Saturday, March 6, 2010

Water Storage

Water storage should be the #1 priority of any food storage system.
Your body can survive a lot longer without food than it can without water.

Not only that, but a lot of the foods we store (and eat) require water to be prepared.

Why store water?

During times of serious emergency, the normal water supply to your home may be cut off or become polluted.  In this type of situation, stored water will be your lifeline.

There is a lot that can be written about water storage.
This post will cover recommended amounts, water storage containers, storage conditions, and how often rotation is necessary.

So, how much do you need?

A normal, active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day (1/2 gallon).
Hot environments can easily double that amount.
Children, nursing mothers, and ill people could require even more.

When getting started, remember that anything is better than nothing.
The general rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day.

It is recommended to have at the very least a 3 day supply of water per person in your household.
Ideally, having a 2 week supply of water should be your minimum goal (more is always better).

The average water bottle holds ~16oz., or 2 cups. 
Which means that a case of 24 water bottles = 48 cups (or 3 gallons).

Conveniently, one case of 24 water bottles is the perfect amount for 1 person to have a gallon of water per day for 3 days.

They also run anywhere from $2-5 per case, so they are very affordable.

The containers you choose to store your water in will ensure the safety and potability of your water.
That is why I recommend at least a 3 day supply for each person in bottled water.
Purchased bottled water ensures that you will not have to worry about contamination or purification.

Good water-storage containers are airtight, breakage resistant, and heavy enough to hold water.
They should stack well (or at least stand upright), and have a lining that won't rust or affect the flavor of the water.

One of the best options for large amounts of water storage are 55 gallon barrels/drums:
One for each member of the family would be an excellent goal to have.
For more information on how to use 55 gallon water barrels, click here.

Smaller amounts of water containers should be stored for convenience.
(55 gallon drums can easily be emptied into smaller amounts as needed with a siphon or hose).

I would recommend 5 gallon sized containers:

These are easy to move around, and can be purchased with a spout:

The spout turns on and off, allowing the container to be used in place of your kitchen sink or bathtub.
I would recommend having at least 2 of these (one for the kitchen, and one for the bathroom).  Ideally, this would be good for each room in your house that you currently have running water in).

You can also choose to re-use certain containers you already have for your water storage.

If you do this, use only food-grade containers (containers that once contained food).

Do not use plastic milk jugs.  They do not seal well and tend to become brittle over time.
Do not use containers previously used to store non-food products.
Do not use glass.  They do not transport well; fragile.

Small containers made of PETE plastic or heavier plastic buckets or drums will work well for water storage.  (All containers used for water storage should be PETE containers).
If the container is a PETE container, it will have a symbol like this printed or embedded on the container:
It may have a different number in the triangle, and may have PETE written, but it's all good (I'll have to cover that more fully later).

To thoroughly clean containers, wash with hot, soapy water.  Rinse completely.
Make a sanitizing solution (1 tsp. of liquid bleach to 1 quart of water) and pour into container.  Swish around, being sure to cover every surface (including the inside of the lid).
Rinse completely again.
Fill with water and seal tightly (be sure not to touch the inside of the lid.
Label and store.
(This type of process should also be used when filling 55 gallon drums (as explained in the link above), and for the 5 gallon buckets).
Remember that water is going to be needed for several things, not just for drinking.
Old liquid laundry detergent bottles can be filled for instant washing water.

Liquid dish soap, hand soap, etc. can be filled with water as well.
Bleach bottles are not appropriate for storing water for drinking or cooking, but can be used for several other things.
If you have a container that isn't food-grade, you can use it to store water for other purposes.

Easiest to remember: Store in a cool, dark place.

More specific instructions:
- The colder and darker the better - keep away from light and heat.
- Be mindful of freezing; ice expands, so make sure there is enough headspace (at least 9" in 55 gallon drums) if freezing is a possibility.
Most unopened water bottles will not break if frozen, but double check your brand by freezing one bottle first.

- Store water where potential leakage would not damage your home or apartment.
- Protect from light and heat.
- Keep containers (even 55 gallon drums) off of concrete.
- Water stored in plastic containers should not be stored near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides or similar substances, as vapors could permeate the plastic and affect the water.

Just like all food storage items, water needs to be rotated.
This includes bottled water.
For simplicity reasons, I will just say that in most cases, the container itself goes bad before the water does.

However, any water is better than no water.
Purifying it will be easier than trying to find it (but that is a different post).

Try and use all bottled water by the date printed on the bottles, replacing as necessary.
55 gallon drums are recommended to be rinsed and refilled anually.
All other home-prepared water storage containers (including the 5 gallon containers) are recommended to be rinsed and refilled every 6 months.

Remember, these are just recommendations.
Truthfully, I haven't rinsed / refilled any of my water storage containers.  Ever.
My in-laws recently tasted the 10+ year old water from their 55 gallon drum, and noticed no difference in taste or quality.

Also, the amount of '1 gallon per person per day' includes water for drinking AND for food preparation.
If you have to boil water to make rice, for instance, boiling = purifying, so save the bottled water just for drinking.
Our other stored water supplies can be used for food preparation, cleaning, washing, etc.


  1. Good to know!! We were really stored up on water... but somehow between the summer and all these sports we are involved in, we have gone through the cases fast... :( Time to stock up!!!