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How Do You Store Large Amounts of Water?

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Water Storage

Stored water is one of the most important things you can have on hand in an emergency. Having enough water for drinking, cleaning, and cooking can be a lot to store. Fortunately, there are many options that make it possible, affordable, and even easy to store large amounts of water.

Large amounts of water can be stored in large barrels or jugs, anywhere from 50 gallons to over 5000 gallons. These jugs can be filled up at home and then stored in a cool, dry place. Having a variety of storage containers and options will help maximize your space and keep you ready for all types of emergency situations. 

Regardless of the size of your container, if the water is not clean going in, it will not be clean coming out. So, make sure your containers are clean and sanitized and your water is treated correctly before you add water. Look over this post for more information on making sure your water stays clean and fresh and lasts as long as possible.

Large Amounts Of Water 

If you are just starting out, large amounts could be 50- 100 gallons of water. This is a great place to start and there are a lot of options for storage depending on your budget and your space. 

For those that have a basic water supply, but are looking to store 1000+ gallons of water there are also a couple of options out there. These will obviously require more space and are a bigger investment, but will actually be more economical overall. 

This article will look at the best options for storing large amounts of water at whatever level you may be. 

50 – 55 Gallons of Water

Water Barrels

One of the most common ways to store large amounts of water is to do so in 50 to 55-gallon containers or barrels. These are usually available at any home improvement store and can cost between $50 – $200 each. Depending on the type you buy, you could stack them to save space or just store them all close together. 

Starting out using these 50-gallon drums is helpful as you can build larger water storage over time and they can adapt to any change in space that you have. 

These are a great option as they can store large amounts of water while keeping it organized and easily accessible. Having multiple 50-gallon jugs can help you use and rotate through your stored water without having to access everything.

Dividing up your water can also help you protect and preserve the majority of your stored water in case you have to use part of it. You will have to purchase and fill multiple containers, but they shouldn’t take too long. 


  • 50-gallon drums can be used one at a time without compromising any other water storage. 
  • They are very easy to move before they are filled and can usually be moved once they are filled as well
  • Easy to purchase at a store and get home in an average-sized car
  • Affordable to buy one or many
  • Can be stored in a lot of different places
  • Can build water storage overtime, buying one jug at a time
  • Allows for mobility, you can take a lot of water with you in the event you need to leave your home 


  • You usually have to buy more than one, takes continual effort to build a larger supply
  • Can take up more space since you have multiple containers
  • Cannot usually bury or store outside in the sun

100-1000 Gallons of Water  

500 Water Storage Tank

If you are needing to store more than 50 gallons at a time there are many options for barrels between 100 and 1000 gallons. These are usually all made of plastic and are for above-ground storage. 

The most common size within this category is a 500-gallon drum. They cost anywhere from $800- $1100 and can be purchased at home improvement stores. They are usually around 6 feet tall and about 4 feet wide, so depending on your vehicle you could get it home yourself. 

500-gallon drums store water more efficiently as there is no wasted space between containers. It will still take up a good amount of room, so make sure to plan accordingly when looking into this size drum. 


  • Store large amounts of water efficiently with no wasted space
  • All your water is in one place
  • One purchase, delivery, and filling with water


  • Cannot be moved manually once they are filled with water
  • Cannot fit on shelves or small spaces, they need their own space for storage 
  • Entire water storage could be compromised if water is not taken out properly when used
  • More expensive upfront 

1000+ Gallons of Water

1000 Gallons 

1000 gallon tanks are available from many different supply and home improvement stores. These tanks are usually kept outside, so keep that in mind before purchasing. These are obviously going to be more expensive than the smaller containers, ranging from $500 – $1,500 depending on the size, shape, and material.

5000 Gallons 

5000 Gallon Water Storage Tank

5000 gallons is the most common size of a water tank above 1000. They look like this one above from Depending on your water usage and the size of your household, this water tank could provide you with fresh water for many months. They are quite big, roughly 13 feet by 9 feet, cost upwards of $2,000, and need to be stored outside. Despite this, these large tanks really have the potential to give you enough water in any type of emergency. 

Due to the size of both of these tanks, you will more than likely need to factor in shipping costs which can range from $300 – $500. They can be quite an investment upfront but are a one-time purchase that should last you a lifetime. 


  • Enough water to last through any type of emergency
  • One time purchase, delivery, and fill up
  • Efficiently stores the most amount of water with the least amount of wasted space 


  • Take up a lot of space
  • Cannot be placed inside your house
  • Big financial investment

Other Considerations

Underground Water Storage

There are many different sizes of water storage tanks that can be buried underground, such as this 5,025 gallon tank from Not all tanks are designed to hold up underground, so make sure yours is made to withstand more pressure before burying it. These tanks will come with an above-ground spout so you can access the water without having to dig up your tank. 

Take care to know what is under the ground before you dig space for a very large water tank. Check with local regulations to make sure you are following any protocols or laws your area has in place. 

Underground tanks could be really helpful as it could save you space and not be such an eyesore to your property. And if there ever comes a severe water shortage, your water could be kept safer underground as not too many other people will be able to see it. 

Rainwater Collection Tanks

Rain Barrel

Another specialty type of tank is one made for collecting rainwater. It is as easy as setting up your collection tanks and waiting for rain. But keep in mind that this is not going to help you with drinkable water storage. You can use it for cleaning, gardens, and livestock though, so if you live in an area with a lot of rain, consider a rainwater tank. 

One more thing to keep in mind, there are limits as to how much rainwater you can collect depending on where you live. So make sure to check in with your local regulations before purchasing or setting anything up. 

Mixed Types of Storage

There are so many different ways to store water at every level that it can be overwhelming to settle in and commit to one plan. The great thing about storing water though is that a mix of options will more than likely serve you better overall than just sticking to one type of container.

Mixing and matching different sizes and types of storage will give you great coverage in case of an emergency.

For example, have a few 50-gallon jugs on hand in case you have to use some of your water storage for a few days. Then you can refill them, or if the emergency continues you can keep moving up to your bigger storage containers. This helps use the small containers while leaving the largest in case of prolonged emergencies.

Having a mix of containers will also allow you to be more mobile or flexible should the need arise. 

FAQ – Large Amounts of Water Storage

How Much Water Should I Store? 

Your first step in deciding how you will store water is to decide about how much water you are hoping to store. The general recommendation from the CDC is to store one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days. This is a good start but will not get you far as it only takes into account water for drinking and sanitation. You would be without cooking water and water for larger cleaning needs like laundry or taking a shower or bath. 

So how much water should you realistically have on hand? Probably between 3 -5 gallons of water per person, per day. Depending on how big your household is, this could add up fast. 

Include in your total gallons water for every member of your household, any animals, and any other water needs such as oxygen tanks. 

Are there options for water storage that is less than 50 gallons? 

There are many different water storage options containers that hold less than 50 gallons. If you are considering these for storing large amounts of water, take into consideration your space and your anticipated use of your emergency water. 

Some water storage in small containers could be helpful for daily use or to take with you in an emergency. But I wouldn’t recommend having 100 separate 1-gallon jugs in your storage area as your main water storage. This is going to take up a lot more space than necessary and you will probably end up using it for other things rather than keeping it safe for an emergency. 

Will My Water Go Bad? 

You can read the post here for more information about how long water can be stored in these containers without going bad. 

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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.