How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness

Finding shelter when caught in a freezing, blinding blizzard, running to high ground if a tsunami is washing ashore and getting to the basement or other suitable shelter as a tornado approaches roaring and twisting, are part of a handful of priorities that trumps obtaining a potable water supply. Other that these types of imminent danger situations any Prepper will agree water is the number survival commodity you need to have, and how to store water for emergency preparedness is part of that problem.

Everybody’s water requirement will be different, but we need a baseline, a place to start, when calculating the normal water need, then adjust from there. The general rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person, per day for drinking and hygiene. FEMA recommends storing enough water for three days, which they estimate as the normal time to restore water service after a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or tornado.

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Okay. A little quick math. Family of 4 x 1 gallon each daily = 4 gallons x 3 days = 12 gallons of water. That ain’t so bad. Pick up 12 gallons of bottled water at the grocery store, store them in the pantry and your set for any emergency. Whoa. Back that truck up cowboy. Those are estimates of FEMA, and not belittling the agency at all, I checked to see what professional survivalists and preppers have to say, and not surprising, there is a difference of opinions.

The consensus of the survivalist group is that a two week supply of water is the bare minimum one should have on hand. Unfortunately the hurricane destruction in Puerta Rico, where drinkable water was absent for months in some locations, prove this estimate to be more realistic. Suddenly our 12 gallon store for a family of four explodes to 56 gallons of water, and with this comes unforeseen problems. 56 gallons of water requires quite a bit of room to store, especially in a two bedroom apartment, add the expense, many people don’t have an extra $200 to buy water, and you begin to see the issues. As with everything in survival preparedness, we need a plan.

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Two-Week Water Storage Plan/ Options

  1. The easiest, which is also usually the more costly, is to go to the grocery store and buy containers of packaged water bottles, which come in various sizes and amounts. Theses bottles are encased in plastic for easy transportation, are in food-grade bottles, which will become important later, and are easily stored under a bed or stacked in a closet. For example a package of 35 count water bottles will provide 4.6 gallons of water, enough for 1 person for four days… 4 cases for 2 weeks. However, that’s 16 cases for a family of 4, as you can see it adds up in a hurry.

  2. If you recycle this next option won’t be so hard to remember not to dispose of the plastic container. Use empty plastic bottles, soda, Gatorade, water, power drinks etc. by thoroughly cleaning them, then fill them with water from the tap. The screw on caps must be tightened securely before storing.

  3. They make 5-7 gallon water jugs specifically designed and intended for campers. They are sturdy, food-grade plastic and normally come in a dark color, like blue, in order to restrict light and thus the growth of algae.

How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness/ One Month

Whether the idea originated from the movies, actual civil preparedness sites, or just what seems to be a good idea, filling the bathtub with water in order to store it is a common known technique. At face value it does seem smart, as a bathtub can hold up to a 100 gallons of water, and that’s a bunch when the spigot gets turns off. However, when was the last time you thoroughly cleaned your bathtub? Yesterday, that’s great. Did you use harsh chemicals, the type with the Do Not Consume labeling? Either way that crystal clean water doesn’t seem quite so sanitary now, and without a cover, contaminants will continue to fall into the water.

I’m not suggesting you don’t use this method, but take certain precautions before drinking it straight from the tub. There is another option … a water BOB. A what? A water BOB is a giant, heavy-duty plastic bag that is specifically made and intended to be filled with 100 gallons of water from the tub faucet. Reasonably priced $30-$40, it simply provides a sanitary container in which to store the water in the bathtub location, but insulated from contamination.

How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness/ Long Term Storage


Whether short term or long term water storage it’s imperative you have safe containers in which to store it. Using food-grade plastic bottles is the primary choice, but glass can be used, as long as non-food items haven’t been stored inside them, and stainless steel can used. The only drawback with stainless steel is you cannot use chlorine to sanitize the water because chlorine is corrosive to stainless steel. Lastly, it is imperative no matter the container, it must be seal-able. You don’t want bacteria or any other contamination negatively affecting your water.

Water Barrels: For long term storage of a large amount of water you can’t beat 55 gallon plastic water barrels. They are constructed from sturdy food-grade plastic, and have bungs at the top that provides for a super-tight seal which protects the water from contamination, as well as the plastic being BPA-free and UV-resistant. Two of these barrels offer a family of four enough water to last 27 days. There are down sides. Space being a major one. You can’t even consider this option if you live in an apartment or other small space without the option of being able to store them outside. Secondly, these barrels, at 440 lbs. (@200 kilos) are not portable when full of water. Cost is also an issue as each barrel will probably set you back $90 each, you’ll have to buy a pump, @ $50 and a specialty drinking hose. If the space and expense are not an issue this is an excellent method of storing a larger amount of water.

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Rain Barrels: Collecting rain water is another weapon you can add to your water storage arsenal. By connecting a rain barrel to your home’s gutter downspout you are able to collect nature’s contribution without lifting a finger. (My kind of exercise) This water source can be utilized for several purposes, such as:

  1. Watering gardens, an essential food source for catastrophic conditions as well as fun to grow, instilling a sense of self pride and confidence you can survive on your own.

  2. Use this water for hygiene purposes, washing your body and hair, washing dishes, washing clothes, any non-consumable activity.

  3. If properly treated and strained the water can be made potable adding to your drinkable water supply.

Water Cisterns: These are types of water storage units are nothing new to farmers and ranchers, but are literally unknown to urban dwellers. They’re basically a huge holding tank, anywhere from 1,400 to 12,000 gallons of water, which is connected to a rain water capture system, which will be more complex than simply hooking it to your downspouts. Naturally the drawback is space, a system of piping required to collect and deliver the water, and cost. However, if you’re in a situation of requiring large amounts of water, IE watering livestock, or are planning for an-end-to-the-world-as we-know-it scenario, this is an excellent choice, but the water will require treatment before being safe to drink.


How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness/ Common Questions

Do I need to rotate my water on a yearly basis? Assuming you have properly stored your water, properly sealed it, there is no need to swap water out. Water has no expiration date, it will remain potable indefinitely. Foreign substances like bacteria and other contaminants is what makes water unsafe to drink, which again is why proper sealing is so important. However, if it makes you feel better to have fresh water available, by all means rotate it.

Should I treat the water with chemicals like chlorine before storing it? That’s a good question. If you are filling your container directly from a well system that has not been chlorinated, I recommend treating it. Also, once you break the seal in order to use the water, I’d recommend treating the water similar to the way you’d treat swimming pool water, probably weekly. I’d buy water treatment drops which comes with complete directions and measurements for ease of application. If you are using water from the tap there is no need to add chlorine because the water company has already treated the water.

What if my water tastes funny. Is it spoiled? Again, water does not spoil. The odd taste, flat tasting, most likely is caused by the lack of oxygen in the water. Simply swirl the water around in your glass or container, restoring the oxygen content, and the odd taste will disappear.

Should I boil the water before using it? If you have reason to think the seal was compromised and there’s the chance the water was compromised, boil the water. If not, boiling the boiling the water is a waste of time, fuel and money.

Can I drink my swimming pool water? How many people would freak out if I said yes, go ahead? Some for sure, but how much water do you accidentally drink or inhale through your nose in a day’s activity of swimming? Chlorine levels of a properly treated swimming pool is @ 2 parts per million. Levels of 4 parts per million and below are perfectly safe for human consumption.

As stated swimming pool water is potable, but … here’s the problem. The pool’s filtration system, along with chemical treatment, keeps the water free of contaminants like bacteria and algae. However, if the grid goes down and the pump and filter are inoperable, the water will go bad quickly despite treating it with chemicals. If that happens do not drink the water, but rather boil it and use it for hygiene purposes. If the pool water is your only source of drinking water, boil and treat it with chlorine before drinking.

What if I use Saltwater in my pool? This situation creates disagreements. Many say the salt level of the water is safe to consume, which is true or else it wouldn’t be legal. However, salt of any amount will increase a person’s thirst, and could be detrimental in a survival situation. I’d suggest using the saltwater for hygiene and washing of dishes and clothes. You can buy desalination devises, but it takes a long time to purify any substantial amount of water for drinking.

I hope these methods of How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness helps you in your quest to prepare for the unthinkable.

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