Emergency Dispatch: (703) 335-7982

Customer Service: (703) 335-7950


Prepare for Water Emergencies

Emergency Water Supply Bottles

Learn to Shut Off the Main Water Valve

When there is a water emergency, it is sometimes necessary to shut off the water supply to your house. Here's how:

  1. Look for the main valve where the water supply enters your house (usually in the basement) or in a concrete box near the street.
  2. If the valve is outside your house, lift the cover with a large screwdriver.
  3. Then, use a pipe or crescent wrench to turn off the water. (Mark the shut-off valve with fluorescent paint or tape so you can find it in the dark.)
  4. Drain all water from the system, including your hot water heater, if you must evacuate when the weather is cold.


Prepare an Emergency Water Supply

Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply.

  • Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
  • Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
  • Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.


Cleaning and Storage of Water Containers 

Use of food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself. Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers:

  • Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.
  • Sanitize the container by adding a solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
  • Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.
  • Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.
  • Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.


Storing Water

  • Label container as "drinking water" and include storage date.
  • Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every six months.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.


Other Preparedness Resources

National Hurricane Center


Help Avoid Emergencies

Always report broken or damaged water lines to the Service Authority immediately at (703) 335-7982.

Have a Plan

To protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of a water emergency or a related emergency, you should create an emergency plan. To learn how to prepare for general emergencies, visit these federal and local Web sites: