Why You Should be Storing Water [plus a cheat sheet]

The three most important items for survival are shelter, food and water - with water being the most important. Here's why you should be storing water in case of emergency, and how to store water properly.

A pallet of bottled water in a store.


How to store water at home for emergencies

Water is life, so it's one of the most important things on our homestead. Besides the two humans that live here, the animals, birds, garden and even the bees need water to exist. We go through a lot of water here at Oak Hill.

In my early years I took water for granted. I turned the tap and out it flowed. Hot water or cold water, whichever I wanted. There was a never-ending supply of it.

Now that I'm an adult who pays a water bill, I try to conserve water as best I can, both to save money and because Oklahoma summers are usually very hot and very dry. 

We've been through a drought or two in the past. Worrying about having enough water for the livestock, the garden and the humans is hard.

Why you should store water

You might wonder why it's important to store water.

There are several emergency scenarios that would make you thankful you had a supply of clean drinking water stored away. For instance:

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, ice storms or blizzards can disrupt the supply of water to your home. These natural disasters can cause ruptured pipes, and the lack of electricity to run well pumps and city water facilities are just a few situations.

Your town's water source could become contaminated or polluted, or the city water treatment facility could be compromised by flooding, a power outage, or even a hacking situation.

A power outage will mean your well pump won't work.

Towns occasionally have to advise residents to boil water before consuming it. Recently a town near us sustained a lot of tornado damage, and its citizens were under a boil water order for a week.

Then there are personal and neighborhood situations that can result in a lack of water to your home, such as a broken water main, a frozen pipe in your home, or a local emergency.

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How much water you should store

The CDC recommends storing at least one gallon of water for each person per day, for at least three days. They say this should include enough water for drinking and for sanitation uses. [Source}

I think that this isn't nearly enough. 

At the minimum I'd like to have enough stored water for two weeks, but I'd prefer more than that.

If your household includes a pregnant woman, someone who is ill, or if you live in a hot climate, the CDC recommends saving more that the minimum of one gallon per person.

I've written up a simple cheat sheet that you can download and print that will help you figure out how much water you need to store for your household for a three-day emergency supply. You can download the FREE cheat sheet here

If you, like me, want to store more than a three-day supply, multiply your "3-day number" to find out how much you'd need. 

For instance, if you want a one-month supply, multiply your "3-day number" by 10. This will give you a 30-day amount to store.

You might need to store more water than the CDC recommends

Do any of these apply to you? You might need to store even more water.

  • Your pets will need water too. 
  • If you have a garden, your plants will need water. 
  • If you have livestock, you'll need enough water for them as well.
  • If you live in a hot climate like we do, we would need more water.
  • If you work outside in the summer, you'll need to drink more water.
  • Water is also necessary for cooking. 
  • Freeze-dried food requires hot water to rehydrate and prepare. **
  • Cleaning and bathing require water.
  • If you have a well and the electricity is out, you'll need extra water to flush toilets. 

** If you need to boil water to prepare freeze-dried food or even coffee, check out the Sun Kettle water heater that heats water with the power of the sun. It works great - we have two of them!

How to store water for emergency use 

The big question is what to store water in, right? Water comes out of your faucet, it's available in cases 20 oz plastic bottles, and in one-gallon jugs that resemble milk cartons, as well as in those translucent blue 5-gallon bottles from the local bottling company.

Keep reading to find out the best options for storing water. Often, it's a combination of several options.

Storing bottled water

You can, of course, purchase cases of bottled water. This is good for short-term storage of drinking water.

We rotate through these cases of water regularly. The newest package goes on the bottom of the stack, and we drink the bottles that are in the top package. "First in, first out" is the rule of thumb when storing any kind of food or beverage.

Storing large amounts of water

You'll find water storage containers for sale in military surplus stores, the camping department at your local big box store, outdoor stores such as Cabela's, and of course at Amazon. 

For storing large amounts of water, check out these products:

Remember that you will need to get water OUT of these containers, so purchase a hand pump that will fit your containers, if needed.

Whatever containers you use to store water at home, make sure they are made of food-safe materials. Plastic containers should be marked, probably on the bottom, with a symbol and the number 1, 2, 4 or 5.

Lower-cost water containers [maybe even free]

For smaller containers - and water storage at a more affordable cost - you can use these containers to store water at home:

  • 2-liter soda bottles
  • plastic juice bottles
  • canning jars (Mason, Ball, Kerr, etc)

You know these containers are food-safe, since they originally contained food. 

Clean these containers well with dish detergent and water, and rinse well. The CDC recommends cleaning the containers with a bleach/water solution.

Beware of stacking canning jars or other glass containers. An earthquake or just an accidental stumble could send them toppling to the floor. I suggest using low shelves for storing glass containers, no matter what they contain.

Storing glass containers inside cardboard boxes will also help to prevent broken glass.

About those one-gallon and five-gallon jugs of water

Milk jugs aren't made for long-term storage. Sure, you could rinse out milk jugs, or buy water from the store in these containers, but they will split and leak before long.

Likewise those blue 5-gallon water jugs that fit on top of the office water cooler. When I was working away from the homestead, those jugs sometimes sprang a leak and covered our office floor with water.

Where to store water

Store your emergency water in a dry place with a stable temperature. 50-70°F is ideal. A basement is a good location, as long as it is dry. 

Keep your containers out of direct sunlight to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria. Many water containers are opaque blue to help prevent light from penetrating.

Do not store water containers directly on top of a concrete floor. Instead, store them on a shelf, or on a layer of 2"x4" boards to elevate them. A layer of cardboard is not a sufficient barrier.

Do not store water containers near gasoline, pesticide, or other toxic substances are stored.

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How often should you rotate your water storage?

Properly stored, water doesn't really go bad. The biggest concern is contamination, so store your water carefully and properly.

Water does go stale though. For better tasting water, you can pour the water back and forth several times, such as from a drinking glass to another drinking glass. This will incorporate air, which will make the water taste more "normal."

So why am I telling you to rotate your water? According to Emergency Essentials, it's for your own peace of mind. So, there you go.

Rotating your water will help prevent that flat, stale taste though.

The general rule is to rotate the water you are storing in your own containers every six months. Bottled water should be used by the "use by" date on the packaging.

We mark the date on our stored water containers, so we know when to empty and refill them. 

That water isn't wasted though! It's used to fill the chickens' waterers, or the horses' water trough, or to water the garden.

Water is life! Here are some tips and tricks for storing and saving water. #selfreliantchallenge

By the way, it's a good idea to check your water storage area regularly. Look for water on the floor and replace any leaking containers.

Don't forget water for your pets and livestock

Remember that your pets and livestock will need water too.

Our horses have access to our farm pond, but I have to provide water for the chickens, goats, dogs and cats, so I have extra stored for them.

We have a large water tote that I use to water the garden. The Chief rigged up a way to save rainwater in it, and I can top it off with the hose when rain is scarce. 

You can read more about the Chief's system of catching rainwater as well as how to make watering your garden easier here.

One year we suffered a drought so severe that our farm pond nearly dried up. When the weather finally broke and we had rain again, the water in the pond was only six feet in diameter and less than a foot deep. We were seriously scouting out the local streams and ponds in case we needed to haul water for our livestock.

Water filters

We use our Big Berkey water filter daily to give us clean drinking water, free of the contaminants that are often in municipal drinking water and well water. 

This approach is ideal for storing some extra drinking water at home or at work. The Berkey filter eliminates germs, viruses, and protozoa like giardia, amoebas, and cryptosporidium. 

Even chlorine is removed by the Berkey water filter, which also breaks down heavy metal ions into harmless molecules and removes organic impurities like pesticides and herbicides, and eliminates VOC's and other pollutants.

We keep the Berkey full constantly, which is another way of "storing drinking water."

Don't forget to download your free cheat sheet here
to figure out how much water YOU need to store.

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Related posts:
Make an Emergency Grab and Go Binder
Raising Chickens for the Freezer: Meat Birds vs Heritage Breeds
Homemade Yogurt the Easy Way

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A pallet of bottled water in a store. TEXT: How to store water for an emergency.


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