Unopened bottled water products can often be safely stored for years, provided the bottles are kept in the proper environment, and the plastic material of the bottle is BPA-free. When in doubt, discard or treat bottled water which is more than 6-months old.
Water is also available in aluminum cans and foil pouches, but since these products cannot be inspected prior to purchase or use, there is little opportunity to evaluate the contents. For water stored in these containers, it is essential that you know the water is from a reputable source, and that it has been properly transported and stored. If the container does not have a “bottled-on” date or “use-by” date, the contents should be purified before use.
Water provided by a government agency, or well-known relief organization, which is contained in a soft drink (soda) can (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, etc.) may be totally acceptable, as these large soft drink distributors are often called upon to can water during times of disaster or other emergencies.
Always store bottled water away from chemicals, such as cleaning compounds, paints, or gasoline. And, keep the bottles on pallets or shelves, and off of concrete or other flooring which might leach chemicals into the bottles. Don’t store bottled water in a garage, storage shed, or other location which will expose the water to temperature extremes. Don’t store bottled water in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
Bottles which have been exposed to very high or low temperatures (freezing) will likely lose their structural integrity, and may leak or become contaminated. If you suspect any of your stored bottled water has become contaminated (smells funny, has a plastic taste, shows signs of algae growth, fogging, leaking, particulate matter floating in the water, etc.), discard or boil it for 5-minutes before using it, even in an emergency. Becoming sick from water-born contaminants will make your situation much worse. Don’t take chances.
Many experts tout Fuji bottled water as the best, but regardless of whether or not it deserves this high distinction, the square-ish shape of the Fuji bottles makes storage and transport easy, as the bottles pack tighter. A less expensive option includes brands such as Dasani bottled water, a company which uses plastic bottles which are much stronger than the budget brands. The added bottle strength is significant for emergency use and transport. The 24-bottle packages of Dasani are also wrapped in heavy plastic wrap, a factor which makes transport and handling easier, as the packages are less likely to break-open and dump the bottles.
For a list of NSF Certified bottled water brands, visit: http://www.nsf.org/certified/consumer/listings_results.asp