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Clean water may not be available in an emergency. Storing water now assures your survival because people can only live a few days without pure, clean water for drinking, cooking and hygiene. Knowing how much to store is the first step. You’ll find the answer here. But knowing how much to store and actually storing it are two different things.

Getting Started

An easy way to get started is by making a commitment to keeping a couple of cases of bottled water in your house. It may only be enough to last you a couple of days, but it’s to purchase and it’s easy to use. It’s something you can probably do within the next week. Making the commitment to have extra bottled water on hand

According to the FDAs website:

Bottled water is considered to have an indefinite safety shelf life if it is produced in accordance with CGMP and quality standard regulations and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container. Therefore, FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water. However, long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste. Bottlers may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels. (

So you really can consider your bottled water a part of your water storage plan. But somehow I don’t feel as good about it as I do my true long-term storage water. So I am more diligent about rotating my supply of bottled water. I don’t drink a lot of bottled water. (Phil and I have done blind taste tests and found that we like tap water as our favorite most of the time!) But I keep several cases on hand and every now and then grab a bottle as I’m leaving the house. That causes a natural attrition to my stored water and as one case gets about half empty I buy another. Easy-peasy start to any water storage plan.

Long-Term Water Storage

What do I store it in? For true long-term water storage, the best option is to food-grade quality containers that have been made for storing water. (OK, I admit it – until a year ago I didn’t know they had such things!) Phil did some research and price checking and we bought ours from

Prepper Tip 1:  Be sure to buy spigots for your containers. They come with screw-top lids, but they don’t come with spigots that make it easy to dispense the water. They only cost a couple of bucks each and you don’t have to have one for every container. Just one for every container that you’re currently serving from and maybe one or two as back-up units. We didn’t think to add them to our container order and then had to pay separate shipping costs for the spigots. I learned the value of having a spigot when we had a water outage during Super Storm Sandy. Phil was out of town, and I stared at stacks of 5-gallon containers of water with no easy access to their contents. Needless to say I was thankful for my bottled water collection for those couple of days.

Prepper Tip 2:  Phil added this tip when he edited my article about how much water to store – “Large water barrels and tanks are great, but for the sake of mobility, a 5-gallon container is the largest size that most people can move or carry without excessive strain.” You can buy water storage drums and tanks of varying sizes. The Ready Store has tanks up to 500 gallons (if you want to shell out almost $1,300 for one). That’s a lot of water, but you aren’t ever going to be able to move it.

How do I store water? Our containers came with instructions about how to prepare them for use, which was really nice simply because it meant we didn’t have to find that info (even though it’s all over the internet). Basically, you’ll want to wash, sanitize and rinse the containers with warm soapy water and unscented bleach.

  • Wash the container with the warm soapy water, rinse it thoroughly – you’re done.
  • Sanitize the container by adding 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach to 1 quart of water. Pour it in, shake the container vigorously, let it sit for a minute or so, then empty the container.
  • Either let the container air dry or rinse it thoroughly with clean water.

Fill the containers and LABEL them. Be sure to put either the date you filled them or the “expiration date” (or both). That takes us back to our discussion from the FDA. Technically, water doesn’t have an expiration date. But everybody seems to say that you should rotate your water every 6 months. OK. I’ll repeat what the experts say and I’ll even try to follow that rule. But if my water was older than 6 months, I’d still drink it in an emergency. (Don’t tell anyone I said that, OK?) I’d probably purify it first. (See below.)

Prepper Tip 3:  Store unscented liquid bleach near your water to use in purifying it if necessary.

Where do I store water? A cool dry place. Think basement. It’s not so much for the sake of the water as it is for the protection of the plastic container that the water is kept in.

Other storage options: If buying containers is out of your price range, you can store water in any food-grade plastic container (like 2-liter soda bottles) that can be sealed. If you are using containers not purchased for the purpose of storing water, be sure the containers you use:

  • Can be tightly sealed.
  • Are not made of glass (they break too easily and they’re too heavy).
  • Have never held a toxic substance (if you’re not sure, don’t use it).
  • Are not milk cartons or bottles (they’re too difficult to get clean and they may not seal tightly).
  • Do not have a #7 recycling symbol (these bottles are made with polycarbonate plastics and should not be used for water storage).
  • Are not used pre-packaged water bottles (these bottles are made for one-time use).

In the realm of prepping, storing water is not only the most important, but also the easiest and least expensive part of your emergency preparations. Set aside a few dollars and a few hours and you’ll be able to store enough water for you and your family for most emergencies you’ll face. In the future, we’ll blog about more intense water storage, but this will get you started.

Click here for an article on finding water in and around your house.

Click here for an article on purifying water.

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