Survival Water Storage

As you may already be aware, water is the single most crucial element to sustaining life. While the human body can go for days (or even weeks) without food, lack of clean drinking water will cause a person to die within just a few days.

This simple fact is why survival water storage should be the single most important part of any disaster preparedness or survival plan.

Without water, there is no life.

How to Create Your Survival Water Storage Plan:

  • How Much Water Will I Need? – While water needs can vary somewhat, a good rule of thumb is to plan on one gallon of water per day for every person (and every pet) you are planning for. Children will often need more as will mothers who are nursing their infants. This volume really does not take into account everything you might want water for: drinking water, cooking, and cleanliness. However, it will take care of your basic drinking needs.

    One thing to be careful about is if you live in a warm-weather climate. This can alter the amount of water you consume. Remember that you don't drink as much when it is cool outside as you do when it is blistering hot outside.

  • water storage containers

    Which Containers to Use? – The important thing when it comes to selecting the right containers for is that you choose either glass or food-grade plastic containers, meaning the FDA approves them for use with food. Polyethylene plastic is approved for food contact, for example. These can be obtained from surplus stores or camping suppliers.

    Non-food grade plastic can leech undesirable chemicals into your water making it unfit for long-term water storage. Some trash cans are not good for water storage use and vinyl waterbeds are also a good choice for water storage.

    On the other hand, soft drink bottles are perfect for this. FEMA even suggests 2 liter soda bottles for survival water storage. We use Arizona tea containers because they are sturdy plastic. Simply clean them with warm soapy water and sanitize the containers with clorine bleach prior to using them for water storage. To sanitize your containers, add about 1 tsp of bleach per quart of water and fill the container. Drain and air dry.
  • Do I Need to Treat the Water for Survival Water Storage? – This again can vary depending on where you are. In most cases if you fill your containers with regular tap water, it will already be clean and bacteria-free.

    The Award Winning LifeStraw Personal Water Filter If you have well water or you aren't sure your public water is treated – or you just want to be certain – you may want to consider treating or futher filtering your water. To do this, add 6 to 8 drops of unscented liquid bleach to a gallon of water and let it sit for 30 minutes. I just filter mine with a Brita filter. You can also boil the water and let it reach a rolling boil for at least one minute and then all the bacteria, viruses and parasites will be killed, too.

    You can also treat water with water purification tablets, but this really should be something saved for emergencies. These are inexpensive and can be purchased on-line and at many camping supply stores.


  • Where Will I Store my Water? – One concern that is often completely overlooked in emergency water storage plans is the location of your water storage. You need to make sure it is stored in a cool, dry place, located far away from any chemicals or strong odors that might pollute it. Keep it up off the ground as well (perhaps on a pallet or rack). You do not want to place your stored water on cement because it is possible for the water to leach chemicals, such as lye directly from the pavement. Water should never be stored in direct sunlight either.

  • How Often Do I Rotate My Survival Water Storage? – The last major concern of a well-developed disaster water storage plan is how frequently you will plan on changing out your water. Ideally, this should be done every six months, but it is possible to compensate for this by treating water stored longer a second time and aerating it properly. If you are using bottled water, you can store your water for longer periods of time. Label all containers with the date you put them in storage so you know when to rotate them out. In our family, we actually rotate ours out about every 3 months. Each bottle is labelled with a number and we just cycle through each one, using the water for coffee or tea.

Note: Be sure to fill your containers to the top and leave no air pockets.

Always start with the basic concerns and problems you will have to face (water main breaks, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other disasters) when creating any plan. While this list is hardly exhaustive, it provides a solid foundation from which you can further develop your plan to handle your water storage needs.

If all of this sounds too complicated, you can always purchase bottled drinking or distilled water for your storage needs. Just remember that it, too, needs to be rotated out – and– that if you drink it, it needs to be replaced. I like to keep my emergency storage water in completely different containers for this very reason.

What to do About Survival Water Storage After a Disaster

Emergency Water Sources Inside Your Home:

  • Water heaters
  • Ice cubes once they are melted
  • Toilet tank
  • Water pipes

To use the water inside a water heater, first make sure there is no electricity or gas hooked up to the unit then let the water inside cool down. There is a drain valve at the bottom and you will need to open this to let the water out. The first few gallons will likely contain some sediment and maybe even rust. Throw that out. After that, you can use drain the remaining water into clean, sterilized containers. Add add 6 to 8 drops of unscented liquid bleach to a gallon of water and let stand for 30 minutes prior to using. If the water looks cloudy, repeat the treatment process.

Assume that all water sources have some amount of bacterial contamination which needs to be treated prior to drinking.

Consider purchasing a portable water purifier that can filter out harmful bacteria and viruses. You can read my personal review of the LifeStraw Water Filter and find out how it is the perfect solution for filtering water on the go.

Emergency Water Sources Outside Your Home:

  • Rain water
  • Ponds and rivers
  • Wells and springs

As with any water that needs treatment, some water sources may have chemical contamination that makes them unacceptable for drinking. According to the utah.gov website, "Sterilization or disinfection can reduce the microbiological hazard of water of unknown quality, but there is no safe method for reducing the chemical hazard (e.g., toxic chemicals and radioactive materials) of water of unknown quality." Use the process above for treatment of clear to mostly clear water. If water is slightly cloudy, two treatments may be necessary. If you believe the water source is not trustworthy, do not use it.

Using Stored Water

When you are ready to use your stored water, the flavor might not be as crisp and wonderful as you would like. To improve the taste of your stored water supply you need to aerate it, so pour it back and forth between two clean containers several times. Only open one container at a time and close the lid tightly after opening it. Be careful not to contaminate the water by putting anything into the container such as spoons, straws or anything else. Do not drink directly from the container. Use each container of water within 24-48 hours.