Drinkable Water Storage for Emergency Situations

By Colleen •  Updated: 02/25/24 •  9 min read

Why do I need to worry about drinkable water storage when the news tells me everything is fine in the world?

When disaster strikes, it is usually unannounced. Water—not food—becomes the most urgent need. You might have heard that people can live for weeks without food but only a few days without water. That’s not just a saying; it’s a fact of life.

Water is vital for our bodies to function properly, and in an emergency, having access to clean water is a matter of survival.


The Non-Negotiable: Why Water Storage Can’t-Wait

Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made crisis, the water supply can be disrupted without warning. That’s why having an emergency water storage plan is crucial. Besides that, it’s not just about quenching thirst. Water is needed for hygiene, cooking, and potentially medical care. So, let’s dive into how to secure your lifeline with drinkable water storage for emergencies.

Wife and husband checking on their drinkable water storage containers in their basement.

Calculating Your Water Needs

Before buying containers or filling up your bathtub, you need to know how much water you need to store. The rule of thumb is simple: one gallon of water per person per day. But that’s just the starting point. You’ll want to consider the following:

Therefore, a family of four should store at least 12 gallons of water for a minimum of three days. But why stop there? If space allows, aim for a two-week supply to give you that extra buffer in case the emergency lasts longer than anticipated.

Choosing Your Water Storage Containers

Types of Containers: Pros and Cons

The containers you choose for water storage can make a big difference. Here’s a quick rundown:

It’s essential to balance capacity, cost, and portability when selecting containers for your water storage needs.

husband and wife filling their drinkable water storage containers in their basement.

Safe Materials for Water Storage

Not all plastics are created equal, especially when it comes to storing something as crucial as your emergency water. Look for food-grade containers made of polyethylene-based plastics designed specifically for safe, long-term storage. Avoid containers that previously held milk or juice as they can harbor bacteria, and steer clear of any container that once held non-food substances.

Here’s a tip: Food-grade containers will often have a recycling number 1, 2, or 4 and the letters HDPE or LDPE on them. This indicates they’re made from safe materials that won’t leach harmful chemicals into your water.

Storing Water the Right Way

Preparing Water for Storage

Before you stash your water away, it needs to be properly prepared to ensure safety. Start with tap water that’s been treated by your municipal water supplier. If you’re unsure about the quality or using well water, consider boiling it for at least one minute or using water purification tablets according to the package instructions. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to emergency preparation.

Best Practices for Long-Term Storage

Once you have your water, follow these best practices for long-term storage:

Most importantly, if you’re ever in doubt about the safety of your stored water, purify it before use.

Alternative Water Sources and Purification Methods

When Taps Run Dry: Backup Water Sources

In a prolonged crisis, your initial water supply might not be enough. That’s when knowing alternative water sources becomes a lifesaver. These can include:

Always consider the safety and legality of collecting water from these sources.

Urban couple purifying water with a good drinkable water purification method.

Purifying Water in a Pinch

When you need to make water safe in an emergency, you have several options:

Example: After a major storm, the tap water might not be safe to drink. Boiling is your best bet if you have a heat source. If not, chemical tablets can be a lifesaver, and a good filter can be worth its weight in gold.

Maintaining Your Emergency Water Supply

Regular Rotation and Inspection

Water doesn’t expire but can become contaminated if not stored correctly. To maintain a fresh supply, mark the storage date on all containers and rotate them every six months. Inspect your storage area regularly for any signs of leaks or container damage, and replace water if there’s any doubt about its purity.

Keeping Water Safe from Contaminants Over Time

Even the best storage methods can’t prevent all contamination risks. To keep your water safe:

Remember, if your water looks, smells, or tastes off, purify it before using it.

Ready to Go: Portable Water Storage for Evacuations

Sometimes, you’ll need to leave your home in a hurry. That’s when portable water storage solutions become essential. Options include:

Make sure your portable water storage is easily accessible and part of your evacuation plan.

Compact and Convenient: Water Storage Options for Mobility

Space and weight are at a premium when you’re on the move. Choose compact, durable water storage options that can fit in your vehicle or bug-out bag. Consider using:

Example: If you need to evacuate due to a wildfire, having a hydration bladder filled and ready allows you to stay hydrated without the burden of carrying heavy bottles.

By following these guidelines, you’ll ensure you and your loved ones have access to safe drinking water in emergencies. It’s not just about survival—it’s about maintaining your health and well-being when the world around you is uncertain.

Pack and Protect: Preparing Your Portable Water Kit

A portable water kit is indispensable when you need to leave in a hurry. Include commercially bottled water, which has a stable shelf life and is sealed against contaminants. Add a water filter bottle, which can purify water from natural sources on the go. Lastly, throw in some water purification tablets as a lightweight backup. Keep this kit with your emergency supplies so you can grab it quickly if you need to evacuate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Got questions? You’re not alone. Let’s tackle some common queries about emergency water storage to ensure you’re fully prepared.

How much water should I store for an emergency?

You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. For a family of four, that’s 12 gallons for a three-day supply. But if space allows, aim for a two-week supply to be on the safe side.

Keep in mind that needs can vary depending on climate, health conditions, and activity levels. Adjust your storage accordingly to ensure everyone stays hydrated and healthy.

And don’t forget about pets! They need water, too, so be sure to include an extra supply for your furry, feathered, or scaly friends.

Can I store water in any plastic container?

No, not all plastic containers are safe for water storage. Only food-grade containers, which are designed to store consumables, are safe. They’re typically marked with a recycling number 1, 2, or 4 and the letters HDPE or LDPE. This ensures the plastic won’t leach harmful substances into the water.

How often should I replace my stored water?

Rotating your water supply every six months is a good practice to ensure freshness. If you’re using commercial bottled water, check the expiration date provided by the manufacturer.

What should I do if my water storage tastes stale?

If your water tastes stale, pour it from one clean container to another several times to aerate it. This can improve the taste. You can also add a pinch of salt for every liter or use water flavoring packets designed for stored water.

A stale taste is often just a sign that the water has been sitting too long without movement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe to drink.

What are some signs that stored water has gone bad?

If you notice any of these signs, discard the water and replace it with a fresh supply. When in doubt, treat the water with a purification method before use.


Living in a world where uncertainties can arise, Colleen has taken it upon herself to master the art of survival in the face of natural or civil disasters. With a background in outdoor activities and a keen interest in learning essential survival skills, Colleen has dedicated time to acquiring knowledge in areas such as wilderness survival, first aid, and emergency response.

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