What Is The Best Way To Store Water?

The best way to store water varies by location, space and how much water you need to survive an emergency situation.  There’s no denying you need water to survive.  In fact, we can only survive about three days without water and then our bodies start to shut down. Our bodies are made out of about 60% water! Our vital organs need water to function properly- your heart, lungs and brain all need water to work in unison!

You can die from dehydration- that’s why it’s so important to include water in your stockpile of emergency supplies.  Even though water technically doesn’t have a shelf life- you still have to take precautions to prevent bacteria growth and contamination.  Plus, you probably would like it to taste like water- not plastic or mold.  It happens- that’s why you need to know how to properly store water.

Sure, you can buy a couple pallets of bottled water from Costco- but even that may not last as long as you’d like and the whole plastic bottle debate is still up in the air. Some experts believe plastic bottles over time can leach harmful residue into the water. Bottled water is great for short-term storage- but if you are building a supply to last you a year or longer- you’re going to need bigger, more effective containers.

How Much Water Do I Need?

Water PictureBefore you even begin to store water, you need to consider how much water you need to have on hand in the event a tornado takes out your town or an ice storm takes out power for three weeks- it’s happened before, trust me! A general rule of thumb is you need one gallon per person, per day. This is the bare minimum.  So, if you have a family of five- you will need five gallons a day and so on.  Once you determine how much water you need, you then need to decide how many days/months you’ll be storing water for.

FEMA recommends every family have a three-day supply of food and water on hand in the event of an emergency. However, that may not be enough for most circumstances.  If you want your water supply to match your one-year supply of food you’re going to need a lot of water on hand.  In fact, if my calculations are correct- for a family of five you would need 1,825 gallons of water on hand.  Yep, that’s a lot of water. Now, you can start stockpiling water to ensure you will not be thirsty or dehydrated in the event of an emergency.

What NOT To Do

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no shelf life on water.  However, the risk of contamination is great.  I don’t know what would be worse: being dehydrated or being sick and dehydrated because of contaminated water.  To reduce your risk of drinking bad water, let’s first take a look at what not to do when storing water. Don’t store your water in any old container just lying around the house- this includes juice jars, old pop bottles or that tin that used to hold your favorite chocolate covered peanuts.

While it’s tempting to just fill up what you have around the house- this could create a host of problems when storing water.  If you use old juice jars, even when washed out- sugars can be left behind.  Sugar can promote bacteria growth- which is exactly what you should be avoiding.  Skip the old juice jars or milk jugs and opt for new food-grade plastic containers, stainless steel or new glass jugs.  According to survival experts the best and safest containers to store water in are polyethylene-based plastics.

I’ll get into this a little later. Another thing you should never do- is stock up the water, forget about it and then three years later find yourself in a situation where you need to use it.  You need to rotate water every six month to a year to keep it fresh and free of bacteria! It’s common for stored water to taste funny- this is normal. But, if the taste bothers you swirl it around in a glass of jar to add oxygen- this should help. To prevent the stale taste, treat the water on a consistent basis.

Water Barrels

Water Storage BarrelIf you’re serious about stocking up hundreds of gallons of fresh water- you’re best and safest bet is to invest in water barrels. Water barrels come in a variety of sizes- 15 gallons, 30, 50 and 160 gallons. The size of barrel you go with will be determine by how much space you have.  Barrels are a great option if you have a basement or a large garage.  Barrels are made out of blue or black food grade plastic.  The colors of the barrels are not to make a style statement-rather the pigment in the plastic blocks out sun and heat- keeping your water cool and reducing the risk of bacteria growth.

You can fill the water barrels with tap water using a drinking water hose. It’s recommended you don’t use a garden hose- because of the risk of cross contamination. I know you used to drink out of the hose as a child- I did too. But, for this scenario- let’s leave the garden hose in the backyard and pick up a drinking-specific hose at the local hardware store.

Once the you fill the barrels, you may need to treat the water every couple of months to ensure it stays contamination-free. There are a couple different way to treat water: chlorine, water treatment tablets (which consist of phosphoric acid and chlorine dioxide) or my personal favorite ED Goodloe Aerobic Stabilized Oxygen.  All work well for keeping your water safe for drinking- it really comes down to a personal preference. When using chlorine, the standard is to add 1/8 tsp per one gallon of water.

The treatment tablets are designed to kill odor-causing bacteria and actually improves the taste of water. While these are effective methods, I’m still uneasy about adding additional chemicals to my drinking water.  ED Goodloe Aerobic Stabilized Oxygen is a liquid concentrate of non-toxic electrolytes of oxygen in molecule form. Okay, so what does that really mean? According to the company, this concentrated formula singles out bad bacteria, kills it and keeps the good bacteria- for clean water!

The product was developed as a way to prevent rotation of water.  While you should still be checking and treating water every six months to a year, stabilized oxygen prevents the need for refilling and dumping out water every year. In fact, a single bottle of stabilized oxygen will treat two 55 gallons of water for five years.  In addition to keeping your water free from harmful bacteria, this specific product is also believed to boost your immune system! When there’s a crisis, you need all the immune boosters you can get!

If you’re storing your water for long periods of time, make it a point to store your water in a cool, dark space- like a basement or cellar.  Do not store barrels directly on concrete floors! Huh? Let me explain. It’s believed if barrels are stored on the concrete, the plastic can absorb odors and liquids spilled on the floor and chemicals in the actually concrete may affect the water.  To prevent this possible absorption and contamination of water, store the barrels on wood pallets or a piece of plywood. Also, if you are short on space, don’t stack barrels.  They are not designed to be stacked on top of each other and you may find a flood in your basement if you do.  Who wants to spend their entire weekend cleaning up three inches of waters in a basement? Not me!

Water Bricks

Water Storage Containers

If you’re short on space and want to store a lot of water, a water brick system may be an excellent choice for you. Water bricks are like Legos-they stack and fit together in a nice compact unit.  With some units, you can stack four feet high.  Typically, water bricks can hold about 3.5 gallons of water or 27 pounds of dry food. They can be used for both water and food- just don’t mix the two together until it’s time to make a nice homemade meal or you need water.  The water bricks are also easy to transport- in the event you need to grab your good and get out of your home in a hurry.

It’s a lot easier to move 3.5 gallons of water, than a 55-gallon barrel.  Because the water bricks are so versatile, you can easily store water in a small closet, under your bed in a corner of your garage.  Like the barrels, you still need to take great care in preventing bacteria growth. Check your supply every few months to ensure its still safe for drinking. How do you know its not safe? Great question. Well, you may be able to visually see algae growing around the edges of the water container. Toss it.

You typically can’t see the other bacteria and viruses that can make you sick- unless you have expert, scientific vision.  IF you’re really concerned about the water, toss it or purchase a water quality testing kit. These kits detect bacteria and will indicate whether or not it’s safe to drink!



The waterBOB is a revolutionary product designed for short term storage of water.  Let’s say there’s an incoming storm and you’re slightly unprepared and you fill up your bathtub- just in case.  Wait, your bathtub is not as clean as you think it may be. Plus, do you really want to be drinking out of a tub where you wash your feet and hair? Umm, probably not.  This is where the waterBOB comes in. It’s a food grade plastic liner that fits in your bathtub and you can fill it up with water right from the faucet.

It takes just 20 minutes to fill up. Once it’s filled up, you will have 100 gallons of fresh and safe drinking water available. Again, this is a great short-term water storage solution- it’s designed to keep water clean for up to 16 weeks.  Beyond 16 weeks, you’ll need to utilize bottled water, your water bricks or water barrels.  This is a one-time use product too- so once you fill it up- that’s it.  This system should not replace your long-term supply, but it’s a great addition to your overall emergency supply kit.

Rain Barrels

Great American Rain Barrel Earth Brown

Storing water in rain barrels is a great way to have extra water on hand for bathing.  You should not drink water from a rain barrel unless you have used a water purification system or tested it for bacteria growth.  Rain barrels require an upfront investment, but then you just need to let Mother Nature do the rest.  Every time it rain, the barrels fill up a little more- with little to no work required on your end.

Rain barrels alleviate the pressure to use all your clean precious drinking water for bathing too.  Let’s face it you are going to need to bath in an emergency situation too! Make sure the rain barrels also have well secured lids- to keep rodents and other curious creatures from taking a drink and falling in.  Yikes.  You don’t want to discover a dead mouse in your rain barrel AFTER you’ve washed your face with the water.  It happens!

Water Purification

Water FilterIf you run out of your water supply or the source of H2O is questionable, there are few steps to take to make sure its safe for drinking, brushing teeth and making meals.  Boiling water is an easy way to purify water.  Simply fill a pan with water, bring it to rolling boil for few minutes- let it cool down and it’s safe to use.  Water purification tablets, also known as chlorine tablets will clean just about any source of water- from ponds, lakes, rain water- and make it safe to consume.

The tablets basically kill the bad bacteria and anything else floating around that could make you really sick.  Filtering water is another great way to keep bacteria at bay. However, it’s not the same as purifying water and will not catch all the potentially harmful viruses floating around.  To be on the safe side, use a filter with small pours and then purify it to kill bacteria and viruses. If you’re on the move and need safe drinking water, the LifeStraw is another handy tool to have in your emergency kit.

The straw filters lead, heavy metals, bacteria, parasites and in some models- even viruses. The straws are easy to use and often attach right to a water bottle.  The LifeStraw doesn’t require batteries either- it’s lightweight and easy to use. It was first developed to reduce the Guinea worm in developing countries and is now used around the world for hiking, backpacking, camping and for emergency situations.

Related Articles: “Should I Store Basic Ingredients or Premade Meals?” and “Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer Review


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 have become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness. Read More

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