A 55-gallon water container can be a great way to store water for your family in case of water storage or contamination.
There are other options as well, but this is a common and convenient one.
However, even with these barrels being so common, it seems many people are a bit intimidated by them. Many are unsure of the best way to fill up a 55-gallon water barrel and how to keep it stored safely.
So, I thought I would try and make it easy and guide you through all the steps!
How to Fill Up a 55-Gallon Water Container
Below are some simple steps to filling up your water barrel.
Choose a hose
In order to fill up a 55-gallon water barrel, you will definitely need a hose.
Option #1 – You likely already have a garden hose, but if this hose is kept outside and is well used I would not recommend using it. A hose that has been sitting around outside can have dirt in it. We need to make sure we fill the container with perfectly clean water. If you have a hose that has been well cared for and kept indoors and is relatively new, it should be safe to use. Run a test in a clean white bowl or container and see if the water looks clear and clean.
Option #2 – Purchase a new garden hose. This would be my preferred recommendation! Using this will better to ensure your water is clean when it goes in to the container.
Option #3 – A drinking water hose (a.k.a. a boat and camper hose). These hoses are specifically made to handle drinking water. They cost a bit more but are the best hose you can use to fill up your 55-gallon water container. You can find them at home improvement stores or on Amazon.
Open your 55-gallon water barrel
Seems like an obvious step, right?
Well, the thing is that the lid to a 55-gallon water barrel is a bung. It looks like this:
To open that bung to fill up the water barrel, you will need a bung wrench. This bung wrench on Amazon is typically the type you will need to get but make sure you get the right one for your specific container. You may be able to find them at your local supply stores as well.
Place the bung wrench into the container as shown and turn. It will probably be really tight, and will need to be closed tight as well after you fill it.
Clean your 55-gallon drum to store water safely
Now that your barrel is open, the first thing you should do is clean it thoroughly.
Below are the steps to use to make sure it is clean and safe to store your water.
- Pour about 1/8 cup of bleach in it, a little more or less is fine; this is not an exact science
- Add a few gallons of water
- Put the bung back on and close it with the bung wrench
- Roll your barrel around so that the entire inside gets covered with bleach water
- Open the barrel and dump out the bleach water in a safe place, like a drain
While using bleach to clean your container is optional, I highly recommend it to ensure you are drinking the safest and cleanest water possible.
Move the water container to its permanent spot
Now, before you actually fill up your 55-gallon water container, you will need to take it to where you want it to be permanently.
A full 55-gallon water barrel weighs close to 500 pounds, so you are not going to want to move this sucker when it is full.
Do your best to keep it somewhere cool, dry, and dark. If you can’t meet all those requirements, you can still fill it up, but you may want to rotate it or move it around once in a while.
You could also put a piece of plywood under it as some people worry about chemicals from the ground leaching in. Personally, I don’t believe that to be necessary, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Attach a hose to your faucet
Attach your hose to a faucet to fill up the 55-gallon water container.
There are a few options here:
Option #1 – Attach a hose to a potable water source outside. We have an outdoor water source that provides potable water and others that provide irrigation water. You DO NOT want to fill your 55-gallon water barrel with irrigation water.
But if you have a potable water source outside – use that. Depending on where you are keeping your barrel, you may need an extra-long hose. Put it through an open door or window and then inside your open water barrel.
Option #2 – Attach it to an indoor faucet, which is the option I personally use.
Since we keep our barrels in our basement under our porch, I can use a shorter hose that runs from our kitchen faucet.
Some faucets are already made to be attached right to a hose, others will need an attachment or converter. Just let your friendly home store employee know what you are trying to do, and they will help you find the right attachment.
Fill the 55-gallon water barrel
Finally, it is time to fill up your water container.
I would suggest you have the hose pretty far down inside the barrel. You may also want to have a second person standing there when you turn the water on just to make sure that the sudden pressure doesn’t cause the hose to come out of the barrel.
Once it is started, you can leave it for a while.
Make note of the time and then come back after a few minutes. You can use a flashlight to see how full it is, then estimate how long it will take to get full. This should give you an idea of how long you have before you come back.
Add a water treatment to the water
Once you have completely filled up your container, you should add some sort of water treatment.
Adding a 1/4 cup of bleach will make sure that any bacteria that might have sneaked in during the filling-up process are killed. But this will also change the taste of your water.
Since bleach has a short shelf life, you should rotate it every year or so–less often if it is in a cool, dark, dry place, but more often if it is in the sun or a hot garage.
You can also use chlorine dioxide. My favorite brand is Aquamira.
Using this guarantees you a 5-year shelf life – so far less rotation is needed than just using bleach! An added bonus is that your water won’t taste like bleach either.
The downside is that it is more expensive than just using bleach.
Close the water container
Use your bung wrench to close up that bung tightly. Make sure you have thoroughly tightened the bung so no elements, bugs, or dirt can get in.
What I learned about having a water container
I got my first 55-gallon water barrel sometime in 2009.
I was so excited and proud that we finally had significant water storage. We were in California at the time, so there were no basements, so it sat out in the sun on our back porch.
Moving with a barrel
Then the time came for us to move, which made me think about how I was actually going to get the water out. Remember, it weighed nearly 500 pounds. I am strong, but not that strong. There was no way we could move this to Utah full.
When we realized we needed to empty it, we did not realize how much effort would be needed. It took three men to push the barrel over and dump all the water out.
So, if you plan on moving, be sure you have resources to help you!
A pump for getting the water
So, I got the barrel, but did not think about how I needed to get water out.
I realized I needed to have a pump to get water out of my 55-gallon water barrel in a way that I could actually use it – not by spilling it on the ground.
You can find pretty inexpensive pumps at most home improvement stores or on Amazon.
This siphon pump is affordable and works well. You pump it a few times and the water continues to come out without you pumping anymore until you stop it.
I actually have two in case one breaks. Yes, I am always prepared.
So, there you have it! Everything you need to know on how to fill up a 55-gallon water container.
Just one of many ways you can become a smarter prepper and be more prepared for that next emergency.
Let me know what you think about my strategy on how to fill up a 55-gallon water barrel and if you have further advice. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas on this topic and even all your questions and curiosities!