3 Things You Need to Know About Water Barrels

Water barrels are popular for long-term water storage, and there are a surprising number of options available.

Water containers vary in their size, color, shape, versatility, and quality. As people who have been in the business of water prep for a long time, here are the three things you need to know to make the right choices.

Accessories You Need

First thing’s first: you’ll need accessories to properly treat and access your water. These are items we consider essential:

A Pump – Made from food-safe materials for extracting water.

Water Purification Tablets – Either germicidal or chlorine dioxide

The Best Alternative to a Barrel

For many of us, storing massive barrels isn't an option.

If you're in an apartment or home with limited space, the Alexapure Pro countertop filter is a great way to access thousands of gallons of pure water, all with the convenience of a tap that works just like your kitchen sink.

1. Know the Best Size for Your Household

how many gallons per person water barrel

We have specifically chosen 15, 30, 55, and 160-gallon water barrels based on several criteria.

It is recommended by preparedness experts to have at least 14 gallons of water stored per person. This provides one gallon of water a day for two weeks.

  • 15 Gallon Water Barrel provides one person with this minimum amount.
  • 30 Gallon Water Barrel provides this minimum amount for two
  • 55 Gallon Water Barrel the minimum for four people
  • 160 gallon tank stores the minimum amount for about eleven people

2. Choose the Right Color Based on What You're Storing

blue not red

Most people would think that blue would indicate water and it generally does. You may want to mark your barrel indicating “Water” so in case of a fire or similar natural disaster, emergency personnel know that water is being stored in it and not a flammable material.

Gasoline and other fuel should only be stored in red containers.

The blue barrel’s dark color also restricts light and helps prevent algae growth. Cleaning and sanitizing helps prevent this too.

3. Quality Makes a Big Difference

Purchasing a quality water barrel is a wise investment. When choosing water storage containers remember that not all barrels are built the same.

The best water barrels are high quality, offering ultimate reliability and integrity. They should be manufactured with prime resin and FDA-approved, high-molecular-weight, high-density polyethylene. They should also be BPA free and UV coated to prevent light penetration.

Single Blue Angled_ccs

*160-gallon tank

BONUS: Tips You Need to Implement

Insulating Barrier. As a reminder, it is recommended not to store your filled water barrel directly on cement. It is wise to use an insulating barrier, such as wood, between the barrel and cement to prevent accidental absorption of concrete fumes or trapped stagnant odors.

Rotate Annually. It is recommended to rotate the water regularly (using a drinking water safe hose) especially if you aren't using potable water sources.

Water vs. Rain Barrels. Know the Difference. Please note that water barrels are for storing water and rain barrels are for collecting rainwater. Rain barrels are a great way to collect water for various uses, but rain barrels are not for long term storage of water for emergency use. Interested in learning more about rain barrels?

You can read up on their different uses here.

Water storageWater storage tips

31 comments

Robert MEOLI

Robert MEOLI

the color code of containers is only partly correct Red is for gasoline Yellow is for diesel and blue is used for kerosene so be careful of the blue coding and they were correct in saying to mark it water

Margaret Green

Margaret Green

Will Emergency Essentials be selling water storage barrels in the future? I bought one from you years ago and would like to get more.

Charlotte

Charlotte

I have an older Emergency Essential 55-gal blue drum without a faucet on the outside. I am older now too and would like to know how to install a spigot for ease of operation.

kathleen forrest

kathleen forrest

I have one of your old rain barrels and called to get directions or really I asked why there were 5 holes at the top on the side edge? If these are for overflow – they don’t do the job as the water overflows next to the house. Any ideas on why they are there or how I should use it? Top right barrel in the pictures is the one I have.
Thanks

Shammy S

Shammy S

I found it helpful when you said that you could mark your barrel drums to ensure that in case of a fire or similar natural disaster, you would know where the water is being stored. My husband and I will surely shop for barrels drums where we could store water. Apart from emergency situations, we also want to be able to store water so we could have enough supply of water during water outages. This is important for us as we have a lot of kids that consume water a lot. http://www.seattlebarrel.com/products

Dean Phillips

Dean Phillips

It’s interesting to note how you mentioned gasoline and other fuel should only be stored in red containers. This is a good point you made, where I’m sure those interested in these barrels will be glad to have learned. I came across your article while I was looking up 55 gallon drum liners. This comes after I had a conversation with my brother on this, who was looking to get these drum liners for a friend. Thanks a bunch! I’ll be sure to pass this on to my brother soon! https://www.hucksterpackaging.com/gallon-drum-liners

Dixie Funk

Dixie Funk

In a 55 gal. barrel, if it’s hasn’t had anything in it, just water, filled ONLY with a RV. hose it should be great to drink. BUT if it’s had ANYTHING in it, considered it contaminated. So you can still use the barrel, BUT after filling the barrel with the correct hose, you must put 1/2 teaspoon clorrine crystals in the barrel. Stir. Leave the lid off, til the fumes are gone, maybe one day. Put the lid back on. I recommend putting the barrel on a dolly, that will hold the weight of 500lb. or more, of course put the barrel on dolly before filling barrel. Now that is done. you need to consider a siphon pump, and 4/5 gal. containers with spigot. Water is still drinkable for 10 years, if you want to change it, ok, just tastes fresher. That’s all. More info. Email me. dixiebfunk@frontier.com

Cathy Kaz

Cathy Kaz

I just purchased a 55 gallon barrel combo kit and it included 2 white caps. What are these used for?

Crystal Minnick

Crystal Minnick

Amy that’s not an item we carry or have carried before. I would recommend searching online regarding the product you’re seeking to find an accurate answer. Our water barrels will not leak unless exposed to freezing temperatures.

https://www.beprepared.com/augason-farms-water-storage-kit?q=water%20barrel

amy cocchiara

amy cocchiara

what about the “fiber barrels” are they safe to store water or do they leak after a certain amt of time?

Crystal Minnick

Crystal Minnick

Caden thank you for visiting our blog and commenting. Check out our site with the combo kit, it’s the best value for all that you’ll need!

https://www.beprepared.com/ultimate-55-gallon-water-barrel-combo?q=55%20gal

Caden Dahl

Caden Dahl

I’ve been thinking about getting some barrels but I don’t know what size to get. Now you did say that you can get them in various sizes depending on your needs. I’ll probably see about getting the 55-gallon one since that one would work best for me.

John S

John S

Iv’e read that in the olden times sailors would put a silver coin in their drinking water barrels to keep their water safe to drink. The silver supposedly would kill any bacteria. If that works, why not put a capful of your coilloidal silver in the water storage barrels???

Stephanie

Stephanie

I bought 10 55 gallon water barrels from you over 11 years ago. They are in perfect shape except some of the screw on lids do not screw on anymore. Can I purchase these separately? Thanks.

Emergency Essentials

Emergency Essentials

It’s recommended to at least check your water every 6 months, and possibly rotate it out at that time as well. You can usually go a full year before you need to rotate, but to be honest, your water, if properly treated, won’t ever go bad. It might taste flat, but that’s because of a lack of oxygen. Simply pour the water from container to container multiple times to get that oxygen back in the water and rid it of its flat taste. The purpose of checking on your water every 6 months is to make sure it hasn’t started growing any algae or things like that. Again, properly treating it will solve that problem before it happens.

Rita

Rita

Can you tell me how long will the water in these barrels last and still be good

Emergency Essentials

Emergency Essentials

We do! We well fine threaded bung nuts (http://beprepared.com/fine-threaded-bung-nut.html) and coarse threaded bung nuts (http://beprepared.com/coarse-threaded-bung-nut.html).

beprepared

beprepared

Hi, Tim.
Great questions. The barrels should be fine; just leave 1/10th the space to allow for expansion of the water.
Sarah

Tim

Tim

Will your 55-gallon barrels survive freezing temperatures if stored outside in winter? It can get down to 0 degrees F here. If so, how much air space must be allowed to accommodate the expansion?

beprepared

beprepared

Hi Frank,
Thanks for your question. You are corrected about fumes being absorbed by plastics. So, if your garage has paint cans and other chemicals, it’s not preferable to store them there because the chemicals can leach in and make the water unbearable to drink. Try storing your water barrel in your basement (if you have one/have the space) or store it outside with a barrel bag http://beprepared.com/barrel-bag.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1360 to protect it from sunlight and other outdoor elements. You can also look for barrels that have a seal inside that protects against absorption (for example, our 160 Gallon reserve is made of an enhanced plastice that’s BPA free and non-permeable).
Angela

frank

frank

Can these barrels be stored in garage with paint cans and other usual garage type chemicals that might have a lid but have been opened? I heard that gas fumes can be absorbed by these barrels. Any info is greatly appreciated. Thanks

beprepared

beprepared

Hey Donna,
Aquamira is $14.95. Here’s a link to the product http://beprepared.com/aquamira-chlorine-dioxide-water-treatment.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1305.
Angela

Donna Casiday

Donna Casiday

Will someone please tell me how much Aquamira or other similar product I need to use in a 55 gallon barrel?

Thanks, Donna

beprepared

beprepared

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for your question. Our main concern is that the barrels were previously filled with something else. Since plastic often absorbs flavors of what’s stored in them previously, that vinegar taste will remain in the water even after washing it multiple times. We suggest always buying brand new barrels that are food grade and have not had other things stored in them before. You might want to get rid of those barrels and buy new ones. To learn more about storing water, check out this article called “5 Myths about Water Storage” http://beprepared.com/blog/9182/5-myths-about-water-storage/
Thanks,
Angela

Sharon

Sharon

I purchased several white 55 gal barrels that had previously held vinegar. I rinsed several times, filled and let sit outside in the sun for several months and then rinsed again. I then filled and stored my water. I covered the barrels with dark garbage bags and they are kept in side a building. Is this method and will this water be safe when I need it? How can I obtain a test kit to check the water quality now?

beprepared

beprepared

Hi Mike!
Yes, you do need to wash or rinse out the barrel before you use it. There also is a fill line on each water storage container we sell, so make sure you are filling it up to that line. You don’t want to fill them all the way because of air pressure and potential freezing.
Angela

Mike

Mike

Do barrels like these or smaller jugs like the 5 gal Aquatainers need to be washed, rinsed, or cleaned before use? Also, should I fill them to the brim or leave some space for longer term storage?

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

I have a Blue 55 gal. Barrel (a different brand) which I use for catching Rain. However, if water is left in it for a month or so, the water turns stagnant and smells terrible. How do I store water without this happening ?

beprepared

beprepared

Hi Charles,
A 15 gallon barrel costs $59.95. A 30 gallon barrel costs $69.95. However, both are on sale this month (April 2014). Check out the sale prices here http://beprepared.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=barrel.

Charles Askren

Charles Askren

15 or 30 gal drums $?

beprepared

beprepared

Hey Richard,
First, check the bottom of the container to ensure it is a food grade plastic (#2 plastic). Then after gathering water, store it sealed and covered. Also, treat the water with a water conditioner like Aquamira that you can find here http://beprepared.com/aquamira-chlorine-dioxide-water-treatment.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1243. This should help with the issue. If not, give us a call at 1-800-999-1863 to talk with one of our customer service representatives for more options.

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