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7 Myths About Water Storage – Get The Facts!

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People who store food, water and fuel are at all levels of knowledge and experience.

There are some myths about water storage that have crept into the mix, often taken as “facts”, that I wish to correct and set straight here for you.

The 7 Myths About Water Storage Are:

  1. Water Goes Bad Or Spoils
  2. I Can Store Water In Any Plastic Container
  3. Storing Enough Water Makes Me Prepared
  4. Water Purifiers Replace The Need For Water Filters
  5. I Don’t Need To Store Water. I Have Access To A River Or Well
  6. Water Needs To Be Treated Before Storage
  7. I Can Stack Water Barrels On Top Of Each Other

As you are reading my above list many of you are probably saying to yourselves “Hey that is not a myth, that is true!” That is what I used to think as well, so I know how you feel.

But let me explain because knowing these things will be very helpful in a real emergency. Below I will go through each of these 7 myths in detail so you have the facts:

Myth #1 – Water Goes Bad Or Spoils

Dirty Water Barrels

This simply is not true. Water is H2O. It is recycling itself on our planet all of the time. The freshest, cleanest and most pure water you have ever drank has been in and sweat out or urinated out of many other organisms over the millennia of the past. Most of our water is just recycled water from the past.

Water can get contaminated either biologically or chemically. Mold or fungus can grow in it. Chemicals and toxic minerals can leach into it. But once you thoroughly separate these contaminants from our water either by evaporation or filtration, we have pure, clean, fresh water again.

So to be properly prepared you will want to have both water purification methods (such as pills or chemicals to purify the water), and a water filtration system to filter out harmful chemicals, minerals and debris that may have contaminated your water.

Myth #2 – I Can Store Water In Any Plastic Container

2 Litre Water Bottle

Water should be stored in a food-grade plastic container, in metallized or UV-resistant bags. Normally, water barrels for storage are the color blue. Blue limits exposure to light slowing down biological growth such as bacteria and algae.

This also signifies that what is stored in the barrel or other container is “safe for human consumption. Some plastics leach harmful chemicals such as synthetic hormone (estrogen) type chemicals.

By far the safest containers for holding water are polyethylene-based plastics. These are made from what is called plastics #1, #2, and #4. The better water barrels are made out of #2. You should always use barrels that have not been used to store other items, even if it was a food item. New and unused will store water better. #2 plastic is BPA-free and is good for long-term storage.

So the smart way to do it is to be careful and pick containers made out of the best plastic type numbers. You can discern the plastic type number by looking for this symbol on the bottom of containers:

Plastic #2 Symbol

Here are some more helpful ideas for storing water:

  • Try not to utilize milk containers for storing water. Since milk containers are biodegradable, they will dissolve with time. Likewise, any live organisms in the milk that stay in your container could make you sick when you drink or cook with the water later.
  • Expendable water jugs are not good for storing long term. Instead use re-useable Nalgene bottles.
  • Soft drink Bottles and Powerade/Gatorade containers can be utilized for storing water long term. In any case plastics retain flavors, so your drinking water may have a cola taste. So could meals you cook using the water!

Myth #3 – Storing Enough Water Makes Me Prepared!

Water Storage Containers

Well, it makes you more prepared! “Storing enough water” means storing one gallon per day per person for whatever possible time period scenario you are trying to prepare for.

If you have done that, you have definitely done a very good thing. But doing so does not make you prepared to have the drinkable water you may need for every possible emergency situation. Let me explain what I am getting at here.

In some emergency situations you may have to evacuate and leave your water storage for extended or permanent periods of time. If you cannot carry your water with you, what will you do then?

You will need smaller more portable water carrying containers as well as small portable water filtration systems (See my article “Best Emergency Water Filter Straws – My Top Picks!”); or at the very least, water purification pills.

YouTube video

Also, what if despite your very best efforts your water in some (or all) of your large barrels go bad. What will you do then.

You will need a way to purify and filter your water before you use it. If you want to truly be “prepared for emergencies”, you want to identify and prepare for all of the possible scenarios if you can.

Myth #4 – Water Purifiers Replace The Need For Water Filters

Water purifying pills or chemicals such as Chlorine Dioxide will kill 99.99% of microorganisms (things like protozoa, bacteria, and viruses) that get in your water. However their dead bodies stay in your water.

Plus then you have the Chlorine dioxide in your water as well. These things will not kill you to drink them but wouldn’t it be better to not drink them if you don’t have to? I think so.

You definitely need to have water purifiers as part of your preparation. They are light, easy to carry, and you may run into situations where purifying the water is more practical and makes sense.

But in the fast majority of situations it is much better if you can filter your water using something like a HydroBlue system like I show in the image on the upper left. It filters out 99.99% of all microorganisms and will even remove harmful chemicals like chlorine and fluoride.

Below is a video of me testing out another one of HydroBlu’s water filters. It is my favorite filtering water bottle. You can get the bottle here on Amazon: HydroBlu Clear Flow Filtering Water Bottle. And also see the video below:

YouTube video

There are a lot of different really good brands of water bottle water filters like I show in the above video. The important thing is to make sure that they filter down to a small enough size that they will get 99% of all the harmful microorganisms as well as all of the harmful chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine.

Myth #5 – I Don’t Need To Store Water Because I have Access To A River Or Well

I was one who used to feel this exact same way. And in some types of emergencies those will be good sources of water. But in some they would not help you at all. Let me explain what I am talking about.

Well Water

If your emergency involves a major earthquake for example the shifting ground may change the flow of your well, or may contaminate it. The contamination could come from minerals, dirt and other solids. Bacteria could also get in through damage to the well’s casing or grouting.

A well could also be contaminated by chemical fertilizers, human waste as well as animal waste. Flooding can also cause bacteria to leach into your well. And finally natural & man made disasters can cause electric pumps not to function making it so you cannot get the water out of the ground.

Ponds And Rivers

Lake Water

Ponds and rivers can also get contaminated by chemical fertilizers, human waste (from septic tanks) as well as animal waste. But the big threat is if the emergency includes a nuclear element.

If you have nuclear fallout in your area’s river, lake or pond, water will not be safe for at least two weeks after the fallout has stopped falling.

Sure you can filter the radioactive material out of the water but then your filter is radio active. Why expose yourself to dangerous radioactivity when you don’t have to. If you have water stored where it won’t be turned radioactive by fallout, at least enough to last two to four weeks, you will be much safer.

Myth #6 – Water Needs To Be Treated Before Storage

There is a common belief that water that is being stored needs to be treated first. In many cases, (some could argue in all), this simply is not true. In most situations people storing water will be getting it from a city water supply. Cities treat their water already. They add chemicals in the water to kill harmful bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.

Some cities I have been in have their water so chlorinated it smells like swimming pool water. In this case the water has so much chlorine already, I certainly would not want to add any more. Hopefully you are not drinking that water but are running it through a good water filter first. You will want to filter the water before you drink it in an emergency too.

Even if you live in the country and get your water from spring water or a well, what is the worst thing that could happen to your water? It will get some algae growing in it. If you store your water in a dark room or cellar, this will limit or prevent algae growth.

Regardless of weather you treat your water or not I highly recommend that you filter your water during an emergency before drinking it. I don’t recommend drinking fresh water from most sources without filtering it, so why would you want to drink stored water without filtering it?

Why I Treat My Water Before I Store It
E.D. Goodloe's Aerobic Stabilized Oxygen

Having said all I said above, which is very true, I still always treat my water as I am storing it; here is why. I just like to make sure that I have all of the microorganisms dead from the get go. I know it is just over kill, but that is the way I personally like to roll.

But then I am a bit of a germaphobe and wash my hands more than I probably need to as well. My logic is I just don’t want any algae growing in the water because it would make the inside of my barrels a mess.

Now that being said I would not do that if I knew my water was highly chlorinated, that would be pointless. But if I question that at all I treat the water. But I really don’t have to.

I treat the water knowing that I am going to be filtering it with really amazing water filters during any emergency before I drink it anyway. So logically I know I am only causing myself extra work. But for me I don’t mind and do it anyway.

If I am storing filtered, well, or river water, (or any water that does not smell of chlorine), I treat it. Its overkill, and I do it. However honestly as long as you have a really good quality water filter system (that will get all of the microorganisms and harmful chemicals out) stored with your emergency water supply, you will be totally fine if you choose not to.

In case you want to know what I treat my water with, I use the brand of stabilized oxygen shown in the above left picture. Here is a link to a competitor brand available on Amazon: Water Purification ASO Stabilized Liquid Oxygen

Myth #7 – I Can Stack Water Barrels On Top Of Each Other

Water Storage Containers

The simple answer here is some you can and some you can’t. In the picture on the right it shows an example of how some water containers are designed to be stacked on top of each other.

Your standard 55 gallon water barrel is not designed to be stacked on top of each others. If you do you could end up finding yourself with a big wet mess on your hands because they very likely may break.

Our recommendation is to only stack full water containers on top of each other if they are designed to be able to handle it. And read the specifications very carefully of those that are designed this way to make sure you do not stack them any higher than they are designed to be able to handle the weight.

Final Thoughts

If you have been looking into emergency preparedness for very long you know that in most situations the best long term water storage options are your most important preparedness item to have on your list. You can live months without food, but you can only live days without safe drinking water. Water is second only to oxygen on the items of things you must have to stay alive.

So with that being said it is important to make sure you know the facts so that you can make educated decisions. It is also important that you consider and plan for all possible emergency situations, with a primary focus on those that are most likely to happen in the area in which you live.

I sincerely hope that this article was a benefit to you. Hopefully you will not ever be faced with a serious emergency situation. But if you do I hope that this article at least gets you thinking, and helps you to properly prepare. Thank you for taking the time and energy to read this article.

Photo of author


Hi! I’m David. For most of my life I have been interested in emergency preparedness. Over the many years things have changed a great deal. From freeze dried food, to LED lanterns, preparing for an emergency has never been easier. The continual research I have done over the years has become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness.