How do Hurricanes affect our Drinking Water?

Hurricanes create danger and destruction on multiple levels, and the impact on drinking water is one that potential victims should especially be prepared for. Common disasters hurricane victims are forced to deal with include power outages, destroyed homes, and flooding. Special precautions are needed for each of these circumstances. Since hydration is a life-sustaining necessity, ensuring a supply of safe drinking water is essential.

How do Hurricanes affect our Drinking Water?

What about hurricane rain?

Conditions in a hurricane can be compared to sailing on the ocean. There can be rain water everywhere, but even the rain should be considered unsafe to drink. Hurricane water is prone to contain contaminants and should therefore not be considered safe for drinking. The following are a few conditions that can impact the quality of hurricane rainwater:

  • While gathering strength over the ocean, a hurricane churns up salt water that is undrinkable.
  • The salt water rain from a hurricane can cause corrosive damage.
  • The chemicals in hurricane water are similar to acid rain, which means that atmospheric pollution that can harm the environment is in the rainwater.
  • Particularly in rural areas, private wells and karsts can rapidly become contaminated by chemicals in fertilizers and other substances, when flooding and heavy rains in a hurricane cause high volumes of runoff from fields. A karst is an area in which irregular limestone has eroded and produced underground streams, fissures, caverns, and sinkholes.

Hazards of polluted floodwater and drinking water

Contaminated water is a health risk that can be serious to those most vulnerable, including infants, children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system. According to FEMA, the contaminants in water following a major flooding event can cause diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, and dysentery. Drinking water can be contaminated after heavy inland flooding has occurred, and wastewater utilities can also be affected.

Tap water can be contaminated during a hurricane when pipes break as a result of things like uprooted trees and washouts. Sewage spills can affect utilities, as well. Good water pressure is a good sign, but water is more likely to be contaminated when there is a lack of pressure. The low water pressure provides evidence that the water has probably become contaminated as a result of unsanitary storm water infiltrating water lines.

Case studies

Superstorm Hurricane Sandy that severely impacted multiple states in 2012 caused massive water damage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 690 wastewater and drinking water utilities in Washington D.C. plus 11 states were negatively impacted in Hurricane Sandy’s destructive wake.

After 2016 Category 4 storm Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti, thousands of people suffered from a cholera outbreak connected to a lack of potable water.

Water and hurricane survival

After a hurricane, it is essential to keep in mind that any water could be contaminated, including tap water. Once you realize the hazards associated with hurricane-tainted water, it’s best to ask the right questions from credible sources upfront, such as how to make tap water safe to drink. For businesses, using a purified water cooler is a great step to take to ensure your employees have healthy, safe and pure drinking water available at all times.