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Why Is Everyone Stockpiling Bottled Water?

Despite what the empty grocery shelves might indicate, you don’t actually need to hoard water right now

If you do actually get coronavirus, you’re gonna want a few supplies. You’ll probably want ibuprofen, some cough medicine and enough snacks to get through it all without blowing your bank account on the takeout you make a Postmates driver leave outside your front door. Walk into any grocery store, though, and it seems like we’re preparing for a goddamn grid collapse. There’s no hand sanitizer, no toilet paper, no canned goods and no freakin’ bottled water. I can understand why you might want hand sanitizer and canned goods in a time like this, and certainly, if you’re low on toilet paper, it’s logical to purchase more. But bottled water??? Are these consumers aware of some H2O conspiracy that I’m not? 

Per the Department of Homeland Security’s disaster preparedness site, families should have two weeks’ worth of food and water in the event of a pandemic. However, these guidelines are generalized, and not coronavirus specific. Besides, you should have actually had a small stockpile of food and water before all this, especially if you live in an area where natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes are a possibility. 

DHS makes this specific pandemic recommendation due to the possibility of a widespread illness that truly incapacitates public services. However, this isn’t exactly what’s happening with coronavirus. COVID-19 is bad, but it’s not that bad. In fact, the EPA recommends that everyone continue drinking tap water as usual, and that bottled water isn’t necessary. 

However, survival expert Cody Lundin recommends you have a supply of water, regardless. “Obviously, water is non-negotiable for staying alive. Whether one should store bottled water depends on their situation,” he says. “If someone has their own well, or lives by an above-ground water source and knows how to disinfect the water, there may not be a need to store extra water.”

However: “If someone is relying exclusively on water from a faucet inside their home, with no real clue how that water gets into the house, and all of the variables that could make the flow ‘stop,’ then the prudent will have extra water on hand,” says Lundin. “This is the situation in which most Americans find themselves.”

At this time, though, there’s no indication that any of our essential resources, like running water, will be impacted. The Centers for Disease Control have also stated that the virus isn’t spread through running water, and that municipal filtration systems would inactivate it, anyway. So, no, there’s no true reason for people to be hoarding bottled water right now. Maybe you’re just the type to only drink bottled water, but that’s a habit you should change for the betterment of the environment anyway — unless you live in an area without clean water. (Now might be a good time to invest in a Brita filter? Or strike that, maybe not.)

Otherwise, our water is still clean, and it’s gonna keep flowing through the taps. You should have had some emergency water somewhere in your home already, but if you don’t, there’s no reason to freak out and buy all of it.