Recent events reminded me again of the need to store water. One morning in the last week of August, my parents called. "Has your water been turned off?" I got up to check. "No, mine is still on." (We live two doors apart in a gated community near the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon.) I soon discovered mine was off, too. My testing had merely drained water in our pipes.

Later in the day, an emergency notice scrolled along the bottom of our city cable TV system, letting us know that there had been a 30-inch puncture in a water main in Spanish Fork Canyon. The message also said, "Although it may be discolored, there is no need to boil the water," and service should be back by the end of the day.

I told my parents what I had seen. I asked if they needed any water to drink, for meals or for flushing toilets. Prior to this event, I had thoroughly washed and refilled 100 2-liter bottles of water. We had plenty and enough to share.

In American Fork, nearly 20 years ago, I had a similar experience. I turned on the kitchen faucet and nothing came out but dirty brown water. Soon after, I got a call from my new neighbor. Panicked, she didn't know what to do for her hungry infant with a dirty diaper. "How am I going to bathe him and fix his formula?" she asked. I said, "Come down to my house. I want to show you something." Her eyes welled up when she saw my vast food and water supply. I sent her home with 2-liter bottles of water until it was safe to drink the city's water again. A lesson was taught.

Plastics are a petroleum-based product. There are "edible and nonedible" grade plastic containers. If food or drink comes in it, it is OK to refill it.

Thoroughly wash the inside/outside of each plastic 1- or 2-liter soda bottle (including the threads and lids). Some lids contain a round, leak-proof membrane insert. With a paring knife, try to lift up the plastic membrane on the inside of the lid. Wash both pieces and reassemble both parts before capping the bottle. If it doesn't come out, then you'll know that it is a solid, one-piece lid. The point of checking your lids is to prevent trapped (fermenting) juice from spoiling your water. Both soda and juice bottles may be used if all parts are thoroughly washed.

DO NOT reuse gallon milk jugs. They are designed to break down and biodegrade and will produce "leakers" in your food storage area. No matter how well you wash them, you can't get all of the milk fats out, which will taint your water. DO NOT reuse cooking oil bottles for the same reason. DO NOT reuse bleach bottles. A child may later pour himself a glass of bleach (thinking it is water).

I also buy cases of smaller-size water bottles. I keep bottles of water all over the house. If you are trapped and can't get down to your basement water supply, it's wise to have water in every room, in the garage, in the car and in every backpack.

In Milwaukee, Wis., in 1993, a parasite invaded the water system. Some 400,000 people suffered, and 125 people died. This year, Utahns were affected by the same thing — cryptosporidium.

Typically Utah sees 30 cases. This year, there were 1,600 confirmed cases.

What often follows natural disasters in Third World countries? Waterborne illnesses caused by improper sanitation. What is the first thing dropped into hard-hit areas? Water. Have you stored enough for your family?

E-mail Jolene Parker at