Since storing water is very different from storing food, there are a few things you should consider if you’re new to water storage.
Water storage needs to be protected against viruses, contamination, and bacteria. So you must take different measures to protect your water from these threats than you would with food.
Here are 5 common myths and facts about water storage that you’ll want to consider as you start your water storage reserves.
Myth #1: Water can expire.
Fact: Water does not expire.
It can become contaminated (chemically or biologically), but in the absence of outside contaminants it doesn’t “go bad.”
Water can have a stale taste, but that taste can be eliminated by rotating your water and purifying it. If a water storage source is in ideal conditions it can technically can indefinitely. :
- It started out clean;
- It is stored in a dark, cool area;
- It is in a container that keeps out light and chemicals;
- It is kept directly off of concrete and away from harsh fumes and chemicals;
Best Practice: Rotate water for peace of mind or if there is a risk of contamination.
Myth #2: If I have a water barrel, I’m set for every emergency I’ll encounter.
Fact: If you only have barrels, you're only partway prepared.
Large barrels can play an important role in water readiness, but they will cover you for only one of the three most typical emergency scenarios:
1. On-the-move emergencies.
If you have to evacuate, you won’t be able to carry a water barrel with you. You need a reliable water source that can move everywhere you do: on the road, in the bush, at hotels and shelters, etc.
2. Near-term shelter-in-place emergencies.
This is the scenario that big barrels are best suited for. Depending on the size of the barrel and size of your crew, barrels can last you a few weeks (or more).
3. Long-term emergencies.
Some emergencies and water contamination scenarios can drag on for months, and you need to be prepared for that. If you only have one barrel or one water source you may run out of water given the number of people in your family and the number of days that you will be without water. Remember that the average amount of water to store is one gallon per person, per day. That can add up quickly.
To prepare for those weeks and months when your water barrels run dry, stock a family-sized filtration system that doesn't require power to operate.
Best Practice: Store water in various sized containers and plan for different situations (grab-and-go, shelter-in-place, extra water for cooking, etc.). You can siphon the water from your barrel into other containers and refill it before emergencies arise.
Myth #3: If I have a water purifier, I don’t need a filter.
Fact: Water purifiers like germicidal tablets will kill microorganisms in your water.
Germicidal tablets are excellent for sheltering-in-place and also great for treating water from your barrels or water you collect from streams or rivers while hiking.
However, purifiers alone won’t remove turbidity (dirt, silt, “floaties,” and chemicals) from your water, so we recommend using a purifier and filter together to make sure your water is clean (especially if you are collecting water for drinking and washing, but turbidity is ok if you use soap while washing.)
If you’re a first time barrel buyer remember that you’ll want to buy a water storage equipment including a bung wrench, replacement bung (a bung is the white cap on top of your water barrel), siphon hose, and water purifiers for maintenance.
Myth #4: It’s fine to store water in any type of plastic container I have at home.
Fact: Water should be stored in a UV-resistant, food-grade plastic container or in metallized bags to prevent bacteria.
Traditionally, water storage barrels are blue. This dark color limits light exposure and biological growth (bacteria and algae) and also signifies that what is stored in the container is safe for human consumption (for example, gasoline is stored in red containers).
The safest containers to hold water in are polyethylene-based plastics, or plastics #1, #2, and #4. Water barrels made out of plastic #2 are good for long-term storage and are BPA-free. You can figure out the number of plastic by looking for this symbol on the bottom of containers:
Other helpful tips for storing water in plastic containers:
- Don’t use milk jugs for water storage. Since milk jugs are biodegradable, they will break down over time. Also, any live cultures in the milk that remain in your jug could make you ill if you store drinking/cooking water in milk jugs.
- Disposable water bottles are not great for long-term storage. Water can be stored for long-term use in re-useable bottles.
- Soda Bottles and Powerade/Gatorade bottles can be used for long-term water storage. However, it’s important to remember that plastics absorb flavors, so your drinking water may have a cola taste. If you store water in soda or Powerade bottles, don’t use the water for cooking or else your soup might taste like cola!
Myth #5: To save space, I can stack water barrels on top of each other.
Fact: Most water barrels are not built to stack on each other.
Barrels that were not designed to be stacked can be unstable. Shaking and bumping could bring them crashing down, and when they do they could burst or leak...and there goes your supply.
If you want to stack your water because you don’t have room, use water containers with grooves on the bottom for stacking, like a larger, 160-gallon water reserve.
Best Practice: Water barrels are safest if they are stored standing. However, do not store your barrel directly on cement or on the floor in your garage. Plastics absorb flavors and odors from gasoline, liquids spilled on the floor, and chemicals used to create the concrete. These chemicals and odors will make the taste of the water unbearable to drink. Instead, place your water barrel on top of a wood board or cardboard so that odors and chemicals do not leach in.
Keep on Learning!
These are just 5 myths about water storage. But if you’re new to water storage and want to learn more, check out these articles for more tips: "Not all Barrels are Built the Same" "Water Storage Overview" "Water Storage Options"