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Water Storage Options

In most emergency situations, fresh drinking water is the most important item you can store. It is recommended to have both stationary emergency water storage and portable storage in containers light enough to carry in an emergency. Be sure to take into consideration that water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon.

Preparedness authorities like FEMA recommend storing at least 14 gallons of water per person. Storing that much will allow each person to use one gallon a day for two weeks. A family of four would want to store approximately 56 gallons of water (remember to store both stationary and portable). Keep in mind that this recommendation is for a minimum amount of water—just enough for drinking and light sanitation. To use water for cooking, bathing, or other needs, you’ll want to store more.

Water Storage Containers

There are many types of containers and options available for storing water long-term. Heavy-duty, food-grade polyethylene barrels are great for water storage. These barrels are normally blue. Color is important because blue designates the barrel is full of water while red designates fuel or flammable liquid. It is never a good idea to store water in barrels that once contained fuel or chemical substances. Water barrels are typically available in sizes from 15 to 55 gallons. Storing these barrels in a dark and cool area, such as a basement or food storage room, is best. Storing your barrels outside could have a negative effect on the life of the barrel and the quality of the water. It is not recommended to store any water container in direct or indirect sunlight. Also, it is best to store water barrels with a porous insulation barrier (such as wood) between the cement and the barrel.

Which water storage option works best for you?

If your only option is to store water barrels outside, cover them as much as possible to prevent exposure to light, ensure cleanliness, and provide insulation. During the winter you have to take into account the freezing factor. When water freezes it expands. If there is not enough room at the top of your barrel, it can cause your barrel to become disfigured or even crack. Only fill the barrel 9/10 the way full if you plan to store it in a place where it may freeze.

Using a metalized bag in a boxed water kit is one of the best water storage options. You simply fill the metalized bag with water and place it in a cardboard box. These kits block light, limiting any bacteria or algae growth. These kits also offer an easy-to-use and versatile portable water system. The boxes can double as a sanitation kit (emergency toilet) and a carrying case for transporting water in an emergency.

A smaller version of the metalized water bag system is the water pouch or box of purified drinking water. Each pouch contains approximately four ounces of water that can be stored for more than five years. These are a good alternative to heavier containers as a minimum ration for small children. These small pouches may not be as convenient for large amounts of water.

Two-liter pop or juice bottles are also a good option for inexpensive water storage. Be sure to clean them well and store in a cool and dark area. Light and warmth will promote algae and bacteria growth. Over time these water containers can break down and leak, so store them away from food or other items that may be damaged by water. Milk jugs are not recommended because they are biodegradable and can break down within a short period of time.

Heavy containers should always be stored close to ground level and secured to prevent breakage or possible injury in the event of any earthquake or natural disaster. Be sure to store all water containers away from any harmful chemicals.

Tips and Suggestions

Water can be found during an emergency from several different places around the house including your water heater, ice cubes in your freezer, and as a last resort, the reservoir tank in your toilet (not the bowl).

Treat water with bleach before you use your water during an emergency by adding 4 drops of bleach per quart of water.

Rotate your water once a year for freshness. Choose a month that is convenient for you. When rotating your water, the old water can be used for washing your car, watering your garden or trees, or a variety of other uses—rather than just dumped out and replaced.

Water containers can be stored in many different places such as closets, underneath beds, behind couches, etc.

Do not use glass containers for water storage because they can easily break during an emergency.

Available water filters treat from 26 to as much as 39,000 gallons of water. A good water filtration system is critical to your portable and stationary water storage to ensure water for your family.

If space and money are concerns, start small and gradually build your water storage as you build your food storage.

Water will store indefinitely if it meets all of the following criteria:

  • It is free of microorganisms.
  • The container is made of food-grade materials.
  • The container is clean and tightly closed.
  • The container is kept from sunlight.

We hope this information helps you plan your water storage. More information is available in the book Emergency Essentials’ Tips for Preparedness pages 17-27. Your local authorities and federal agencies like FEMA may also have some useful tips and suggestions.

10 thoughts on “Water Storage Options”

  • Barbara Kaminski
    Barbara Kaminski January 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    These articles are very helpful for anyone who is beginning to take food or water storage seriously.

  • Lorinda Madore
    Lorinda Madore May 31, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Question: I am in California and purchasing the water pod that you fill in your bathtub. I'm guessing I should fill it a little at a time since I don't want the water police on me or a huge fine. Is this correct?

    • beprepared

      The purpose of the aqua pod is to fill it with water only when you hear an announcement or warning of an event where you'll need clean water stored (for instance, in a hurricane warning or anything that might make the water unsafe to drink). You don't want to have the aqua pod filled at all times because it would take up your whole tub and you couldn't bathe or shower! Instead, consider getting a water barrel http://beprepared.com/water/water-storage.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1292 and storing water there for long-term emergencies. As far as the water police go, I'm not sure ... I know they are fining for not fixing leaks, but not sure about filling aqua pods . ..

  • Mimi

    We are planning on keeping our 55lb water barrel in our basement and wondered how people rotate out their water every 6 months to 12 months? When that thing is filled there's no way we can move it...is there a way to siphon it out a window or something? What's the best way to keep the water ideal? Thanks!

    • Ben

      There is a siphon you can use for the water barrels. All you need to do with the siphon is shake it to get the water moving, and then it will transfer the water from the barrel to another container. The only thing to remember about siphoning is that the end of the siphon not in the barrel needs to be lower than the end in the barrel. There are also water purifier tablets or drops, such as the Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide water treatment. That stuff will protect against bacteria grown as well as refresh already-stored water. I hope that helps!

  • JAB

    If I use a dehumidifier to pull 3 gallons of water a day out of of our humid Florida air, can I use that water for drinking? Any special concerns you can think of?

    • Emergency Essentials
      Emergency Essentials September 21, 2015 at 2:11 am

      According to a post by Stanford University, "dehumidifier condensate (the water that the dehumidifier produces) can be loaded with biological contaminants and metallic residues that are not safe to drink." If you were to drink it, you would most likely want to filter and purify it first. When it comes to drinking water, you don't want to take too many chances.

  • Quintin

    I like the idea of the idea of using a metalized bag in a boxed water kit. It sound like a good and best of all, very affordable option.

  • Carol

    I as storing water in Jugs in my freezer. It cuts down on energy to keep my food frozen and I can take them out when I need my freezer space again.

    • Kelly

      Great idea! Storing jugs of water in your freezer will also protect your frozen foods during short power outages.

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