Water – A Detailed Look

It’s the most important thing after air. We need it to survive, to cook, to take care of personal hygiene, and to clean. If your normal source of water suddenly disappeared would you be ready?

How Much?

The general rule of thumb is that you’ll need one gallon of water per person per day. Half a gallon is used for drinking and the other half is used for hygiene. That number will go up depending on a whole host of factors. If you live in a hot climate or have pregnant or nursing women in your group, you’ll want to store more water. And you need to add more water if you have pets, unless you’re willing to watch them die of thirst. You also need additional water for cooking. We’ll start with a gallon a day per person as the general rule.

So the question becomes, how many days worth of water should you store? Well that depends on how prepared you want to be for varying degrees of disaster. FEMA recommends that everyone have enough water to last three days should your regular water source be disrupted. Three days of water should be enough to get you through the periods of water shut-off or contamination that can happen during natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and ice storms.Three days is a good starting point but water access can be down for much longer than that even during “usual” emergencies.

Most people who are preparing for “minor” emergencies suggest that you have at least two weeks’ worth of water on hand. So for a single person, that’s 14 gallons of water. For a family of four, that would mean you’d need 56 gallons of water. Whether you decide to store more than the two-week minimum depends on a few things. For many people, finding space in their home or apartment to store enough water for two weeks is a challenge, so trying to find room for a month might not be feasible. Even if space isn’t an issue, the upfront costs for long-term water storage can be cost prohibitive.

If you can’t immediately buy a month or year supply just start off with the two-week supply. You can add to it as space and money allow. Be sure to consider special needs of your family. If you have a baby on formula you’ll need extra water for both preparing bottles and for cleaning those bottles. John and I both take medications that cause us to drink water continuously all day (and night) long. That means we’re going to need a lot more than the “average” gallon a day. Take a few days to determine how much water you actually use during the day. How many glasses does each family member consume? How much do you use for cooking, cleaning, and pets? Base your two week supply on your actual consumption.

Long-Term Water Storage Solutions

You’ll need a safe container in which to store it. It’s best to use food-grade plastic bottles. You can also use glass bottles so long as they haven’t stored non-food items. I don’t use glass because I don’t want to lose my water because it’s spilled on the floor with tiny shards of glass floating in it. Another option is stainless steel but you won’t be able to treat your stored water with chlorine Chlorine corrodes stainless steel. And no matter what you choose to store water in you need to be sure you can seal it to keep out everything you don’t want in your water.

Two-Week Water Storage Options

Store-Bought Bottled Water. The easiest, albeit somewhat more expensive way to reach your two week quota is to simply buy packaged bottled water. You start right out with clean water that’s well-sealed, food-grade plastic bottles. Individual bottles are great if you need to bug out and have to carry water with you. It’s also a great option if you have limited space. We buy Great Value (Walmart) water in bottles that contain 1 pint 0.9 oz. Averaging one case gives us about 4 gallons of water or enough to last one person 4 days. Since we use so much bottled water daily it’s not a problem to pick up a couple of extra cases.

Empty Soda/Water/Gatorade Bottles. I also like to fill empty plastic 2 liter bottles and those gallon size Hawaiian Punch bottles. I always check that the bottles are PETE and clean them with bleach, rinsing them thoroughly, before re-filling with water.

5-7-Gallon Water Jugs. These jugs are made from sturdy, food-grade plastic. The plastic is usually a dark blue which restricts light and helps prevent algae growth. If you’ve ever had a fish tank near a sunny window you know that algae loves sunlight. The jugs are typically stack-able, so they are easy to store. Their smallish size also makes for easy transport in case you need to leave your home base but they’re not good if you’re not transporting in a vehicle as each gallon weighs about 8.344 lbs. (not including container). You’re not going to hike across the city hauling almost 42 lbs. to have 5 gallons of water.

5 gallon jug with spigot

One Month or More Water Storage Options

A good thing to invest in is the waterBOB® This is a water containment system that holds up to 100 gallons of fresh drinking water in any standard bathtub. It is constructed of heavy duty food grade plastic, and keeps water fresh and clean for drinking, cooking, washing for up to 16 weeks. Simply filling your tub with water isn’t going to keep it clean. In fact, unless you sanitize your tub and then keep it tightly covered, it’s not really where you want to get your drinking water from anyway. Filling a waterBOB® takes about 20 minutes. It comes with a siphon pump so filling jugs or pitchers is easy. It’s affordable at about $20 and I recommend getting one for every tub in your house. It shouldn’t, however, be the only source of water you plan to have. Twenty minutes may be longer than you actually have water flowing. Please note that the fluffy towels and candles are not part of the package.


55 gallon water barrels are a good choice if you have space. They’re made from sturdy food-grade plastic and have bungs at the top that can be sealed super tight in order to protect your water from contamination. The plastic is also BPA-free and UV-resistant. Each 55 gallon barrel will provide a family of four with about 27 days of water.

There are considerations with these barrels. They take up a bit of space so they’re not right if you live in an apartment or don’t have the space for them in your home. They are a bit pricey. Each barrel will set you back about $93 for the combo that includes a bung, a gas wrench, and an emergency siphon. A full barrel weighs in at 440 lbs. You’re not going to fill one up and then move it around and you definitely aren’t going to carry it on your back.

07910_55 Gallon Water Barrel Kit-500x500

My wishlist includes the (http://beprepared.com/320-gallon-ultimate-water-reserve-combo.html) 320 gallon ultimate water reserve combo. This package includes 6 Aqua Mira water treatment packages, and one 50-ft hose designed for drinking water. It’s made with BPA-free plastic. It includes lead-free spigots and vent cap for easy dispensing and rotating your water. The plastic has been enhanced with UV resistant properties (more sun protection!) to increase the life of your water and the life of the barrel itself.The barrels are stack-able (up to 2 high) and fit through standard doors. It’s expensive at about $800 but it’s something I’d give up other things to own.

Storing Water in 55-Gallon Barrels

It’s recommended that you store all water off the floor of a basement or garage. Chemicals from the concrete could leech into your water. Just place the containers on pallets or 2×4’s. While you may not need to treat the water if you have a municipal source (which is already treated) you should if you have a well. While water doesn’t “spoil” you want to keep out contamination so be sure to seal the bung as tightly as you can.

Rain Barrels. If you use Facebook you know there have been a lot of posts about many states making collecting rainwater illegal. Conversely, some states encourage and even give awards for collecting rainwater. I’m not going to get into an in-depth review of which rules apply to which states. You can look up your state here: http://www.enlight-inc.com/blog/?p=1036 I live in a state that encourages rainwater collection for things like watering gardens and lawns. And, in emergencies, it’s possible to use the water once you have properly filtered and cleaned it. Some people collect rainwater thinking they’ll use it for hygiene purposes in an emergency without cleaning it but I advise you not to try to clean anything, including yourself, with untreated rainwater.
Rainwater harvesting is a budget friendly way to add to your long-term water storage. Be sure to cover the rain barrel(s) with fine mesh to keep out large debris. You should also add some kind of mesh to the downspout if you’re running it directly into the rain barrel. You’ll still need to treat the water but this will save time you’d otherwise waste pulling out leaves, pine needles, etc.


Rainwater Cisterns. These cisterns are basically giant holding containers for rain water. Water cistern systems range from 1,400 gallons to 12,000 gallons of water capacity. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario these systems would be the ideal. There are some drawbacks. They’re expensive. A 1,400 gallon system will set you back several thousand dollars. They need a lot of space even though they’re underground. They require a system of pipes. And the tanks aren’t food grade so all the water needs to be treated before use. But if you can afford one, have the space, and are prepared to treat the water a cistern is the way to go!


Back-up Water Solutions
In addition to having stored water, you’ll want to have options to filter and purify water in case you need to use water from rivers, streams, or lakes to supplement your supply. Creek Stewart recommends having three options on hand to produce clean drinking water: filter, chemical, and boiling.

Water filter. There are various products available for filtering water on the go. Most are lightweight, not terribly expensive, and useful mostly in a bugout situation.  lifestraw

Katadyn Hiker Water Filter

Purification Tablets. I keep Aquamira tablets in my stores as these tablets filter out more contaminants than others I’ve researched. Many people use iodine tablets. Just be sure to have some kind of purification tablets or drops in your supplies.

Aquamira tablets

Fuel and stove to boil water. Boiling water doesn’t totally purify water. Viruses (Zombies!) and some other contaminants may remain but boiling water certainly does help!