One of the greatest and most immediate needs in the event of an emergency will be water. Imagine the storm of the century, tornado, tsunami or a whole host of other factors hitting your area. Are you prepared?
Imagine a fire hits your location and you, along with the next several towns, are evacuated. Have you got a plan for that too? Although preparing for emergencies doesn’t mean you have to have an underground pool full of drinkable water at the ready, or pack your basement with bottles, you should have some type of water storage plan in mind and have at least a short-term supply on hand during the seasons where disaster is most likely to hit.
If you live in an area where earthquakes, tornadoes, or large scale forest fires are a likelihood, you have an even greater need to have some type of long water storage plan in place.
Is a Gallon a Day Enough?
One person generally uses a gallon of water a day. Half of that would be for drinking, and the other half would be for all of their hygiene requirements. That gallon could turn into a greater amount quickly depending on a variety of factors. If you live in a hot, dry area or if there is a pregnant or nursing family member, you’ll go through more water.
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When preparing for emergencies, some recommend that a household should store enough water for each member of their family for three full days. It’s thought that this is enough time to make it through water disruption during natural disasters when your normal water source may be contaminated or shut off. Other recommendations are that you have a full 2 weeks of accessible water, which would mean 14 gallons of water per person.
Think about that; for a family of 4, that works out to about 56 gallons of water!
Water Storage Container Guidelines
The guideline for water storage is to find a tank or container that’s made of food grade plastic. You could also use glass containers, as long as they haven’t been used with non-food items which may leach and contaminate your water. Some choose to use stainless steel but keep in mind that chlorine corrodes steel, so in that case, you wouldn’t be able to treat any water kept in this type of container. You’ll also want to make sure that whatever container you use is sealable. If your tank or bottle can’t seal, you’ll run the risk of welcoming in bacteria or some other contaminant.
The most common way of storing a two-week supply of water is to simply buy water bottles at your grocery store. These aren’t the cheapest method, but they’re certainly the easiest and fastest, and you won’t have to scrounge around for any other materials.
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The water in this type of storage is clean, uses food grade bottles, and is already well sealed. It’s also easy to grab and throw in your vehicle if you get evacuated, so it works for pretty near any type of emergency, whether you’re holed up at home or have to be on the road. You can tuck water bottles in your pantry, under beds, or even in unused corners of your home behind furniture, so it won’t take up much space.
You could gather these types of bottles, along with empty soda bottles from family and friends, and just wash and refill them with tap water as well. It’s a great way to recycle, and you’re getting the very same benefits without making the initial purchase.
Larger water jugs (in the 5-7 gallon region) that you would normally take camping are also a great option for water storage, and the blue water jugs have an added bonus of restricting light, which will help prevent the growth of algae.
Long Term Water Storage – One Month or More
If you’re looking at one month of water storage, you also have a few options. In the event of a last minute emergency in which you’ll be at home for the duration, filling up your tub works in a pinch. Because your tub is an open vessel and you can’t seal it, it’s good to have some type of filtration system on hand. Some people purchase the WaterBOB for 100 gallons of emergency drinking water storage to get around that. It is a one use item, but well worth it if you are in an area that may require you to shelter in place.
55-gallon water barrels or rain barrels are also great storage containers, although unlike the smaller water bottles, you may have a tougher time finding space in your home for this type of container. It’s also not easily portable. Water cisterns will hold thousands of gallons of water, but this type of storage is the most expensive, requiring plenty of time and know how, or even the help of a professional.
At the very least, it’s a good idea to have water purification tablets or some type of water filter system like a LifeStraw (check out your local camping supply store) on hand. This is a great option for those short on space, time, and money.
Long Term Water Storage – What Else to Consider?
Do keep in mind that even pure water, even if stored properly, can go bad in a few months’ worth of time. If you’ve ever bought bottled water, you might have probably noticed that there’s an expiration date printed on the bottles. It’s there for a reason.
While the expiration dates printed on bottles aren’t necessarily accurate, they give you an approximate time-frame in which the water will go bad when stored in regular supermarket conditions. Of course, the real expiration date depends on the actual storage method used.
Let’s take a look at tap water, for example. Tap water can be stored and consumed within a time frame of six months with minimal risks.
However, tap water that has been carbonated can become flat as the gas slowly escapes from the liquid, resulting in changes in flavor. Even regular water can taste odd if enough carbon dioxide from the air mixes with it. Despite this, the water is still safe to drink, regardless of taste.
For the best results, store tap water in cleaned and sanitized food-grade water containers. Get a sticky label and write the date on which they were filled with water so you will know exactly how long it’s ok to keep the water in there. And, of course, store the containers in a dry, cool, and dark place.
The Bottom Line?
Tap water can be safely stored for up to six months given the necessary conditions are fulfilled.
Certain chemicals found in plastic can leach into bottled water over time, which could potentially damage your health. Thus, it’s probably best to avoid commercially bottled water that’s far past its expiration date.
Always remember to practice good habits regarding water storage and consumption for you and your family’s safety.
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Thank you to Nina Wells who wrote this article. Nina is a guest author from Steam Shower Store and is a respected and expert voice in a plethora of health related subjects with over 10 years of writing under her belt.
Leviticus Bennett says
Like you said, with large water barrels, you may have a hard time finding a place to sore them. I’ve heard that there are some types of containers that are made to be stacked. That way you can use your vertical space efficiently.
The problem is that plastic leaches in the water. You would have to empty and refill about every 2 months. I have purchased packaged water bottles from the grocery store that tasted terrible with bad dates.Any long term water storage would have to take account of freezing which would burst the container.