Water Storage

Water is our most vital resource and we should prioritize it as such. Even minor disasters can cause a disruption to our water supply, either by broken pipe lines or through contamination.

The rule of threes in survival claims that humans can only survive three days without potable water. It is crucial to store a large enough supply and have the knowledge and means to filter and purify non-potable water. For starters, we need to determine how much you will actually need.

How much water does your family need?

First, we must consider the following variables:

  • How much water does your family need in one day?
  • How much storage space do you have and what’s your budget?
  • How many days are you planning to go without water?
  • And which alternative resources are available to you?

Let's tackle each of these questions individually.

How much water does your family need in one day?

On average, an adult needs at least one gallon of water per day. Approximately two liters should be reserved for drinking, one liter should be used for food preparation, and the remainder for hygiene and sanitation. Of course there are many variables to this, such as your individual needs, your weight, physical and health condition, age, the climate you’re in (hot and humid climates require drinking more water), and if you’re a pregnant or nursing mother, among other things.

Action Step

Use the following chart to calculate your family’s daily water requirements.

On the ‘quantity’ column, list the number of people (or pets) in your household. Then, multiply those numbers by the estimated amount of water required. Finally, add all the values in the right column. This is the minimum amount of water your family will need daily.

Calculate daily water needs

* Of course, these measurements are only estimates of how much water each person needs PER DAY. These values include water for food prep and hygiene. We’re making assumptions based on resources from reputable organizations. 

Calculating daily water needsClick to download template

Important things to note:

  • If your calculation results determine that your family needs 6.5 gallons of water per day, it’s recommended to overestimate and plan for 7 or 8 gallons instead. Don’t be too much of a minimalist when it comes to your water storage! It’s a major resource that you don’t want to skimp on nor feel the need to ration.

  • If you live in a hot climate, your water requirements may double. Plan for this!

Yay! Now you have an estimate of how many gallons of water your family will need each day. Our next step is to determine how much space you have for storage, and what your budget is.

How much space do you have and what’s your budget?

Your space and budget: Your long-term water supply should be stored in a location that is dark, cool, and not subject to major temperature fluctuations. Although a basement sounds like a great idea, it’s not! In the event of a flood or severe weather, the basement may become the first place to fill up with water or retain humidity due to poor ventilation. Therefore, any goods that are stored in there may develop mold or become contaminated.

A good location to keep your water supply is in a temperature-controlled garage. We recommend elevating it on wood boards or pallets so there’s air circulation between the bottles, tank, or barrel and the floor. If you are limited on space but have a small yard, you can bury a large barrel into the ground use a spout to pump it out.

As far as your budget goes, that’s something you’ll have to figure out. In any case, there are several methods of storing water, and luckily, many budget-friendly options.

Methods of storing water

Any containers you use must be food-grade ONLY and they need to be properly sealed for the water to remain safe. Fill containers with water that you’re certain is potable. 

  • Food-grade plastic bottles: These include store-bought cases of water bottles as well as empty soda, water, or juice containers that are refilled with water. If you choose to fill your own water bottles, make sure they have only ever been used with food items, except dairy products. Be sure to properly wash and disinfect them prior to filling.

  • Gallon-sized water jugs: For a dollar or less, you can buy a jug of water. Refilling them typically costs about 25 cents. Never use milk jugs— the proteins found in dairy products cannot be fully removed from plastic containers, so any water stored in them will be prone to bacterial growth.

  • Glass bottles: Glass bottles can become heavy, especially after filling them up with water but if that’s all you have, it’s still a very effective storage container. Be sure that these bottles have only ever been used with food items and that they’re properly washed and disinfected before filling them with potable water.

  • Stainless steel: This is a great temporary storage option. Note that chlorine (whether already present in the water or added afterwards) will corrode steel over the long-term.

  • 5 gallon water tanks: These tanks are great for those who have limited storage space in their homes, as well as an easy-to-carry option during an evacuation.

  • 15 gallon water tanks: This size tank should provide enough water for a family of 5 for three days.

  • 55 gallon drum or barrel: These are ideal if you’re a homeowner or are not planning to move anytime soon.

  • Stackable storage tanks: These are some of the best water storage containers because they maximize the use of space. The 160 and 320-gallon containers are ideal for long-term storage. It will be a challenge to move them after they’ve been filled.

  • Your bathtub: Some bath tubs can hold as much as 100 gallons of water. During an emergency, your water supply might become interrupted, especially if there’s a power outage. Temporarily storing water in your bathtub is a great option but it’s not the most sanitary one because you can’t seal it, and chances are that your tub isn’t impeccably clean. You can use this water for flushing the toilet, or treat it if you’re planning to use it for drinking, cooking, or sanitation. Otherwise buy a bathtub emergency water storage liner, such as the WaterBOB from Amazon, and problem solved!

  • A pool: A pool can hold thousands of gallons of water. While it’s not an ideal source of potable water, it can be used to flush toilets. There are ways to make it safe for drinking, but it’s an extensive process due to the high chlorine levels and other chemicals which make it dangerous to consume.

  • Rain catchment systems: If your state government allows the collection of rainwater, you may want to consider this option!

  • A well: A water well is not a storage method, per se, but it’s one of the best systems to maintain constant access to groundwater. Inspect and test your well water periodically to ensure that no contaminants are present, especially after disasters.

Our preferred methods of water storage include a combination of store-bought cases of bottles, as well as the 5, 15, and 160-gallon storage tanks.

Enjoy 10% off on any water tank purchase in our store. Use coupon code water10 at checkout.

    Action Step

    Identify a safe place in your home where you will keep your stockpile of water.

    Then, consider which container(s) will be the most convenient for you to have based on your space and budget.

    How much water does your family need to store?

    It’s impossible to determine the impact that a future disaster will have on our lives, much less on our water supply.

    We can, however, anticipate that at some point or another, water pipelines may rupture or get shut off for an extended period of time. There’s also the possibility of overflowing sewage and other contaminants mixing into the tap water… say, after a flood or severe storm.

    At the very least, you should have enough drinking water to last your family 14 days. If a disaster forces you to evacuate, you should be able to transport some of it, so consider a portable storage system, such as cases of bottled water and a few 5-gallon tanks.

    If you’re sheltering at home, the weight of a container and the space it takes up will not be as much of an issue. In order to have a complete independent survival stash of potable water, we recommend the following three-tier plan. Don’t make it difficult or overwhelming for yourself. Begin with tier one, then work your way up to tier two, and eventually tier three.

    • For tier one you should store enough water to last you for 2 weeks. We recommend you store bottled water, 5-gallon, and 15-gallon containers.
    • Then, when you’re able, move up to tier two, which would be a 3 month supply of water. We recommend storing this water in several 5, 15, and 55-gallon containers. For large families, consider stackable 160 or 320-gallon containers. Be sure to keep water treatment tablets or another filtration and purification method.
    • To reach the third tier, your goal would be a year’s worth of water. This would be difficult, expensive, and inconvenient if you’re storing all that water in barrels. You may want to consider complementing your existing water supply with additional stackable tanks, or by installing a rain catchment system, having a well, or any other alternative source of water.

    In any case, your water plan should include a storage solution for both scenarios: evacuation (bug out) and sheltering at home (bug in).

    Which alternative resources are available to you?

    Finally, you need to consider your local resources. Do you have a consistent supply of water available to you, such as access to a nearby river or lake? Or do you live in a city where your only source of water comes through the faucet?

    If you have the ability to acquire water from a natural source, it’ll become an essential asset for you if your supply ever runs out. It would be a great idea to examine what it would take to obtain water from that place, and which methods of filtration and purification are necessary to make it potable.

    Action Step

    Calculate how much water (in gallons) would be required for your family to reach tiers one, two, and three. Multiply the number of days by the amount of water your family needs per day.

    Boom! Now you know have an idea of how much to store.

    How much water you need to store
    Calculating how much water you need to storeClick to download template

    Use the following chart to keep track of your stored water supply.

    Which containers you're using to store water
    Keeping track of your stored water supplyClick to download template

    How long can water be stored before it goes bad?

    There’s a huge misconception that water is prone to spoilage.

    Have you ever looked at a water bottle and noticed a stamp with an expiration date? Yea, so have I… but don’t be fooled. The expiration date is there to remind us that the plastic bottle is degradable, and over the course of time, some of its chemicals may leach into the water. The water itself does not go bad, but the chemicals in the bottle can contaminate it.

    Some experts recommend rotating your water supply every six months. Others recommend doing so every two to five years. So who’s right? Neither one and both.

    All water, no matter how it’s stored, is prone to environmental and chemical contamination. This can occur months after you’ve stored it, or years later. Under the best storage conditions, it can last years.

    Important: If you ever doubt the condition of your water, boil it before using it. Continue reading for more information on boiling water for purification.

    Making water safe for drinking, cooking, and sanitation

    Did you know?

    The majority of the surface water (such as ponds, lakes, and rivers) in the United States is contaminated with protozoans— that is, minuscule organisms that cause fatigue, abdominal cramps, dehydration, severe diarrhea, and other symptoms.

    Drinking dirty or contaminated water can lead to more problems than we want to imagine. Millions of people worldwide get sick each year from drinking polluted water, sometimes unknowingly and other times by desperation of dehydration. According to the National Resources Defense Council, unsafe water kills more people every year than war and other forms of violence combined.

    It’s important to purify your water; it’s better to be safe than sorry. Since potable water is not always accessible, it’s recommended that you use filtered and purified water for the following situations:

    • For drinking and cooking
    • For personal hygiene, such as washing your hands and face, brushing your teeth, etc.
    • For washing produce and other food-related items
    • For washing any eating utensils, dishes and cookware

    Water purification after natural disasters

    1. Boiling Method: This is by far the easiest method of water purification. Most professionals recommend bringing the water to a rolling boil for at least 3 minutes, and then adding a minute per 1,000 ft elevation. For example, if you live at sea level, you should boil the water for 3 minutes. If you live at 7,000 ft elevation, you should boil your water for 10 minutes.

    2. Chlorination/ Unscented Bleach: This common household item is a powerful water purifier, but it’s unsafe when used in large quantities because it is very concentrated. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends adding 2 drops of bleach per liter of water- a little goes a long way. Shake the water and let it rest for 30 minutes before drinking it. This method is less effective in cold water. Bleach loses its potency over time, so make sure it’s not over a year old.

    3. Iodine: A couple drops of 2% iodine should be added to one liter of water. If the water is cold, or cloudy, use 10 drops instead. Mix it up and let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking.

    4. Water Sterilization Tablets: Tablets are great when other options (like boiling) are not possible. Tablets effectively kill waterborne viruses but are not the most effective option when compared to other purification methods. They will leave an aftertaste in the water that many people complain about, but it can be masked with a powdered drink mix.
      • Can water purification tablets be eaten? No, never!! They are made to be dissolved in water, not swallowed. Consult a medical professional immediately if this occurs. In the meantime, drink a lot of water.

    5. Solar Purification (SODIS): This method is recommended by the World Health Organization, especially in countries where water is scarce. It uses the sun to disinfect water and is very effective. Fill a clear glass jar or small clear bottle (no larger than half a liter) to the top with water. Leave it in the sun for about 6 hours. The UV rays of the sun kill 99% of bacteria which makes this one of the simplest methods of water purification (on sunny days).

    6. Distillation: This process requires the water to be boiled until it all becomes steam. The steam condenses and becomes purified water that is free from contaminants. This process is used with ocean water because it removes salt as well.

              DIY Water Filtration and Purification

              If you enjoy spending time outdoors, you should learn the basics of making a filtration and purification system— it could save your life if you ever run out of drinking water when you’re hiking, camping, or doing any outdoor activity.

              Check out this article to learn an easy step-by-step method.

              Next up: Food storage

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