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Water is one of our most vital elements, actually 2nd in the “Rules of 3”. You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. As such, it is so shocking to me that so many people have no emergency water storage!
I’ll admit, I’ve used some pretty primitive water storage practices before. At the time, due to budget and space, that was all that I could do. But even those primitive methods gave me peace of mind that I had at least SOME emergency water storage!
FEMA and The Red Cross recommend that you store at least one gallon of water, per person, per day, and to work up to at least a 2-week’s supply. If you don’t have room to store that much, store as much as you possibly can.
The average person needs to drink about a half gallon of water daily, more if they are hot or are extra active. And you need water for hygiene and cooking. If you store dehydrated food, water is needed to rehydrate it. If you have pets, you’ll need to think about their water needs as well. Pets will need at least a quart a day for drinking. Keep this in mind when you work on your water storage plan.
Emergency water storage considerations
Most Americans don’t drink enough water. In times of emergency and stress, our activity levels are likely to be much higher. When we are sick, we need to drink more water. Take these things into consideration when deciding how much water you should have stored.
Store more water than what you think you will actually need. A water shortage can mean that your family will be dehydrated. Dehydration causes people to not perform at their capabilities. Mistakes will be made. People can get hurt. There will be headaches, fevers, and general melancholy. If you have ever been dehydrated, you know it is a terrible feeling. Dehydration can quickly become an emergency!
Water storage options
There are a few options when it comes to emergency water storage. Depending on your budget and space, you can find one that will suit your needs best.
One of the best options for water storage is in dark-colored (usually blue), BPA-free barrels. It is most beneficial if they can be stored in a cool area, out of direct sunlight. The dark barrels help to prevent algae from growing in your water storage. BPA-free barrels are a safer water storage container, so that chemicals won’t leach into your water.
There is a few options for the basic water barrel. You can go big, with the 55-gallon barrels, or you can go with a 15-gallon, or even smaller. Just depends on your needs, and the storage space available. Also keep in mind, each gallon of water weighs a little over 8 pounds. Either one of these options, while they do allow you to store a lot of water, will NOT be very portable. You will also need a siphon or hand pump to get the water out of these barrels, because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to pour.
Water cubes are more portable, and you can stack them. They are typically made of the same BPA-free, dark plastic to help your water stay good for longer. Aqua-tainer is a very popular brand. Water cubes may be more expensive in the long run, but I think their portability makes up for it. They typically come in 7 gallon containers, so you can grab as many as you can in the event of an evacuation.
Emergency water storage in glass containers is one option, but it may not be the best option. The glass doesn’t allow anything to leach into your water, but they can also break.
One way that people do this, is if you have a lot of empty canning jars, you can store water in them. They don’t take up any less room empty, and if you store water in them, at least you have some backup water storage. Some people also can water if they have extra room in their canner while canning other food. This canning process will make the water in the jars sterile, so they will be excellent to use for cleaning wounds.
If you do go with storing water in glass, make sure that’s not the only water storage you have available. In the event of an earthquake, for example, your glass water storage containers may all break.
Cases of purchased water bottles
Every emergency water storage plan should include cases of purchased water bottles. These are the most portable water storage option out there. But of course, you are limited on container size if you go with individual water bottles. That’s why they should be PART of your plan, not all of it.
Bathtub water bladders
The WaterBOB is a wonderful invention, and something that I believe every home should have! It easily stores 100 gallons of drinkable water, right in your bathtub. So as soon as you know an emergency is coming, that you know you might have to bug-in for a while, just fill up the WaterBOB!
Plastic juice or soda bottles
If you have no room in the budget for expensive water storage containers (been there, done that!!), you still have options. At the VERY LEAST you should store water in plastic juice or soda bottles! Most preppers will tell you that you shouldn’t use these, but they are a viable bare bones option.
Please don’t use milk jugs – it’s impossible to get all the milk proteins out of them, and can cause contamination of your water storage. Use BPA-free bottles when possible, and make sure you wash them out thoroughly before storing water in them. The best way to clean them for water storage is to fill up the bottle most of the way with regular tap water, add a teaspoon of unscented bleach, shake thoroughly, then rinse thoroughly. After that, you are safe to just add fresh water. Please make sure you rotate the water in these at least every 6 months.
If it is allowed in your area, you can also consider a rainwater catchment system. This typically isn’t that elaborate, and doesn’t take a huge investment. But the water storage can really add up! Unfortunately, in some areas, it is illegal to catch and use rainwater. Such a shame!
Water well with hand pump
Don’t forget about another main water source for lots of us who live in the country! If you have a well, that’s an excellent way to store water. Just make sure you have a hand pump or solar pump installed in your well. It will be a little expensive, but so worth it when it can save your life!
How long can you safely store water?
The length of time that water can be safely stored, depends greatly on the storage container and the conditions it was kept in. If it is kept in a cool, dry location, away from chemicals that can leach into the water, water stored in a large water barrel should be good for several years. If stored in clear plastic juice or soda bottles, water is only safe for 6 months to a year. The other options will be somewhere in between.
Most city tap water is treated with chlorine, which helps sanitize and preserve the water. If using tap water, you can store it in any of the aforementioned containers without adding anything, and expect it to last over a year. If you are filling your containers with well water, it is advised to add 2 drops of unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water you intend to store.
How do I know if my water is bad?
Most emergency water storage options are pretty safe to keep water in for long amounts of time, sometimes the water can get contaminated. Your water storage should never smell bad, or have a funny taste. It should be clear, and definitely not cloudy. If the stored water is cloudy, smells fishy, or has a metallic taste, you shouldn’t drink it.
Usually, with stored water, it will just get a “flat”, or “stale” taste. When you are going to use water that has been stored for awhile, it is a good idea (just to refresh the taste) to pour the water back and forth a few times between two pitchers. This adds carbon dioxide back into the water and makes it taste fresh again.
What if I don’t have water storage in an emergency?
If you don’t have water storage at all, or if you have to evacuate without taking your water storage with you, you will have to find a water source quickly. You need water before you will need food. That’s your first priority!
You will need to find a creek, river, or lake to get water from. Moving water is going to be your best, safest option. Lakes and ponds can get contaminated more easily than a trickling creek or raging river. Hopefully you will have some sort of container to gather some water!
A well-stocked bug out bag SHOULD have either a water bottle or canteen in it. An even better addition to your well-stocked bug out bag would be a water bag with built-in filtration. LifeStraw makes a great one, you can check it out here.
If you at least have a basic container to hold water, you can boil it to remove bacteria and impurities. To properly boil water to make it safe for drinking or cooking, you just bring it to a full rolling boil for at least one minute, then allow to cool for drinking. Or, you can use water purification tablets or iodine.
If you don’t have a container, or don’t have room for one, you NEED a water filtration straw. They are compact, lightweight, and you can just drink the water directly out of the stream or lake. I am a huge fan of LifeStraw for their water filtration straws. We have one in each bug out bag. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is an award-winning device that fits in nearly any bag, and can filter up to 1000 liters of water. I definitely recommend it!
If you are bugging out in a remote location, you can also make a distillation still by digging a hole, putting a tarp over it with a rock in the center, and situating a pot or bowl directly underneath the rock. Here is a good video on how to do this.
It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of our own basic needs. Preparing for emergencies is so imperative for your family’s safety. If you need help in knowing where to start preparing for emergencies, you should check out my post here.
Water storage is infinitely important. Before food, before shelter, you need water! Remember, 3 minutes without air, 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water!
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