Miami, don’t fight over that last bottle of artisanal water from an exotic, South Pacific island.
Don’t scramble to the local brewery offering to fill your containers with their filtered water.
Instead, simply open your faucet.
Some Miami-Dade residents have been panicking about buying enough drinking water in anticipation of the oncoming Hurricane Irma. But they don’t have to, county officials say. Instead their best option is to simply drink and store the water that comes out of the tap.
“Miami-Dade’s water is completely safe to drink 365 days a year,” said Miami-Dade Water and Sewer spokeswoman Jennifer L. Messemer-Skold. “There are many things people need to do to prepare before a hurricane to secure their families and property ... . Using drinking water straight from the faucet is one less thing you have to worry about.”
Bottled water is the first thing to fly off the shelves when a hurricane threat is announced. But tap water tested by the county is often held to a much higher standard than bottled water.
Teams of microbiologists and chemists test Miami-Dade’s water 210,000 times a year — an average of nearly 600 times a day, Messemer-Skold said. The tap water is tested at dozens of stages, from the time it is pulled out of wells from the underground Biscayne Aquifer to when it drips from the faucets of more than 2.3 million residents. Their results are vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the results are available online.
“I cannot stress this enough: Year round, people should be drinking their tap water,” Messemer-Skold said. “It’s 100 percent safe, and you’ll be saving money.”
Pots, workout water bottles, mason jars: Any clean, sterilized container is good enough to store drinking water, she said. Washing the container in warm, soapy water is often enough. If the container still seems dirty, the county website says it can be easily disinfected by soaking it for 10 minutes in a chlorine bleach solution (one tablespoon for every gallon of water). Then simply rinse the container, and it is ready to be filled with tap water. Use that water for everything from drinking to brushing your teeth.
Even the county mayor stressed in his recent hurricane update that filling jugs with tap water is just as good.
Don’t fill the container up the second you get home, though. Wait for the county to announce the official hurricane warning. Keeping water stored for a long time can, at best, make the water taste stale. At worst, it could allow harmful bacteria to build up in the standing water.
Have enough drinking water available for three days. Set aside a gallon per person per day; that’s three gallons for each person. Freeze other containers of water to keep the refrigerator cold when the power goes out. When it thaws, that’s additional water available to drink.
When the power goes out, the county has generators to keep their water treatment facilities going for weeks at a time. Even in 2005, when Florida was hit by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the facilities never stopped working, Messemer-Skold said.
After the storm, the tap water should still be safe to drink unless, she said, your water pressure at home seems drastically lower or a boil-water order is announced (check the county website at MiamiDade.org/Emergency). In that case, the county suggest bringing the tap water to a rolling boil for at least one minute to ensure it’s safe.
All of which is a long way of Messemer-Skold saying, “You don’t have to go out and fight over that last bottle of water.”