26 Emergency Water Storage Tips

The human body can survive for weeks without food, but it cannot survive more than three days without water.

26 Emergency Water Storage Tips

 

In first world countries, we often take running water for granted.  Yet, there are situations where you may have to live without running water for a period of time:

  • After a natural disaster
  • City / county water contamination
  • Broken pipe in your home

Combine these two facts: your inability to live without water and the possibility of not having running water and you quickly realize that you should have some emergency water stored in your home.

How Much Water?

At a minimum, you should have 3 gallons per person of emergency water storage.  This would give you enough water to drink and take care of basic sanitation needs for three days.  Here is what that looks like for families of various sizes:

  • 1 person family: 3 gallons
  • 2 person family: 6 gallons
  • 4 person family: 12 gallons
  • 5 person family: 15 gallons
  • 6 person family 18 gallons
  • 10 person family: 30 gallons

While this is a great place to start and is better than nothing, this only provides for basic survival needs.  It is only 1 gallon per person per day. When you think of all the ways in which you use water each day: washing your hands, flushing the toilet, brushing your teeth, cooking, doing dishes, laundry, showers etc, you realize that 1 gallon a day isn’t much at all.

I recommend having a goal to store at least 14 gallons per person of emergency water storage.  This would give you enough water for a minimal 2 week supply or a more robust 1 week supply.  Here is what that looks like for families of various sizes:

  • 1 person family: 14 gallons
  • 2 person family: 28 gallons
  • 4 person family: 56 gallons
  • 5 person family: 70 gallons
  • 6 person family: 86 gallons
  • 10 person family: 140 gallons

If you’d like to see how much water I actually store (and why), you can read this post:  Living Without Water, a Practical Guide.

You may also be interested in this more detailed way to calculate your water storage needs:  How Much Water will YOU need?

 

Ideas for Small Homes / Apartments:

If you live in a small home / apartment and don’t have much space, consider using Aquabricks for water storage.  They are more expensive than other water storage containers, but they stack almost anywhere and interlock to make the best possible use of space.  You can put them all over your house: under beds, in the very bottom or very top of closets, on top of kitchen cabinets etc.

Another option for small homes is to store just the bare minimum (3 gallons per person) AND have a quality water filter.  This is a good option if you have a water source (river / lake etc) nearby.  I recommend Sagan, Katadyn or Aquamira filters.

Last, you can consider a Water Bob which is something you can put in your bathtub and fill up when you get a tornado or hurricane warning.

 

26 Emergency Water Storage Tips

Here are some general tips for storing water in your home:

  • Try to store water away from light and heat.
  • If you must store water outside, make sure to store it in opaque containers (such as the blue 55 gallon drums or blue 5 gallon containers) so no light can get in AND rotate it more often.
  • Store water in containers in a variety of sizes. For example, large drums work well unless you have to leave your home. 16.9 oz water bottles work well unless you need a sink full of water to bathe or wash dishes in.
  • If you do store water in large drums, make sure you also store a bung wrench and  siphon pump so you can effectively get the water out.
  • If storing water inside, you can use soda, Gatorade, or non-refrigerated juice bottles etc as long as they aren’t exposed to light.
  • Do not use milk jugs or refrigerated juice bottles to store water in.
  • If storing water in container that previously held juice / soda etc, make sure they are very well cleaned with bleach before storing drinking water in them.
  • If storing water in clear containers (like soda or juice bottles), make sure you store them away from light and rotate every 6 months.
  • Do not store water containers directly on cement.  Instead, place a piece of scrap wood (you can get it for free at Home Depot) under them.
  • Do not store water where it will freeze (frozen water is difficult to use)
  • As an extra precaution you can add 1/8 tsp bleach to every gallon of water you store.
  • If you are concerned about the taste of bleach treated water (especially if you have kids), store powdered drink mixes to help mask that taste.
  • If you add bleach to your water, rotate it every 12 months
  • If you do not add bleach to your water, rotate it every 6 months and store a water filter in case it becomes contaminated.
  • If you do not want to treat your water with bleach (I do not), you can chlorine dioxide instead.  It is more expensive, but is tasteless and gives your water a 5 year shelf life.  I use Aquamira.
  • If you want to be sure your water is safe to drink before you drink it in an emergency, you can store a water safety test.
  • You can store water that is to be used for bathing and cleaning in old laundry soap containers (or similar)
  • Clearly label all containers: “Drinking water”  vs “For cleaning only”
  • Consider storing a water filter so that if your stored water is contaminated for any reason (or you haven’t been able to rotate it), you will still be able to use it.  I recommend Sagan, Katadyn or Aquamira filters.
  • Keep all stored water away from stored gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances.
  • It can be a good idea to store a few containers of water in the freezer to help keep food frozen should the power go out for a period of time.

And some tips for using your water during an emergency:

  • If supplies run low, DO NOT ration your water. Drink what you need today (2 quarts for most people, more if extremely hot, pregnant or nursing) and try to find more tomorrow.
  • Minimize the amount of water you need by reducing activity and staying cool.
  • If you have not stored enough water, you can usually find 30-60 gallons of water in your water heater (as long as public water is still considered safe).
  • You can also use the water in the reservoir tank of your toilets (not the bowl) if treated with bleach first (1/8 tsp per gallon).
  • Canned fruits and vegetable also contain water that you can use to hydrate yourself.

 

What questions do you have about emergency water storage?  Leave me a comment below – I promise to answer you!

 

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23 Responses to 26 Emergency Water Storage Tips

  1. lynn maust September 8, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    I really appreciate the details you give us on many topics…this included. You have given me pointers to questions I have had in the BACK of my mind, but haven’t articulated. You did so here and I sure thank you tremendously!

  2. Krystyn September 8, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    You say 30-60 gallons of water can be used from the hot water tank as long as public water is still safe.what if this is your scenario…we have a 75 gallon hot water tank, but well water…obviously without power, we are kinda up a creek without the paddle, but, can the well water be considered okay? Granted, we also have a Kinetico water system for the rest of our shower/drinking/tap water, so im going with, itll be back to bein stinky with h2s smell, and prolly could make one a lil under the weather…with regards to using the potty maybe…but outside of that, could there be any other major health risk?

  3. JC September 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    If you invest in a good gravity filter product like Berkey, you will never have to rotate water. It really isn’t necessary anyway if it was clean when you put it in, it will be clean, albeit “flat”, when you need to drink it years down the road. It is wasteful to rotate water – just dump and fill again? Nope. Water is too precious for that, especially when you live in a desert like you and I do.

    • JJ September 7, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

      When water is flat, pour it from container to container and it will solve that issue.
      My water that doesn’t get used quickly in the Berkey sometimes tastes flat.
      Oh, anyone serious about storing water surely has Tang, fruit mixes, etc. to eliminate stale water taste.
      I agree and when I read people throwing out and replacing water –I cringe!!
      Hey, folks. That water is millions of years old!!!

      • lynn maust September 8, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

        I am laughing…millions of years old. I never thought of THAT one! But you are right….

    • Misty September 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

      Yes, investing in a quality filter or purifier is a great idea for those that can afford it, but not everyone can. And you are right (as I mention in other articles I have on water on this site) that if all things are perfect, water shouldn’t need to be rotated. But that just isn’t always possible. I used to keep my water out in the sun on the back patio (b/c I had no where else to put it) and I was meticulous about making sure the container and water were both clean. I didn’t rotate it for 17 months and when I tested it with one of those test I found on Amazon, it wasn’t “safe.” We can’t see bacteria / viruses and they are in the air. So it is completely possible (though probably more rare than not) that something will sneak in while you are filling the container. For those that cannot afford the water, container AND a filter / purifier, I do advocate rotating the water in order to be sure it is safe when you need it. But I’m not at all advocating waste – dumping and filling as you put it. I have a separate post (I should link to it from this one) with many ideas for how to use that water and not waste it. As for the Berkey, the only three filter / purification systems that will provide end of life testing are those I’ve mentioned. I’ve asked Berkey (they want me to be a dealer), but they can’t / won’t provide it. I’ve heard great things about them and even used it myself. I know their initial tests are amazing, but without that end of life testing it just makes me nervous. I have multiple Sagan filters and don’t rotate my water often at all, but when I was first starting out, I couldn’t afford filters….I could barely afford the 55 gallon barrel. Rotation (not waste) was key for me then.

      • lynn maust September 8, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

        I am a grammar freak…you will know I am when I tell you that the correct word to use is for ‘those WHO’ (or maybe it’s WHOM) but definitely not ‘those THAT’.

        THAT is for places and things….WHO is for PEOPLE. Most people reeeeeally get that one wrong….it has, lately, really bugging me.

      • lynn maust September 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

        typo….really BEEN bugging me….( smile).

      • JC September 9, 2016 at 8:58 am #

        Misty, the point of saving water is to have it when needed. Yes, you can find uses for contaminated water rather than rotate it. But if (or should I say when) we are faced with a very long term need for water, we will not be so picky. If you think your tap water is as pure as Berkey water, I challenge you to test that also.

        But better than finding ways to use possibly contaminated water is to have MANY ways to purify it. Put it into a glass bottle out in the sun, boil it, use a LifeStraw or a SteriPen – you already know this. We have lots of water stored, but planning for a very long term need, can we store enough? What if we had to trek up to the local reservoir and scoop out water? Purification methods are much more important than end of life testing or rotating water.

        • Misty September 14, 2016 at 9:59 am #

          I love when those with differing opinions can talk calmly and reasonably! You bring up good points. My concern with end of life testing is not that it be more pure than the tap water. I’m sure Berkey filtered water is! I’ve tasted Berkey filter water and it is great! My concern is that it hasn’t been tested on truly dirty (like the local reservoir) water over and over again to find out how long it can actually make that water clean and safe to drink…especially in a true grid down situation with human sanitation issues. Most water filters are great for everyday use, but I’m concerned they won’t do the job in a long term disaster situation and people are relying on them to.

          For that reason, I think having CLEAN water stored is smart. I don’t want to use part of my filter’s shelf life (if it is even accurate) on my stored water. I want to save it for the truly dirty water.

          But you are absolutely correct that people should have other ways of purifying water – boiling (takes time and fuel), putting it out in the sun (great, but you need a WAPI (very inexpensive), bleach etc all purify, but don’t filter. LifeStraw (again concerns with end of life testing) and Steripen cost money…I just think it is best to be prepared in both ways – and to focus on whatever is less overwhelming to you FIRST and then move onto the next thing.

          For most people I’ve worked with over the last 6 years, I’ve found that the easiest first step is to store some water and rotate (not waste) it every so often. Buying a filter, learning to filter water, learning the difference between filtration and purification, learning what filter shelf life means, learning how many gallons a filter can do – and if that is on clean-ish water or truly dirty water, can be a overwhelming at first. So, I encourage them to simply set some water aside and keep it clean. That way they are prepared for most short term emergencies and far more prepared than most their neighbors. Once they’ve done that, I’ve found they are more open to / ready for the next step and I introduce filters and purification methods bit by bit. But everyone is different and what works for some won’t feel comfortable for everyone. I’m completely okay with that and appreciate your input!

    • lynn maust September 8, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      OH MY WORD1!!!!!!!!!! Am I EVER glad I read YOUR comment! That rotation thing has always bothered me a lot….now I now it isn’t necessary! Bless you and bless you again!

  4. Sandra September 7, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Can water be stored in steel or aluminum containers?

    • Misty September 7, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

      I don’t see why not as long as they haven’t held anything but water before and seal tightly.

  5. JJ September 7, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    •If you do not add bleach to your water, rotate it every 6 months and store a water filter in case it becomes contaminated.

    I have 20 (30 gallon blue drums) stacked of untreated faucet water in the garage since 2011.
    I was surprised how pristine the water is when I checked last week. I wouldn’t drink it–
    It is stored for the Berkey.

  6. Susan Thompson September 6, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    This could not have come at a better time. I am now the Provident Living specialist in our ward and I am in charge of this months Relief Society Activity. I am doing one on storing water and also the 10 minute projects for emergency preparedness. I am planning to give you credit and give them your email address. We are also having a dinner made from food storage. Thank you for this information and the downloadable print outs too. Do you have a printout on how much bleach to add to a 2 liter bottle, a quart, a gallon, 5 gallons?

    • Misty September 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

      Good luck Susan! For the bleach, it is 1/8 tsp per gallon, so a quart would be 1/32 tsp…just a drop. 5 gallons would be just over 1/2 tsp etc…

      • Susan Thompson September 6, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

        Thanks. Are there 2 drops in an 1/8 of a teaspoon?
        Sue

  7. Mariko October 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I’m a bit confused. You talk a lot about rotating water. Are you talking about unopened sealed bottles from the store?

    • Misty October 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

      You should store water in containers in a variety of sizes Mariko. For example, large drums work well unless you have to leave your home. 16.9 oz water bottles work well unless you need a sink full of water to bathe or wash dishes in. And you should rotate them all. THey will all have a shelf life. (-:

  8. Jeff May 16, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    I have the same question/concern as Estée W. I have a ton of empty, clear, gallon water containers that originally had store bought distilled water in them. I had intentions of re-using them to store tap water. Is it because they are clear and can let in light or because of the plastic or both? What bottles or containers in the gallon size are ideal? Thanks.

    • Misty May 16, 2013 at 8:37 am #

      Sorry Jeff, I didn’t realize I’d never responded to Estee. The plastic that milk jugs are made of (as well as most gallon water containers you get at the store and sometimes refrigerated OJ comes in the same type of jug…you can’t see through it) disintegrates very quickly and can leak and make your water unsafe to drink. This is especially true if not stored in a cool dark place. In addition, b/c they are slightly textured it is really difficult to ever get all the sugars out of them if they had milk / OJ in them. This can promote growth of lost of things you don’t want in your water. They simply don’t work well for long term storage.

      But most non-refrigerated juice bottles (like those apple juice come in) are fine to use. They are thick and smooth you can clearly see right through them. They typically come in 64 oz sizes, though you can get the same plastic in gallon sizes. You should still keep them in a cool dark place.

  9. Estee W January 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Can you please explain why we should not use old milk jugs or refrigerated juice bottles to store water? Also, when you are storing water in soda bottles etc, are you storing at room tempature? Just closing the lid by hand or are you sealing it with wax or something first? Thank you! Love all the great info!

    • Misty May 16, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      Sorry Estee, I somehow totally missed your comment and I apologize for not responding!

      The plastic that milk jugs are made of (as well as most gallon water containers you get at the store and sometimes refrigerated OJ comes in the same type of jug…you can’t see through it) disintegrates very quickly and can leak and make your water unsafe to drink. This is especially true if not stored in a cool dark place. In addition, b/c they are slightly textured it is really difficult to ever get all the sugars out of them if they had milk / OJ in them. This can promote growth of lost of things you don’t want in your water. They simply don’t work well for long term storage.

      But most non-refrigerated juice bottles (like those apple juice come in) are fine to use. They are thick and smooth you can clearly see right through them. They typically come in 64 oz sizes, though you can get the same plastic in gallon sizes. You should still keep them in a cool dark place.

      I don’t seal my bottles at all, but I also rotate through them rather quickly. (-: