The Art of Emergency Water Storage

Clean, potable water can be scarce during natural disasters, prolonged power outages, or other emergencies. By learning about and implementing emergency water storage techniques, you can ensure that you and your family can access this vital resource when needed most.

Emergency water storage is not as easy as just stockpiling water; it involves understanding how to store it safely, treat it if necessary, and utilize alternative water sources in times of crisis. This article will delve into the art of water storage, covering essential tips, tricks, and techniques to help you become proficient in managing your water supply.

Determining the right amount of water to store

The first step for effective water storage is determining how much you need. It’s typically recommended to have 1 gallon per person, enough to last for 72 hours. This amount covers drinking and sanitation, ensuring adequate supply during short-term emergencies.

However, several factors should be considered when determining your personalized water storage needs, including:

  1. Family size: The number of people in your household directly impacts the water you need to store. Consider pets in your calculations, as they will also require water.
  2.  Climate: Hot and dry? Consider storing more than the minimum recommendations. You won’t regret it.
  3.  Special needs: Pregnant or nursing individuals, young children, and people with specific medical conditions may have higher water requirements.
  4.  Physical activity: During an emergency, you may be involved in more physically demanding activities, leading to increased water consumption.
  5.  Extended emergencies: While the three-day guideline is a good starting point, some situations may require a more extended water supply. Aim to store enough water for at least two weeks if possible.
  6.  Cooking and cleaning: Although one gallon per person per day should cover basic sanitation needs, you may want to store additional water for cooking and more thorough cleaning.

After evaluating these factors and determining the appropriate amount of water to store, you can choose suitable storage containers and locations. Remember that water storage is an ongoing process, and it’s essential to continually evaluate your needs and update your storage plan accordingly.

Types of water storage containers

Selecting the proper containers for long-term water storage is crucial to ensure the water’s safety and quality. Various container types are available, each with its pros and cons. Here are some of the most common water storage container options:

Food-grade plastic containers

Food-grade plastic containers, such as BPA-free water barrels, jerry cans, and stackable water bricks, are famous for long-term water storage. These containers are designed specifically for storing water and resisting algae and bacteria growth. They are lightweight, durable, and come in various sizes for different storage needs.


  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  •  Resistant to algae and bacteria growth
  •  Wide range of sizes and shapes


  • Susceptible to punctures and cracks
  •  Can absorb odors from the environment

Glass containers

Glass containers, such as large water bottles and carboys, can also be used for water storage. Glass is chemically inert and won’t leach substances into the water, making it an excellent option for maintaining water quality.


  • Chemically inert and won’t leach substances
  •  Does not absorb odors


  • Heavy and cumbersome
  •  Prone to breakage

Metal containers

Stainless steel containers are another option for water storage. They are sturdy, long-lasting, and resistant to corrosion. However, metal containers are generally heavier and more expensive than their plastic counterparts.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  •  Resistant to corrosion


  • Heavy and more challenging to transport
  •  Can be expensive

Storing water safely and effectively

Once you’ve chosen the appropriate containers for your water storage needs, you must store the water safely and effectively. Here are some tips to ensure the quality and safety of your stored water:

Choosing the right location for water storage

Select a cool, dark place to store your water containers. Exposure to sunlight, high temperatures, and temperature fluctuations can cause algae and bacteria growth, compromising the water’s quality. Basements or closets are often ideal storage locations.

Preventing contamination and spoilage

Before filling your containers:

  1. Ensure they are clean and sanitized.
  2. Use diluted bleach to clean the containers and rinse them thoroughly with clean water.
  3. When filling the containers, use only potable water from a reliable source.

To minimize the risk of contamination, always use a dedicated, clean utensil or spigot to extract water from the containers. Avoid touching the water or placing anything in the container that may introduce contaminants.

Rotating stored water to ensure freshness

Although water has no expiration date, it can still degrade in quality over time. It’s essential to rotate your stored water regularly to maintain its freshness. A standard recommendation is to turn your water supply every six months. Mark your containers with the fill date to track when they need to be replaced.

Water treatment and purification methods

Sometimes, you may need to treat or purify your stored water or water from alternative sources. This process ensures that the water is safe to drink and free from harmful contaminants, bacteria, and viruses. Here are some standard water treatment and purification methods:


Boiling water is one of the most straightforward and effective methods for killing bacteria and viruses. To purify water using this method, bring the water to a rolling boil and maintain the spot for at least one minute. At higher altitudes (above 5,000 feet), boil the water for at least three minutes. Let the water cool before consuming.

Chemical treatments

Chemical treatments, such as water purification tablets or liquid solutions, can also treat stored or collected water. These treatments typically use chlorine or iodine to kill bacteria and viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct dosage and wait time before consuming the treated water.

Water filters and purifiers

Water filters and purifiers can remove contaminants, bacteria, and viruses from water, making it safe to drink. Filters use a physical barrier to remove particles, while cleaners also employ chemical or UV treatments to kill pathogens. Some popular types of water filters and purifiers include:

  • Gravity-fed filters
  •  Pump filters and purifiers
  •  Straw filters
  •  Bottle filters

When choosing a water filter or purifier, consider the contaminants you need to remove, the filter’s lifespan, and the ease of use.

Storing water for outdoor and mobile use

While having a well-stocked water supply at home is essential, it’s also crucial to consider your water storage needs for outdoor activities and mobile use, such as camping, hiking, or including water in your bug-out bag.

Water storage options for camping and hiking

When camping or hiking, carrying an adequate amount of water is essential. However, water is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Collapsible water containers are a lightweight and space-saving solution for carrying water on outdoor adventures. These containers can be folded or rolled up when empty, saving valuable space in your backpack.

Another option for outdoor water storage is hydration bladders. These flexible, reservoir-like containers fit inside your backpack and come with a hose and bite valve for easy, hands-free hydration.

Carrying water in your bug-out bag

A bug-out bag is a portable emergency kit designed to help you survive for at least 72 hours if you need to evacuate your home quickly. Including water in your bug-out bag is crucial, but its weight and volume can be challenging. Consider using water pouches or small, lightweight water bottles to store a modest amount of water in your bag. Pack a portable water filter or purifier to treat water from alternative sources during an emergency.

Harvesting and storing rainwater

Harvesting rainwater can provide a valuable supplementary water source for your home and garden. It can reduce your reliance on municipal water supplies and provide an alternative water source during emergencies. Here are some tips for setting up and maintaining a rainwater harvesting system:

Rain barrels

Rain barrels are a popular method for capturing and storing rainwater. These barrels are connected to your home’s downspouts, allowing water to flow from your roof into the barrels for storage. When selecting rain barrels, consider the following factors:

  • Material: Food-grade plastic or metal barrels are common for durability and longevity.
  •  Size: Choose a barrel size that fits your space and storage needs. Common sizes range from 50 to 100 gallons.
  •  Overflow: Ensure your rain barrel has an overflow valve to prevent water from spilling over the barrel’s edge during heavy rain.

Maintenance and treatment

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the quality of your stored rainwater. Follow these steps to maintain your rainwater harvesting system:

  • Inspect and clean your gutters and downspouts regularly to prevent debris buildup.
  •  Install a screen or mesh cover on your rain barrel’s inlet to keep out leaves, insects, and other debris.
  •  Periodically inspect your rain barrel for leaks, cracks, or damage and repair or replace it as needed.
  •  Clean and sanitize your rain barrel at least once a year using a diluted bleach solution.

Additional treatment may be required if you plan to use your harvested rainwater for drinking or cooking. Filtration, UV purification, or chemical treatments can be used to ensure the water is safe for consumption.

Building a water storage plan for your unique needs

Creating a comprehensive water storage plan tailored to your unique needs and circumstances is essential for ensuring you have an adequate supply of clean, safe water during emergencies or water shortages. Consider the following factors when building your water storage plan:

Assessing your water needs

Determine how much water you and your family require daily for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. The general recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day. Multiply this amount by the days you want to be prepared for, typically 14 to 30 days, to calculate your total water storage needs.

Evaluating your available space

Evaluate the space available in your home for water storage. Consider using closets, basements, garages, or under beds for storing water containers. Ensure the chosen locations are cool, dark, and have a stable temperature to maintain water quality.

Diversifying your water storage methods

Don’t rely on a single water storage method. Diversify your water storage by using a combination of different containers, water treatment methods, and water sources, such as stored tap water, harvested rainwater, and water from nearby natural sources.

Final Word

In conclusion, emergency water storage is a critical aspect of preparedness that should be considered. Following the tips, tricks, and techniques outlined in this article, you can create a comprehensive water storage plan that ensures your family has access to clean, safe water during emergencies or water shortages. Diversify your storage methods, consider alternative water sources, and develop a maintenance routine to guarantee the quality and reliability of your water supply.

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