If you’d like to get started with water storage but you’re not sure where to start, this article can help. We’ve outlined eight different ways to store water at home and even in your car! Start with these ideas to get you moving down the path of being water secure.
Water is so fundamental to life…water is life! Regardless of whether you consider yourself a prepper or a full-fledged homesteader, we are all united in our basic need for water.
There are many ways to store water, and it’s important that we learn other ways to be water-savvy on the homestead, too. So, let’s start with some basics on water storage.
Water Storage for Emergencies at Home
It would be incredibly difficult for most families to store what might be considered a year’s supply of water for each family member. For example:
- Water is heavy.
- It takes up a lot of space.
- And it needs to be kept cool, dark and rotated.
Instead of a year’s supply of water storage, many families do strive for a three-month’s supply, which might be more doable.
If that feels too daunting, aim for the FEMA (the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommendation of at least a two-week supply.
How Much Water Storage Per Person?
The standard recommendation for water storage is one gallon a day per person. However, that’s just not enough for
- a hot summer or climate
- or nursing mothers/hard workers
Planning for two gallons per person is a more robust amount per person.
To store as much water as you can safely store, including for pets and livestock if you have them, you need to know exactly how much water you use every month. To do this, you need to Conduct a Water Audit, which you can learn to do below.
To help you get a more realistic idea of exactly how much water you use in the home and on the homestead, we created these simple Water Audit Worksheets. Just print the worksheets, follow the instructions, and fill in the information. The process of calculating how much water you really use can take awhile but take all the time you need to get the information! You can use your water audit information to make informed plans about increasing your water sustainability.
Water Storage Containers for Home Use
I’m not a big fan of plastic, but there are several very handy plastic storage containers these days that make keeping water a lot simpler.
Water Storage Drums
For example, many people use 55-gallon drums for home water storage.
- Drums are big enough to be worth the time it takes to fill them.
- They can be emptied with a hose and a pump that you can buy especially for these drums.
- You can buy the drums new online or at your local preparedness store (if you’re lucky enough to have one). You can also purchase them used from local food processors.
Should I Buy Used Water Drums?
Used water drums are much more affordable than new ones, but there are some things to think about.
- Buying used containers means you’ll need to clean them yourself, and you’ll need to be extremely thorough to ensure that no bacteria-causing product is left behind.
- I can’t advise using drums that have had cleaners or other chemical containing solutions stored in them because, no matter how you scrub, you run the risk of lingering contaminants.
- I can’t heartily recommend the used ones at all, quite frankly. However, they are an option for us cash-strapped folks.
There are plans online for building your own rack on which to store these drums laying on their sides, which is a space saver and makes them easier to use when it’s time (although they have been known to leak on occasion, just FYI).
Plan to rotate all water storage every six months, regardless of the container.
Water Storage Super Tanks – Another Option
Another option for larger water storage containers are super-tanks that store anywhere from 250 to 500 gallons of water and are designed to be taller than they are wide.
Here are some things to know about the super tanks:
- They look like a hot water tank.
- As opposed to removing water with a pump, these tanks typically use a gravity-fed system to deliver the water from a spigot.
- They aren’t designed to be portable, but they make excellent use of the floor to ceiling space.
- Plan to put them where you can readily access and rotate out the water from where they’re stored.
Small Space Containers
Not everyone has room to store hundred of gallons of water. It that’s you, don’t despair! There are several options for small space water storage.
If you don’t have the space for larger containers, there are smaller (five to seven gallon) containers that are easier to maneuver and lighter to stack. Often called “water bricks,” these containers can be found online, as well as at your local camping store.
Water and Juice Bottles
The easiest and most portable commercial water storage option is to purchase individual water bottles from big box stores in bulk, though the plastic used in these bottles is often not very durable.
Whenever possible, your home water storage containers should be made of dark, thick, food-grade plastic. Such containers won’t allow light to permeate through to the water which can reduce the growth of algae and bacteria.
If you’re storing water in commercial water bottles, be sure to keep them in a cool, dark place. Similarly, you can wrap them in blankets to keep them away from light.
To Turn Juice Bottles Into Storage Containers
You can create your own water storage containers by upcycling juice and soda containers. This isn’t as recommended as using commercial, food-grade water storage containers, but they are better than no water storage at all.
To do this easily:
- Save the lids and wash both the lids and the containers very thoroughly.
- Be sure the containers are sparkling clean.
- Add a water-cleaning agent to your water. Most experts recommend bleach at a ratio of one teaspoon of household liquid bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) in one gallon of water.
- and keep them out of the light.
Watch Out for Problems
Even with these efforts, you may still develop bacteria in these upcycled bottles.
Be sure to check the integrity of your re-used containers often. Many juice and soda bottles are made from recycled plastic which can often mean that they just aren’t that thick or strong.
Because of this, I really recommend commercial, food-grade water storage containers, if you can financially manage it, for ease of use and safety.
If you want to avoid plastic altogether, there are some stainless steel containers to be had online, but they’re double to quadruple the cost of plastic. Be sure to store only non-chlorine and non-chloramine water in metal containers to avoid corrosion.
It is what it is. Do your best.
Unconventional Water Storage Methods
You may be storing water in your home right now and not even be aware of it. Or, have you ever thought of using your tub for water storage?
You can also choose to store foods with high water content in your home. Home-canned soups and stews, as well as fruits and veggies, are all preserved with water.
I had a canning friend who would put water in her empty canning jars as she stored them to keep them useful while they were empty of food.
Please remember to secure your stored items, especially glass jars, properly against earthquakes. You can’t guard against every disaster, but you can properly strap down water containers and hold in glass jars with a locked cabinet door or a sturdy bar.
Store it in the Bathtub!
Here’s one last home water storage suggestion, especially for those that live where severe weather events occur, such as hurricanes, ice storms, etc.
There are plastic liners called water bladders that can be purchased for your bathtub. They are form fitting and designed to be filled with water from the faucet in case your municipal water service is interrupted.
A standard tub can hold between 80 and 100 gallons of water. This can be invaluable in an emergency!
Be careful that children in your home don’t play in, contaminate, or drown in the water.
Rotate Your Storage
Be sure to put your home water storage on a rotation schedule, which should occur every six months. You do NOT want to access your water storage in an emergency, only to find that it’s bright green and deadly.
In rotating your supplies, remember that, the stale water can be used to:
- wash people
- clean clothes
- was dishes
- flush toilets
- water the garden
Never just throw that water away! I try to make sure I’m being careful with every drop of water I use or consume, but I still have so much work to do in this regard.
Water is an amazingly pure and powerful resource and we are blessed to have access to it, clean and fresh each day. The best way to show our gratitude to nature and our Maker is to use it well and to store as possible against a day of need.
Water Storage When You Travel
Having water with you when you travel is important, even when there is no emergency or disaster.
Most of us don’t drink enough water each day, so carrying it with us throughout the day is a good way to remind ourselves to drink! Or, am I the only one who struggles with this?
Water in the Car
To store water in a vehicle in spring, summer and fall, find an out-of-the-way place to tuck it in. In the side pockets of your trunk, under seats and even in its own container somewhere in the back of the vehicle.
Wrap your water in insulated material to keep it as cool as possible. Using the thin insulated blankets you can buy in the camping section works well enough. A wool blanket will work, too.
Never leave plastic water bottles in the car in areas with hot summers. When hot, plastic leaches chemicals into the water stored inside, so try to avoid exposing these containers to heat.
If you live in a severe winter weather area you can either toss your water in the car each time you go somewhere, or you can under-fill your containers to allow for expansion if the water freezes.
Portable Bottles for Individuals
For every-day use, we have Life Factory® (www.lifefactory.com) glass bottles with silicone sleeves that prevent breakage. I love these bottles for peace of mind, especially in the summer heat; I don’t have to worry about plastic chemicals poisoning our water.
They’re heavy for hiking, though, so I recommend you have a Klean Kanteen® (www.kleankanteen.com) or other stainless-steel water bottle for carrying with you on long hauls.
Camelbak® packs (www.camelbak.com) are also useful (but the reservoirs that hold the water are made of plastic). It’s important that you remember to dry the reservoir every time you use it to prevent mold. Camelbaks® are light-weight and easy to carry and, for their many fans, the little bit of work to keep them clean and dry is totally worth it.
Be More Prepared
Below are some links to articles that will help you become more prepared with water storage, food storage, and more! Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns, or you’d like to share your own tips for other readers!
For more water storage information, as well as other preparedness information, please pick up your copy of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. This is THE homesteading/sustainable lifestyle manual for beginners and experienced DIYers alike!