot with the water you want to can and boil it for at least five minutes. 
    5. Fill your warm jars with the boiling water, leaving ½-inch headspace. Apply the lids and rings and place them on the rack in the canner.
    6. When the canner is full, add water to cover the jars by 1-2 inches as needed.
    7. Once the water in the canner starts to boil, use a kitchen timer to time the processing for 10 minutes, no matter what size jars you use. Adjust the time for higher altitudes.
    8. When the 10 minutes is up, turn off the heat and wait for the canner water to stop boiling before removing the jars.
    9. Using a jar lifter, transfer the jars to a towel or rack on the counter.
    10. Allow the jars to sit for 24 hours before transferring them to long-term storage.

    Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Water Bath Canning to learn more about how to use a water bath canner.

    How to store canned water

    Before moving your jars of water to your storage location, remove the rings and check each one for a successful seal. If the jar didn’t seal, use the water right away and reserve the empty jar for the next canner round. Successfully sealed jars of water will keep best in a cool, dry place between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit away from direct light. When processed and stored properly, canned water can last 30-50 years. 

    Read more about How to Store Canned Food.

    The benefits of canning water for emergencies

    Besides the fact that you don’t have to take up precious space storing empty canning jars, there are a few benefits to canning water.

    • Having water on hand for emergencies gives you peace of mind during winter power outages or hurricane season.
    • Canning water in reusable glass jars is more eco-friendly than buying it in plastic bottles.
    • Water stored in glass is free of plastic leaching.

    Go into this winter storm season with peace of mind. Check out our latest canning equipment catalog to get all the supplies you may need to can an emergency supply of water. Because when your kitchen is fully stocked, you’re never caught off guard. 


    More emergency preparedness

    Need emergency backup or want power without an electrical outlet? Here’s some information to help you determine the best type of generator for your needs.
    Learn what to do to prepare your farm for stormy weather to minimize property damage and injury to animals.