How to Store Water Long-term for Emergencies

April 25, 2022 10 min read

How to Store Water Long-term for Emergencies

Given the numerous sorts of disasters and calamities that people encounter across the world, it is critical to evaluate how you can plan to meet the most basic human requirements, such as food and water, for your family and yourself. An emergency food supply is easy, but it’s only feasible to go without water for a few days. Depending on your circumstances, you may be exposed to the consequences of dehydration even sooner. Without a doubt, we must discover how to clean and store enormous volumes of water. So, how do you determine the appropriate amount of water to store and how do you go about storing water long term for emergencies?

 

Water Storage

How Much Water Storage Do I Need?

The first step when storing water for the long term is determining how much water you need. After all, you need to know what you ought to store before you even begin the storage process. To do this, there are a few guidelines to help.

Guidelines on the Quantity of Water to Store

General Rule
As with many other decisions, there is a general rule of thumb that offers a safe standpoint when it comes to storing water. 

The general standard is that one gallon of water is stored per person per day. This gallon of water is expected to be roughly split into two to cover man's major needs for water: drinking and hygiene. However, you must remember that various factors may impact the needed water quantity at a particular time, and the amount of water to store may vary depending on when, where, and for whom the water is being stored.

Factors that May Affect How Much Water You Need for Long Term Storage

  • Climate

Generally, in hotter weather conditions, perspiration is high and thirst is quickly felt. Hence, more water is required to quench thirst as well as return the body to its normal cool temperature. Consequently, you'd usually need to store more water in a hot climate than you would in a cool one.

  • Age

There may also be variations from the conventional one gallon per person per day standard, depending on who you're storing the water for. In a case where you're storing water for a family with kids, considerations need to be made to cater to their hygiene. For instance, a baby's clothes may often be changed anywhere between two and five times in a single day. This is usually not the case for an adult. Furthermore, kids under eight years of age usually need less drinking water than older kids and adults. These variations in the ages of the family members may cause the absolute one gallon per head per day estimate to be inaccurate.

  • Physical Condition

While the one gallon per person per day standard still stands, you'll agree with us that a pregnant or breastfeeding woman might need more water than other members of a family. Hence, when storing water, it is good practice to leave an allowance for this.

  • Health

The recommended intake of water may be greatly affected by a person's health condition. It is key to consider this when putting away water for emergency use. This way, you avoid worsening an individual's health condition in the course of an emergency. Also, note that a medical emergency may require water.

  • Physical Activity

Physical activity causes some people's hydration needs to be higher than others. For example, an individual who exercises or does strenuous physical activities generally needs more water than one who lives a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Diet

While this might not make an enormous or significant difference, you'll agree with us that certain meals leave you yearning for water. In contrast, others seem to be hydrating themselves.

 

Child Standing by Water Storage

How Many Days of Water Supply Should You Store for Long Term Use?

Now that you have an idea of how much water to store for each person per day, the next question is how many days should you prep for? After all, we are considering long-term water storage. It is only natural that you know what even counts as long-term water storage in the first place.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that your basic disaster supply kit contain a three-day supply of water (one gallon of water per person, per day). It is also encouraged that you consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family in the case of an emergency. Where this is not possible, store as much as possible.

We recommend that you have at least a two to four weeks' supply of water on hand. That's at least 14 gallons of water for a single person. That equates to 56 gallons of water for a household of four. It is entirely up to you if you choose to extend your stay beyond the two to four week minimum.

 

Rainwater Filling Water Storage

Long-Term Water Storage Solutions

So, you know you need emergency long-term water storage. How do you go about it? Now that you've determined how much water to store and how long you'll keep it, it's time to select a high-quality water storage vessel.

Choosing Long-term Water Storage Containers

When long-term water storage is concerned, not every container is suitable for storing water. You should aim for high-quality, large food-grade drinking water barrels to store your water. A food-grade barrel or container is one that was specifically designed to hold food or water. Such vessels are durable, leak-proof, and easy to seal or cover. They are also made following the strict standards required to keep food safe.

The most commonly used materials for storing water are plastic, metal, and glass. However, while glass is impermeable to vapors and gases and is a fairly effective material for storing water, we do not recommend using a glass vessel to store water, especially when you are storing it for long-term use, say up to a month. Glass is quite fragile and can be easily damaged or broken during an emergency.

Glass Water Containers

Pros

  • Glass containers are infinitely recyclable and eco-friendly.
  • They are beautiful.
  • They keep water away from the contamination of chemicals and gases.
  • They may be easier to clean.
  • Glass containers are more likely to retain their shine after numerous washings.
  • Unlike other materials, glass lets you see the water content of the container clearly.
  • Glass containers may hold the water temperature for longer.
  • Glass does not hold residual odors as other materials do.

Cons

  • Glass containers are relatively heavy.
  • Glass is less durable compared to other materials.
  • Glass containers are comparatively costly.
  • Glass is vulnerable to thermal shocks.
  • The heavyweight of glass containers makes them a burden in emergencies.
  • Glass is beautiful but not so durable. In emergencies, durability beats beauty.
  • Glass containers are impractical for storing large quantities of water.

Verdict

Storing water in glass containers is not the best way to store water, especially when long-term water storage is in view. In the long run, the cons of glass containers seem to outweigh the pros. Hence, while glass containers are great for day-to-day drinking, they are less attractive for long-term emergency storage.

Metal Water Containers

Pros

  • Metal is generally a durable material; hence, it is less likely to be damaged in the case of an emergency.
  • Most metal containers are easily recycled.
  • Metal containers are rigid and relatively easy to handle.
  • Metal has good thermal conductivity, making it relatively immune to thermal shocks that may occur during emergencies.
  • Stainless steel may be used to store large amounts of water effectively.

Cons

  • Metal containers are more expensive than plastic ones.
  • It's easy for metal containers to rust under certain conditions.
  • Except coated and specifically built to hold water and food, metals are not optimal containers to store water or water.
  • While stainless steel can be used for long-term water storage, it can be challenging to do so.

Verdict

Metal containers are a good option for water storage. However, they are not the optimal option for long-term water storage.

Plastic Water Containers

Pros

  • Plastic barrels are relatively lightweight, making them easier to move to their destination.
  • Despite being lightweight, plastic containers are fairly sturdy. Thus, they offer the best of both worlds.
  • Unlike metals, plastics don't rust, so they don't release unhealthy chemicals into your drinking water.
  • Plastic water storage containers are built to withstand most climatic conditions, so they are durable.
  • Unlike steel storage containers, food-grade plastic containers do not have to be replaced frequently.
  • They are cost-efficient.

Cons

  • Plastic long-term water storage containers are not as attractive as metal or glass options.
  • If you store water in a non-food-grade plastic, you risk taking in toxins from the container. 

Verdict

Food-grade plastic containers are durable, effective, and cost-efficient. Thus, storing water in food-grade plastic containers is the best way to store water long-term.

 

FDA Approved Water Storage

The Best Water Storage Option: The FDA-Approved Food-Grade 55-Gallon Rain Barrel.

We particularly recommend this sturdy food-grade storage container because it checks all the boxes that long-term water storage containers should check.

 

What to Look Out For in a Plastic Long-Term Water Storage Container

  • Make sure it is large enough to store enough water. We recommend getting 55-gallon water storage containers.
  • Make sure it is a food-grade container and is BPA-free.
  • Be sure it has a well-fitting top that closes tightly.
  • Check to ascertain if it is made of durable material.
  • You should also have a pump and a hose that allow easy access to your water without contaminating the stored water.

Provided you have the space to hold it, this BPA-free and UV-resistant food-grade plastic is the best long-term water storage option for you. So, if you've been looking for the best way to water long term, you have your answer.

 

Child Prepping Water Storage

Prepping Water for Long-Term Storage

Step 1: Clean and Disinfect the Container Thoroughly.

In general, water storage containers should be cleaned with warm soapy water and thereafter properly rinsed. However, if you're using a container that previously contained beverages or other food items, you may need to pay special attention to its cleaning to avoid having residual odor in the water or retaining any contaminant in the container. Then, sanitize the container.

Follow this water storage container cleaning and sanitizing guideline set by CDC.

Step 2: If Necessary, Disinfect the Water.

Water that will be stored for a long time needs to be disinfected. This is because often tap water is generally not pure, containing microorganisms that may build up upon storage over time.

Methods of Disinfecting Water

  • Boiling Method
  • Boiling is a very simple water purification method. Boil water to 100 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes. This kills most of the pathogenic organisms, especially the bacteria that cause waterborne diseases. Transfer the boiled water into your storage container after it has cooled.

    Pro Tip: restore oxygen to the boiled water by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. When doing this, be careful to avoid contaminating the water.

  • Chlorine Treatment
  • Liquid chlorine may also be used to sterilize water for long-term storage as it is a highly effective method of disinfection. When purifying water with a chlorine solution, it is advised that you use fresh chlorine bleach for maximum efficiency. This is because chlorine solution may become half as potent as it ought to be if stored for about six months.

    To disinfect your water, consider adding a one-eighth teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach with 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite to one gallon of water.

    Pro Tip: only use regular unscented chlorine bleach products that are suitable for disinfection as indicated on the label. Never use color-safe, scented, or cleaner-added bleaches to purify water.

    The quantity of chlorine to add when purifying water may vary depending on the amount of sodium hypochlorite present in the solution. The table below gives a guide in line with the United States Environmental Protection Agency guidelines on emergency disinfection of drinking water.

    Volume of Water 

    Quantity of 6% Bleach to add

    Quantity of 8.25% bleach to add

    1 liter

    2 drops

    2 drops

    1 gallon

    8 drops

    6 drops 

    2 gallons

    ¼ teaspoon (16 drops)

    12 drops (1/8 teaspoon)

    4 gallons

    1/3 teaspoon

    ¼ teaspoon

    8 gallons

    2/3 teaspoon

    ½ teaspoon

     

    Another suitable and convenient option for water purification is the use of water purification tablets. Water purification tablets kill pathogens in water and are proven to be effective against bacteria, viruses, and spores.

    There are several types of pills available for water filtration.

    When using water purification tablets:

    • Check the label for the expiration date. Pills might lose their effectiveness over time. Unopened, most tablets have a storage life of 2 to 5 years.
    • Follow the manufacturer's treatment instructions.
    • Allow enough time for the chemical to operate before using the water.

    Step 3: Pour Clean Water into the Container.

    Once the container is clean and the water to be stored is purified, it's time to pour the water into the container and do the actual storing.

     

    Water Storage Barrel

    FAQs on Long Term Water Storage

    Do I need to treat the water with chlorine before storing it?

    Depending on the water source, you may not need to treat the water with chlorine. However, we suggest that you treat your water with chlorine if you're not certain of the purity of the water. This is especially important if you'll be storing the water for a relatively long period.

    How Much Bleach Should Be Added to Larger Water Quantities Prepared for Long-Term Storage?

    This table gives a rough long-term water-bleach ratio for water disinfection.

     

    Volume of water 

    Bleach added to clear water  

    Bleach added to cloudy water 

    1 gallon

    8 drops 

    16 drops 

    55 Gallons

    2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon (2.3 tablespoons)

    5 tablespoons 

    275 gallons

    2/3 cup

    4/3 cups 

    300 gallons

    ¾ cup

    3/2 cups 

    1000 gallons 

    5/2 cups 

    5 cups 

     

    My stored water tastes funny. Is something wrong?

    Stored water may begin to taste flat and somewhat funny after a while. This is because there's no oxygen present in the stored water anymore. To fix this, try pouring your drinking water back and forth between two clean drinking glasses. Alternatively, you may also try to swish your water around in your cup a few times before drinking it to get rid of the strange smell.

    Can I use the swimming pool as my emergency water source?

    A medium-sized swimming pool offers you about 20,000 gallons of water, which is a lot of water available for an emergency. However, you need to be careful how you use this water. Pool water is usually devoid of pollutants like bacteria and algae due to the presence of chlorine in the water, the filter, and the pump. Water with chlorine levels of less than 4 parts per million is considered safe for drinking. Pool water has an average chlorine level of 2 parts per million. So you need not be worried about drinking treated pool water.

    However, we do not recommend relying on pool water as a long-term water source in the case of emergencies. This is because when an emergency occurs, water and electricity are not available. Your pool water degrades over time and begins to house pathogens as the chlorine levels in the water drop.

     

    Filling Water Storage

    Conclusion: How to Store Water Long Term

    Storing adequate water is essential for survival in the case of an emergency. When storing water, ensure that you store an adequate amount of potable water in a large, suitable food-grade container. Are you a beginner looking to prepare an effective survival kit for your family in the case of an emergency? It's time to start prepping. See our article on the best survival foods for emergencies to get you started. Then add in some top-quality, clean survival foods to your kit.