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                                     Water Storage for Survival & Natural Disasters 

Water storage can start out as simple as refilling your empty juice bottles and water containers. We suggest you get used to finding the space in your home to store water because for a lot of families this is the biggest obstacle to start storing water. After you are used to saving your water for 72 hours then move to the 2 week goal and so forth. 

Fema recommends a minimum of 2 weeks of emergency water storage at 1 gallon per day per person. This recommendation is only for clean drinking water, it does not include cleaning, cooking, or hygiene. In an emergency situation the last thing we would think about is cleaning, but it is necessary for sanitation. We are not excited about eating off of dirty dishes!  Hygiene is one area we are working on solutions for our family. 

Add on one gallon of water per person for cooking and hygiene.

According to USGS the average person uses between 80 -100 gallons of water per day.

Let that register for a minute...this includes personal hygiene, cleaning, drinking, appliances that use water, and flushing the toilet.

We take water for granted. We don't realize in our day to day living how much water we actually use and how vital it is in our lives. 

​One of our little ones was asking us the other day how long can a person live without water. It is not long, just 3 days. Some people can live a little longer if they have food that has a water content in it. 

It is quite a surprising reality. ​ Most of us depend on our city water systems to give us this life sustaining essential element. Others depend on the wells on their properties. But most wells are run by electricity or some form of power. 

Water storage is essential to survival during natural disasters.  Plan ahead of time...

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         A 55 gallon barrel is ideal for a 2 week supply of drinking water for a family of 4. This is your next step up in your water storage plan.  This means 1 gallon per day per person. So if you have more than 4 people or less, multiply 1 gallon of water per day. This is the bare minimum. We love water and drink more than the normal amount each day. We also need it for our gardens. You will need to ascertain all the ways you use water each day and each week. NOTE: this does NOT include washing, bathing, toilets, brushing, cleaning, dishes, etc. This is only for drinking water. 

         Water Storage Plan Tip: 

Keep a journal to track your water usage  for 2 weeks. 

Write down every time you turn your water on and for what reasons. This includes flushing the toilet. ​

Calculate your average water uses for those 2 weeks. ​

Did you know? Did you know that you can flush your toilet when there is no power or water? Pour in water into the tank of the toilet before flushing. 

                            Top 16 Questions to Answer for Your Water Storage Plan 


The answers to the following questions will help you determine how much water you will need to ensure your family will get through an emergency or disaster. You will have to consider not only how much water to store but how to store it, source it, and any special needs or necessary accommodations. This is also a cover your basis checklist.

  • Is there a nearby water source that is safely accessible?

  • Do you have a means of collecting and transporting water?

  • How much average rainfall does your area get on an annual basis?

  • Are you on municipal or well water?

  • Do you have pets or family to care for?

  • Is there a pregnant or nursing mother?

  • Are there any special needs or medical conditions to consider?

  • How active are you per day such as gardening, cooking, or hunting for food?

  • Do you have a climate controlled space to store water?

  • Do you have a safe place to store water away from gas or chemicals?

  • Do you have immediate water on hand?

  • Are there any necessary travel needs?

  • In case of travel are you able bring large amounts of water?

  • Do you have a way to safely stay hydrated if you have to leave in an emergency?

  • Do you have a water rotation system?

  • Do you have limited space to store water?

Water Storage Methods 

Figuring out the best way to store water is dependent upon thoughtful preparation and your budget. The methods range from economic to expensive, if you are relying on a limited budget store enough for at least 3 days, you can build up to 2 weeks over time. The following options can be incorporated into your plan.

Glass is not a preferred method since it is heavy and can break, possibly causing injuries.

That being said, saving your water in glass containers like used juice bottles is the fastest and cost effective ( free) way to store some water. Just don't depend solely on this method.

Glass can be easily sterilized by boiling for 20 minutes, make sure to dry completely prior to use. 

If you have limited storage space and need to store near gas or chemicals, glass is a good option since it will not absorb the fumes. 

Make sure to use food-grade vs lead crystal glass because the lead can leach into the water over time. For extra protection, cushion the jars with cardboard, foam or bubble wrap to prevent breakage.

The safest plastics for storing water are BPA free, high density polyethylene-based or plastics #1, #2 and #4. These are also known as food-grade plastics. They are lighter than glass, less likely to break and come in all sizes for water storage. Blue plastic containers are much more UV resistant and are #2 plastic.

There are a lot of reasons you will want to stay away from plastic containers which you can not verify the contents of.  You really don't want your clear plastic colored containers to sit out in the sun or get too warm. This is one of the ways in which the chemicals get leaked into your water. 

Of course, when you are just starting out with water storage plastic is still better than nothing.  We are just giving you all the information for you to make informed decisions for the security and safety of your family.  Don't wait for the FEMA trucks to arrive to get water for your family. 

You can buy free standing or collapsible water containers and they are easy to store especially if you live in an apartment, don't have a garage or short on storage space.

We started using these when we go on camping trips. These are great for rotating your water naturally. If you need to evacuate in an emergency you can throw a few into your car or truck and skedaddle.

Click here to get the best prices we have found on 7 gallon water containers. We like these better than the 5 gallon ones

We recommend if you are using these containers for camping and traveling, empty them out all the way when you get back home. Rinse with a bit of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and make sure to really rinse after that. Make sure you dry them out before you collapse them and store them. 

While these containers are great for the uses we suggested they are not a substitute for water in all situations. We just had this discussion at our house last night and our husbands brought up this point: If you lose access to your water suddenly you won't have time to fill up collapsable containers. While they still serve their purpose and we certainly use them just know we also need to have other sources of water. ​


55 gallons are great for long term storage  and for saving large amounts of water. It provides water for a family of 4 for 2 weeks and 2 barrels will provide for 27 days.

The top of the barrel is sealed to protect the water from contamination. The barrels will have a screw or snap on cap.

It may require a special (Bung) wrench to open and close or a special pump that screws into the bung opening for water extraction. Depending upon the barrel type the water can either be pumped or dipped out.

​The barrel can be stored outside, ideally in the NE corner of your home to reduce amount of sunlight exposure. A full 55 gallon drum is about 470 lbs, if possible place it into the preferred storage area prior to filling with water. If you must fill the barrel and then move into place use a barrel caddy.

Make sure to leave about 9” of space for expansion in case of freezing to prevent cracking.

Do not store water in used barrels or drums that previously contained fuels or chemicals since plastic does absorb chemicals and odors. If you can verify use and it was previously used for food storage, thoroughly clean the barrel with bleach water and rinse with clean water.


For optimal water safety keep the barrel covered with a barrel bag in order to eliminate the possibility of contamination from dirt, dust or bird droppings when you open the barrel. They can also be purchased with water purification or sanitation kits.

Water collected in rain barrels provides an alternative storage method for when your well water table gets low, during a drought or dry season. The water is best used for gardening, in flower beds, cleaning, laundry, watering lawn or washing the car. It is usually soft with no dissolved minerals and it is acidic which is favorable for plant nutrient uptake.

Collecting rainwater in barrels is a great way to store water with minimal effort especially since they fill quickly from heavy storms. They can be easily installed to collect rainwater from the roof. You will want to use a leaf screen or debri filter to catch leaf litter and other undesirable objects. These can be purchased as kits.


If the rainwater barrel is used make sure it has not contained any fuels or chemicals and do a thorough cleaning with diluted bleach water and rinse well.

It is not advisable to use for drinking unless it has gone through a water filtration or purification process. The water quality is affected by the roof collection. It is simple to create a homemade purification system from the items you have around your home. As soon as we finish we will share with you our homemade water filtration system.

Here is one of the rain barrels we have for water storage. It has held up quite well outside in the elements here in Florida. 

Rain Barrels- collect water from your roof during storms.

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This is one of the most economical emergency short term water storage methods. If you have an impending major storm or other foreseeable emergency you can easily store up to 100 gallons of water in your bathtub. My concern is the contamination of the water and as a busy mom on the go, I do not scour my tub after every use.

Boiling water for purification would be the least expensive method to make it drinkable. If you are out of electricity and are unable to make a fire then you can use a filter, water purification tablets or the combination of both. If relying on a water filter alone, pay attention to the type you purchase, not all water filters are the same. Some remove almost all bacteria, viruses and leading causes of waterborne illnesses, Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Heavy-duty plastic bags are a great way to quickly store clean water in your bathtub. You may not have enough warning time to fill it in advance. It should not be your primary means of water storage but use as a supplemental space saving option.

The AquaPod kit holds 65 gallons, providing 2 weeks of water for a family of 4. This is a great option when you have time to wait for your bathtub to fill up. If you live in hurricane prone parts of the country- we get plenty of notice and time to prepare. We suggest each family has an option like this. When we have tried to fill up our bathtubs with water without a liner, the water slowly leaks out. Pretty soon our tubs were empty. 

Stainless steel tanks are the best long term water storage option. Though more costly, these sterile food grade tanks are mandatory for food and pharmaceutical processing plants as well as hospitals.

Tanks can hold anywhere from 250 to 1300 gallons.

Water can be stored up to 5 years in a temperature controlled environment. If you are worried about it being an eyesore, the tanks can be stored underground.

Do not treat the water with chlorine unless the tank is lined with a protective coating, the chlorine can corrode the steel over time.

For most families the stainless steel water tanks are out of reach financially. A good idea is to pool together your financial recourses with other family members and choose one homestead to place the tank on. That way, the rest of the family can make it over to the location during times of need and emergencies. 

We often take for granted how accessible water is in our homes and lives.

Over a 100 years ago, homesteaders primary access to water came through water hand pumps.

Today they are an excellent way to avoid a water crisis.

When most people think of hand pumps the old-time pitcher pump comes to mind with a homesteader pushing a handlebar up and down, repeatedly, before water comes pouring out of the spout.

We will create some tutorials on how to work your manual well pump. Come back often to our blog as we add more content related to water storage and filtration. 

If you can get a manual well pump it is our favorite solution to water storage because you can get the water up without electricity. 

The only problem with a manual water pump is if the underground water becomes toxic or polluted so bad you can not drink it. But then, you can use your filtration systems. We don't recommend this being your only solution but rather using a combination of the options available we went over on this page with you. 

If you get a serious drought, your well may also dry up. Make sure you are using a combination of all of these water storage methods. ​

The main selections of water pumps will be either a suction pump or a lift pump. Choosing the right one is dependent upon:

  • The Water Table 
  • Geography 
  • Cost 
  • Runoff from Pesticides or Herbicides 
  • Saltwater Contamination 
  • Ease of pump use 
  • Automation through solar power 
  • How much water is needed for personal use, livestock and or gardening

Try choosing a pump that will meet your emergency survival needs and include it as an additional option to your water storage plan. It is critical to understand your water table because you could find yourself in a situation with a way to obtain water with water below the accessible level of the pump.

Learn how to use a manual well pump... in case you ever need to... 

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Don't Make These Water Storage Mistakes! 


Above all, be safe. Store your water as safely as you can. Make it a priority to have ways to filter your water on hand in the event you have to use your water storage. There are least practical ways to store water to totally reliable ways. You have to start somewhere. If you can't afford to buy the safe containers, start somewhere. Make sure to follow the following "don't list" when choosing your water storage containers. 

  • Do NOT use the plastic milk gallon or half gallon milk jugs. The plastic is very porous. 

  • Plastic milk jugs milk comes in absorbs odors and sugar from the milk- it will grow bacteria inside those pores. 

  • Don't use the plastic jugs that orange juice comes in either- it is the same as the milk jugs. 

  • NEVER use plastic containers which have been used for storing fuel or chemicals. 

  • Don't store your water in cardboard containers. 

  • Don't store your water in the waxed or plastic coated containers like the half gallon almond milk containers. 

  • Don't store water in heat sensitive plastic containers outside, especially in hot places like Florida.  They release dioxin. 

  • Stop storing water in glass containers as you obtain safer solutions to your water storage. 

  • Don't store water in used plastic containers unless you can verify what was in those containers before. 

                                           Water Rotation Schedule


Rotating your water supplies depends on the type of container you use, where you store it and if you treat it. Water stored in plastic containers in a temperature controlled environment should be changed out every 6 months.

Rotating untreated water stored in 55 gallon drums can be used for watering plants, cleaning, and washing. Once opened it should be used in a short amount of time and it is doubtful unless it is an emergency you will get through 55 gallons in a few weeks.

                                          Treating Your Stored Water

Water preservers will help increase the shelf life of water up to 5 years. Just because water is clear does not mean it is safe to drink. Contamination is what makes water go bad. Preservers protect the water against bacteria growth and can be added to water before storage or to existing stored water to enhance the taste and increase the water quality. Make sure to check and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Another method of treating stored water is adding chlorine to eliminate and prohibit the growth of pathogens. The EPA recommends 4 ppm or parts per million to water, it is not a guarantee against preventing waterborne illnesses.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  Some of the links in our posts and on our pages are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Survival Digest will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers. This is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”​

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