According to most nutritionists three days is exactly as long as a person can go without water. After that, death is imminent.
While the odds of you ever being stranded in the desert or marooned on an island are not that great, you never know when you could be in a situation where you do not have drinkable water on hand, let alone enough to see you through three days. If you want to truly be prepared for any kind of disaster, especially one that you intend to ride out in your home, then it is absolutely imperative that you have a good water supply.
Understanding Your Containers
One of the most important things to keep in mind when storing your water is practicality. You really need to use the appropriate containers, not only to have the highest volume of water possible but also to store it in a way that is space efficient and practical. You cannot expect to store all of your water in gallon jugs, but you should choose containers that are easy to carry around and easy to distribute the water with. If you are not able to distribute the water with a container, it’s doing you no good.
You want to make sure that your containers are food safe and have been properly sterilized before you make any attempts to drink from them. This is massively important because there is no point in having a good sized stock of emergency water if there is even a small chance that it is unsafe to drink. If you are storing rain water then you must absolutely be sure that the steel containers you use are safe.
The plastic containers that you use to store water in are very important. They must be food safe and the recycling symbol on the outside must be 1, 2, 4, or 5. The best containers for this are the #2 containers; these are high density polyethylene plastic containers or HDPE.
Never re-use milk or juice jugs for water storage, as the proteins from the milk are never washed away completely.
Never store water in plastic containers near fuels of any kind such as kerosene and gasoline, as the fumes can penetrate through the plastic and contaminate your water supply. Better yet, just don’t store fuels near your water supply at all.
Don’t store water in plastic containers for more than 6 months.
Glass is a great container that has three problems: it breaks easily, it’s heavy, and it has to be stored in a place away from light no matter what you store in it. It also has to be sanitized before it can be used, which makes it impossible to store very large quantities of water using it.
We wouldn’t use glass just because the containers aren’t as cheap as plastic, but if you just want to use them instead, make sure you use food grade glass that hasn’t been used to store food or other items before. Don’t use old lead crystal glass, because the lead can leech into the water when stored long term.
One benefit of glass containers, though, is that you can store them close to fuels like gasoline, since they are impermeable.
Stainless Steel Containers
Stainless steel containers are easy to sterilize and don’t contain the possible chemical contaminants that materials like glass or plastic do. It’s lighter weight than glass is, but has a caveat: make sure you’re not storing water that was treated with chlorine, because it corrodes steel over time. This means that storing most city tap water is out of the question, since most cities treat their water with chlorine along with a host of many other chemicals.
You also need to be concerned about what type of stainless steel a container is made of, as there are multiple types. Food grade 304 stainless steel is what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, don’t use it.
Bathtub emergency water storage is for lazy people. And it’s gross.
Sure, you technically CAN store water in your bathtub to drink if there’s an impending emergency and you still have access to some fresh water out of the tap. And you may want to if you really don’t have any other options… but… being honest here, you really want to have water stored up using one of the other above options so you don’t have to resort to doing this.
First of all, consider the last time you cleaned your bathtub out. Stop and think about that a minute.
Now, even if you have cleaned it recently, you probably used some pretty harsh chemical cleaners when you did it. Double yuck-o.
And in a flood situation, water can and likely will back up into your bathtub from outside, leading to contamination.
Now, as stated above, in a pinch, this will work. But, don’t count on the water being on when you need it to do this.
Your... Swimming Pool?
Sure, you can technically use the water in your swimming pool for drinking in an emergency situation. Odds are pretty high that if you treated the water with chlorine that it’s under the safe level for drinking, which is 4 parts per million. Not only that, but the filter and pump tend to keep pool water free of other contaminants.
But, using pool water still has its issues. You may be able to drink it in the beginning of a power outage situation, but if the power’s going to be down for a while, that pool water will foul up pretty fast. You can add chlorine to the pool to help keep this in check, but that only helps so much when the pump and filter aren’t working anymore.
What you can do to remedy this is to, as quickly as possible, get the water out of the pool and into storage containers. Boil or chemically treat the water before drinking it, though, just to be absolutely sure.
If your pool is salt water, you may want to think twice before relying on it as a source of drinkable water during an emergency situation. Drinking water with salt in it just makes you more thirsty and it can damage your kidneys. If you want to use the water from a pool like this, don’t use it for drinking, use it for hygiene purposes such as bathing or flushing the toilet in the house.
Yes, you can drink water out of your toilet’s reservoir tank ONLY. Not the bowl itself. If you have to drink water out of the toilet reservoir, treat it with 1/8 tsp of bleach first and wait about 30 minutes before using for drinking.
How Much Water To Store
How much water to store is just as important as how you store it. How much you need to keep on hand will depend on a few different things:
- how many people you expect to be having with you
- how many pets they have
- how much water is available locally that can be made safe to drink easily
- how often it rains where you live
- the climate of your local area
- how much physical activity you plan on having to do
Don't Store Large Amounts In One Container
Storing large amounts of water in a single container is a bad idea, because once you open the container, you should use the contents of it up in a decent period of time. If you’re planning on having a lot of people around, a 55 gallon drum may be alright to store water in. But, if you’re only planning on having a few people with you, smaller containers of 5 gallon increments should be fine.
If you’re in a situation where you know you will not have access to clean water to drink for an extended period of time, you will have to find another water source that you can filter and boil to make it drinkable. You should have water purification tablets on hand at all times and a few bottles of bleach to disinfect water with just in case you can’t boil it.
Where to Store Your Water
It is common knowledge that water does not really have an expiration date. Having said that, the way you store your water and where you store it can make a big difference in the quality. You want to make sure that your water is stored in a place that is dark, relatively cool, and dry. These are the optimal conditions for water storage.
The reason why you want to store your water in a dry place is because if there is the potential for mold growth you want to avoid it like the plague. It is also important to keep your water in a dark place because UV rays can have a major impact on your containers, the water that is in them, and the chlorine you may have used for purification.
Time Is Of The Essence
This is the thing that few people understand about water storage: you actually do have a time limit on how long you can store it before you have to worry about contaminants. Water does not really “go bad” like food items do so much as it becomes more prone to picking up contaminants such as bacteria. After six months you can expect for bacteria and contaminants to start kicking in and ruining your water.
Does Stored Water Have To Be Boiled?
Nope! Not unless you believe it’s been contaminated. Remember: water doesn’t spoil like food does, it just gets contaminated if you don’t store it properly.
Get a Lifestraw!
It does not matter what kind of emergency you are preparing for. It does not matter how much water you have stocked up. It does not matter how many different methods of water purification you are capable of.
Get. A. Lifestraw.
If you don’t know what a Lifestraw is then all you need to know is that is essentially a water filter in straw form. This may not sound like a big revelation, but this thing is literally a lifesaver. If for whatever reason your water supply becomes compromised you need a way to get drinkable water from any source you can then the Lifestraw is your best bet. This wonderful little tool was developed for third world countries where large volumes of drinkable water are impossible to come by. If you find yourself without drinkable water and have to source it from a creek or river and want to be extra sure that it is safe then you need a Lifestraw.
Get A Water Filter
Getting a countertop water filter is one of the best investments that you can make for long term survival. It’s great to have water stored up, but if you have access to a continuous source of water such as a lake, pond, stream, etc, a countertop filter can be invaluable.
Don’t get a cheapo one, though. Grab a Big Berkey Water Filter or a Katadyn TRK Drip Ceradyn Water Filter. Either of these two will work, but we prefer the Ceradyn water filter overall because it can go through about 39,000 gallons of water before you have to replace the filter elements.