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How to Store Emergency Water

SKU: HTWaterStorage

In most emergency situations, water is the fourth most important necessity next to bleeding, breathing, and exposure to extreme climates.  Without water, you will die in as few as 3 days.  Proper storage and treatment of water can save your life

How to Store Emergency Water


In addition to the information below, here is a PDF file of some useful water storage tips.

One area of self-reliance that is often overlooked or neglected is water storage.  Water means life.  Most people could only live about three days without clean, safe drinking water.  Municipal water is pumped using electricity which is the first public utility to go out in disasters.  Storing water correctly will ensure that you have clean, safe water when you need it.  When storing water you should follow four rules:

  1. Always use new containers, bottles, or barrels.
  2. Store in materials that block sunlight.
  3. Store in a location that will keep the water cool.
  4. Rotate every six months or treat the water.

1. Always Use New Containers

You should always store emergency water in new containers where possible.  Old containers can host bacteria and other biological matter that can remain even after a good hot cleaning.  In addition, the taste of the previously stored substance will be present in your stored water.  Even a good chlorine wash may not prevent old plastic from hosting bacteria or chemicals. 

Choosing the right container to store your emergency water is important.  The choice should be based on what purpose the water will serve.  If you are building a 72-hour kit or a long term bug out bag, you may want to shy away from 55-gallon water barrels.  A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds or 3.7 kilograms.  That means a 55-gallon water barrel will weigh 456 pounds or 203 kilograms.  That will not do in a backpack!

Here are a few suggestions for purpose driven water storage:

Other Suggestions for Water Storage Containers

  • Plastic can leach substances from the surface it is sitting on.  This can end up in your water.  Try to store your water on a wood surface.  This can be as simple as a few 2 x 4 boards.
  • Try to purchase 55-gallon water barrels locally.  Shipping can be as much as the actual barrel.
  • If you don't think you can easily carry a 5-gallon water carrier, consider purchasing a small light duty hand truck that can collapse into a small storage space or get a small wagon.  Make sure that you have bungee cords to strap the container down.
  • Finally, use a siphon pump or other method of keeping the water in the container clean when dispensed and stored during a disaster.

2. Use Materials that Block Sunlight

The most common water storage material is a blue plastic barrel.  They are blue because the plastic blocks much of the sunlight.  Bacteria need sunlight to flourish.  By reducing the amount of light that hits the water, you increase your effective storage time.  Opaque white barrels are not recommended for water storage.

Whatever you store water in, it should meet the following minimum requirements:

  • FDA Approved
  • Has the HDPE symbol on it.  (High-Density PolyEthylene)
  • Has secure closures with leak proof gaskets.

A few notes about HDPE

High-density polyethylene has a .95-.965 density which makes it rigid and resistant to high temperatures and extremely effective as a water barrier.  It is highly resistant to impacts and has a high burst strength.

3. Store Water In A Cool Place

Heat is another enemy to water storage.  Heat encourages bacteria to grow in your water.  Even treated water can be overcome by bacteria if enough light and heat are present.  Here are some tips on where to store your water to keep it cool:

  • Store Emergency Water Barrels on the north side of your home or in an area that gets shade for most of the day.
  • Stack water in the back of closets to avoid light and maintain a consistent temperature.
  • Store water in a basement.
  • Store water in ground level cupboards.

4. Rotate Every Year or Treat Water

Rotating your water on a schedule will ensure that you have safe, fresh emergency drinking water.  As a general rule, you should rotate your bulk storage water found in 55-gallon barrels every years. You can use the water to water a garden, wash the car, do the dishes, or replenish water in a pool.  You will need a hose to siphon the water off as the barrels are very heavy when full.

The alternate to rotating your water every year is to treat it with stabilized oxygen.  Stabilized oxygen kills bad bacteria and feeds good bacteria. When stored in a cool shaded place, water stored with stabilized oxygen can go as much as 5 years before it needs to be rotated. Stabilized oxygen can also be used in water containers to keep the water fresh. For example, if a Berkey water filter has water stored in the clean water reservoir for an extended period of time, it can become musty.  If this occurs, using a few drops of stabilized oxygen can freshen the water.

How to Store Emergency Water
How to Store Emergency Water
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"Great water storage information"

Bob C on 10/30/2013 3:55:17 PM

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Product Review: This article was just what I needed. Easy to understand with practical things that I can do to prepare for a water emergency. I used to have a pool and thought that I was set! Boy was I wrong.