Water Storage Infographic
Did you know that nearly 3/4th of your body is made up of water? You lose eight to 12 cups of water each day. I recently learned that in the event of a major earthquake, my city’s plumbing system would not survive – it’s too old and cannot handle the extended shaking.
Since I live in the Pacific Northwest and we are “scheduled” for the BIG ONE, I’ve decided to be prepared. Also, we have had several boil water alerts in the past year and I want to know my water is safe, so water storage is important to me.
Even if you don’t live in earthquake county, find out the condition of your cities pipes and what they plan on doing in the event of water contamination. How do your government officials notify you of a potential water contamination?
It is not necessary to rotate your water storage
Contrary to popular belief, water can be stored for long periods of time – five years or more – if it doesn’t react with the container you have it in. It may change somewhat in taste or odor especially if it’s stored in plastic containers but these changes are not harmful.
Check your supply yearly to make sure the contents have not leaked. Early rotation is not necessary as long as your container is sound.
- How much do you need?
- What should you store your water it?
- What are the sources for finding water in your house once the power is out?
- How do you treat water if you think it is contaminated?
How Much Water Do You Need?
FEMA recommends 1 gallon per person per day and a minimum of 2 weeks’ worth of water storage in case of a disaster. Many preppers agree that 50 gallons per person.
Increase the daily water allowance if you have infants, aged people, nursing moms, or ill people in your household. Double the recommended water intake per day if you live in an extremely hot and dry area.
Bear in mind that the dehydrated food and the freeze-dried supplies in your prepared pantry need lots of water to reconstitute. What’s more, if you have pets or livestock don’t forget to stockpile drinking water for them too.
Best way to know how much water to store is to track your water consumption habits. Write down how much water you use for drinking, cooking and sanitation. Keep track of any kind of liquid, including milk, juice, soda, syrup from canned fruit and vegetables, and so on.
Keep track of how much water you use when washing dishes and clothes, when cooking, and when bathing. Multiply by the number of your family members. Keep in mind that in a disaster scenario, you’ll need to forgo taking long baths (to put things into perspective, a full bathtub holds around 40 gallons of water; some extra deep tubs can hold up to 110 gallons; you could use this insane amount of water for hydration or sanitation instead).
Also, forget about washing the dishes (use disposable eating utensils instead) and even flushing the toilet (the average toilet consumes 1.6 to 3.5 gallons per flush – multiply that by the number of family members and multiply once more by the times each family member needs to use the toilet every day.)
Check out my previous post on how to make a twin bucket emergency toilet and how to dispose of the human waste as sanitarily as possibly. During prolonged disasters such as famine, wars, or drought, food shortages are not the only life-threatening issue. The lack of sanitation can lead to disease and even death in the long term as famine and disease go hand in hand.
Consider trying living with one gallon of water per day and see where you need to cut corners. Adjust your water storage capacity according to your findings.
Get the Containers Ready
Emergency drinking water can be stored in water bottles, jugs, barrels, tanks, and even empty canning jars. A WaterBOB could come in handy if you need to quickly store some water in your bathtub but would rather not store drinking water directly in the (unsanitary) tub or if you live in a small apartment and you don’t have the necessary real estate space to store some emergency water.
A WaterBOB can singlehandedly store up to 110 gallons of water. Read our review of this handy emergency water storage tools here.
If space is not that of a problem, the best way to store drinking water in case of an emergency is some quality 55-gallon water barrels or multiple, stackable 5-gallon water jugs. (You can see the best 5 gallon jugs currently on the market, each with its own short review, here.)
For really large families or for emergency preparedness that takes into account water shortages that can last several months and up to a year, a 500-gallon water tank is your best bet to stay alive and healthy. I’ve covered the pros and cons of a 500-gal tank in my previous post: Why A 500 Gallon Water Tank Is Best For Emergency Survival.
Also, if a 500 gallon water tank is out of the question, you could supplement your 55 gl water barrels and/or 5 gallon stackable water jugs with whatever empty containers you have around the house such as pet bottles, mason jars, and other food-grade containers.
Just steer clear of milk jugs, soda containers, and beer cans – these cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected and may spoil the water. Also, do not store drinking water in containers that held chemicals such as bleach bottles. Cardboard containers are a big non-no even if they were used to hold boxed water. Cardboard will simply not last very long.
Regardless of the type of container(s) you will be using for storing your precious water, make sure that every one of them is properly cleaned and disinfected. There are countless of ways of doing it, but this video is one of the most straightforward tutorials we’ve come across.
Hidden Drinking Water Sources in Your Home
In case of a major disaster that leaves you stuck in your home such as a flood or an earthquake, you need to be aware of the less obvious sources of drinking water that you and your family could tap to stay alive until a rescue team arrives.
- The water heater tank. Yes, a water heater can hold dozens of gallons of clean drinking water when the SHTF. Make sure that, if a flood has contaminated the municipal water supply source or your private well, you unplugged the water heater tank before the dirty water has reached it. When getting the water out of the tank use clean containers and absolutely make sure that you turn off the gas or electricity.
- Your toilet’s flush tank can hold between 1.6 gallons to 7 gallons of water. Depending on how clean the flush tank is you could use the water as is or boil and chlorinate it first. It is a good idea to routinely sanitize the interior of your toilet tank just in case you might need to drink the water.
- Melted ice from the freezer. The melted ice coming from your freezer is safe to drink, but you might need to boil the water to make sure that no pathogens have survived. It largely depends on how clean your freezer is and on what type of supplies you keep stored in it.
- Liquid from your canned goods. This one’s not technically water but as long as it is not brine or a vinegar solution can keep thirst at bay.
- Water from your swimming pool. This water is not safe to drink because of all the chemicals you routinely throw into the pool. But swimming pool water can be used for sanitation and hygiene needs.
Blog post was originally published on January 21st, 2013 and it was last updated on June 24th, 2020.