Water & Environment Programming

We provide research-based programs and educational materials to help you understand the value of Nebraska's natural resources and the value of good stewardship to ensure sustainability of those resources.  More information.

Drinking Water Q&A

Do you have questions about your private drinking water supply?  How about wellhead protection, including the management of your private sewage treatment system?  Send your questions using the Ask An Expert feature on this web site.  University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension Water Quality Educator Sharon Skipton will address your questions.

Q: How can I safely store water for an emergency drinking water supply?

A: I was out of the office, so UNL Extension Associate Nancy Urbanec referred to the NebGuide- Drinking Water: Storing An Emergency Supply to provide the answer. I followed up at Nancy's request to see if the caller had any additional questions.

Image of stored waterThe caller got their drinking water from Omaha's Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD.) MUD's public water supply is safe and suitable for storage; it is disinfected, and is free of disease causing organisms.

When storing water from any potable water supply, bacteria can be inadvertently introduced into the water during the collection and storage process. MUD's water supply may contain enough residual disinfectant to deactivate pathogens that might be introduced during the water storage process, making additional treatment prior to storage unnecessary. However, for an additional safety margin, the water can be treated with a chemical disinfectant to inactivate organisms that might be present in the storage containers, or that might be introduced as the water is collected.

This treatment is especially important for water supplies that are not disinfected, such as water from a private drinking water well.

Use liquid household chlorine bleach that contains 4 to 6 percent sodium hypochlorite. Chemical treatment provided by the bleach will inactivate pathogens that may be introduced through unsterile containers or when filling the containers. Bleaches with labels such as "Fresh Wildflowers," "Rain Clean," "Advantage," or labeled as scented may contain fragrances, soaps, surfactants, or other additives and should not be used for drinking water disinfection. Use the freshest container of liquid chlorine bleach available, preferably not more than three months old. Add six drops of bleach per gallon of water using a clean uncontaminated medicine dropper. If the bleach contains a lesser or greater percent of sodium hypochlorite, adjust the dose accordingly.

Stir the water, cover, and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. You should be able to smell chlorine after the 30-minute waiting period. If you cannot, add another dose and let the water stand covered another 15 minutes. Cap containers and label each, describing the contents and preparation date.

See the NebGuide for more information, including how long water can be stored.

Now Available

Water Wise: Tree Selection and Tree Care, EC 302

This publication provides information on the value of trees; how to choose the best tree species for various parts of the landscape; and how to properly install and care for them in a water-conserving and drought-conscious manner.

Vineyards and Herbicide Drift

The grape industry in Nebraska continues to grow. Grapes are a very profitable crop, but they are sensitive to herbicide drift.