Water Storage

It is wise to bring some water, when one goes out to look for water. - Arab Proverb

Short Notice Storage

What would you do if you knew your water supply would be disrupted in an hour? Here are a few options in addition to filling the pots and pans.

What containers can be used to store water?

The waterBOB is a Commercially sold water containment system that holds up to 100 gallons of fresh drinking water in any standard bathtub in the event of an emergency. Constructed of heavy duty food grade plastic, the waterBOB keeps water fresh and clean for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing.

Use of food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself. Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers:

  • Wash the inside and outside of each container with soap and hot water.

  • Sanitize containers with a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented household bleach per quart of water.

  • Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.

  • Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.

  • Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.

Avoid using the following containers to store safe water:

  • Containers that cannot be sealed tightly.

  • Containers that can break, such as glass bottles.

  • Avoid using milk and fruit sugar containers because they can be hard to clean. Bacteria can grow quickly in these container, contaminating the water stored in it. However, if there is no alternative, special care should be taken when sanitizing these containers.

  • Avoid using bleach containers for drinking water storage because they are not made of food-grade plastic. Water stored in them to use for washing could mistakenly be used for drinking, with serious consequences.

Long Term Storage

For in-home storage, you should count on two gallons of water per-person per-day. While this is more water than necessary to survive (except in hot climates or after strenuous exertion) it ensures water is available for hygiene and cooking as well as drinking.

Commercial gallon bottles of filtered/purified spring water often carry expiration dates two years after the bottling date. A good rotation program is necessary to ensure your supply of water remains fresh and drinkable If you prefer to store your own water, don't use milk cartons.; it's practically impossible to remove the milk residue.

Heavy-duty, thick, polyethylene food grade plastic barrels are great for water storage. These barrels are normally blue and normally come in sizes that range from 15 to 55 gallons. It is recommended to store these barrels in a dark and cool area, such as a basement or food storage room. Storing your barrel outside could have an effect on the life of the barrel. It is not recommended to store any water container in direct or indirect sunlight. Also, it is best to store water barrels with a non-pourous insulation barrier (such as wood) between the cement and the barrel.

15 gallon and 30 gallon containers used for food service -- such as delivery of syrups to soda bottlers and other manufacturers -- are often available on the surplus market. After proper cleaning, these are ideal for water storage -- as long as a tight seal can be maintained. 55 gallon drums and larger tanks are also useful for long-term storage. But make sure you have a good pump on hand!

If you have a spare refrigerator in the basement or the garage, use PET water bottles (the kind soda or liters of water come in) to fill any available freezer space. In addition to providing you with fresh, easily transportable drinking water, the ice can be used to cool food in the refrigerator in the event of a power failure. These bottles will withstand many freeze-thaw cycles without bursting or leaking.

Shelf Life of Water

The shelf life of water depends on the original quality of the water, the temperature at which it is stored, how much light it is exposed to just to name a few. Many manufacturers of bottled water will include a shelf life on their product.

Treated water out of the tap needs nothing added and should have a shelf life of about 10 years. Untreated water, from a well for instance, should be stored with about 16 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon. Sterilized or disinfected water, stored in clean, food-approved containers with secure lids or caps, should be safe for use even after many years of storage. Replacement of stored water with fresh water should be necessary only if the stored water becomes contaminated in some way or if the container should begin to leak. Be certain to label each container so there will be no question about its contents. Include the date and information on the method of disinfection used.

Stored water may eventually develop a disagreeable appearance, taste, or odor. Under emergency conditions, water that tastes flat can be aerated by pouring the water from one container to another to another about three or four times.

Be Careful About Rain Water - Rain water that has been collected should be treated the same as any other unknown water source. Rain water contains small particulates and acid.


Once you're in a survival situation where there is a limited amount of water, conservation is an important consideration. While drinking water is critical, water is also necessary for rehydrating and cooking dried foods. Water from boiling pasta, cooking vegetables and similar sources can and should be retained and drunk, after it has cooled. Canned vegetables also contain liquid that can be consumed. To preserve water, save water from washing your hands, clothes and dishes to flush toilets.