How to Stockpile and Store Water

Water is truly the life blood for all of us. The average adult can only survive for about 3 days without fresh water to drink. In fact, a loss of just 10% of fluid in your body can quickly become fatal. So for anyone who is trying to prepare for a crisis, the ability to stockpile, and store water is a critical component of good emergency plan.

But because Murphy’s Law often rears its ugly head when you least expect it, a smart prepper must also know all of the ways and methods for collecting water in an emergency. There are a wide variety of things that can happen unexpectedly which may leave you stranded without access to running water including:

  • Power Outages
  • Being Stranded in a Desert Area
  • Breakdowns on Roads or Highways
  • Plane Crashes
  • Car Crashes in Isolated Areas
  • Getting Lost in the Woods or Mountains
  • Getting Stuck in the Snow

How & Where to Collect Water In An Emergency

If you find yourself in an unexpected crisis situation where you don’t have enough water with you to drink, what can you do? There are a number of ways to collect water in an emergency situation if you know how to do it safely and where to look. We’ve included some of the ways below.

When you find yourself in an emergency scenario where you need to collect water, there are a wide variety of things you can use. Once you collect the water, you will likely need to filter and purify your water prior to drinking or cooking with it.

One of the first ways to collect water is to catch it during a rainfall. If you are at home, you can set up a rainwater catchment system with a screen or filter. You can also plan to access water from nearby fresh water sources such as:

  • Well
  • Spring
  • Pond or Lake
  • Creeks, Streams, or Rivers

But what if you don’t have a rainwater catchment setup at home or you are stranded away from home and you need water? How and where can you collect water in an emergency?

In Your Home or At Work

  • Pots and pans and other dishes
  • An upside down umbrella to catch rain
  • Bucket
  • Plastic bags
  • Toilet Tank
  • Hot Water Tank
  • Outdoor Hoses
  • Washer Hoses
  • Water pipes in walls
  • Zip lock bags (wrap in bandana when full to help prevent breakage)
  • Water coolers
  • Vending machines

On The Road

  • The plastic case around your car side mirror
  • Any plastic container you can find
  • A tarp or piece of plastic
  • A piece of cloth or a t-shirt
  • Condoms from your wallet or glove compartment

In the Wilderness

  • Look in Hollows of Trees
  • Check under rocks or around rocks
  • Large Leaves
  • Streams or Rivers

In The Desert

  • Eat cactus fruit
  • Solar Water Still
  • Barrel Cactus Water (last resort)
  • Dried Riverbeds (dig a hole)
  • Rocky Outcrops

In the City

  • Plastic bottles or Cans
  • Empty coffee cups
  • Fountains
  • Office Water Coolers
  • Retention Ponds or Pools
  • Swimming Pools
  • Collect dew from grass or objects with cloth

Stranded At Sea

  • Plastic tarp or raincoat to collect rainwater
  • Towel or Other material to soak up dew from poles or deck
  • Solar Still

In the Snow

  • Melted ice or snow from ground or trees (don’t eat frozen)

Containers for Storing and Stockpiling Water

It’s best to avoid storing water in plastic containers with BPA Bisphenol A, as these can break down and leach poisonous chemicals into your water. When it comes to plastic containers, you can get some additional insight on the plastic by looking at the Resin ID Code which can typically be found on the bottom of plastic containers. Toxic plastic containers are #7, #3, and #6. Safer plastics are numbered #1, 2, 4, and #5.

Keep in mind that studies show that 95% of all plastics tested did include estrogenic activity. Plastics with estrogenic activity can cause disruption to hormones in the body which can cause all sorts of issues including low sperm count, infertility, genital deformities, mood disorders, and cancers.


These are great to have on hand for emergencies when you have advanced warning of a potential power outage. Water Bobs are designed to collect and store water from your bathtub faucet temporarily so you can use it for drinking and other hygiene needs.

Collapsible Water Jugs

These jugs are handy to have on hand because you can quickly fill them with tap water or from a stream, lake, or pond if necessary and have up to 5-gallons of water at a time. If filling from an outside water source or with potentially contaminated tap water, you will still need to purify the water before using it for drinking or cooking.

Camelbak or Other Hydration System

These are designed so you can carry water with you if you are hiking or otherwise on the move. They are handy for mobile use because they can be worn like a harness and have a tube for drinking which leaves your hands free for other tasks.

Emergency Water Pouches

To stockpile and store water for times when you will be on the move, emergency water pouches are a great option. You can carry several pouches in your get home bag (GHB) or bug out bag (BOB) without the bulkiness of carrying bottled water. Emergency water pouches are packaged so that as long as they are sealed, they are not susceptible to extreme hot or cold. The water in the pouches may freeze but when thawed the water will still be usable.

Collapsible Water Bottle

These are great to carry in your GHB or BOB even if you don’t carry them filled with water. When you are somewhere and need to collect and store water temporarily until you can get it back to camp and boil it, the Playtypus collapsible bottle works well. They are lightweight and unlike a plastic water bottle, the platypus can be collapsed as water level goes down so as to not take up as much space.

Nalgene Water Bottle

Another way to carry water when you are on the go is a Nalgene water bottle. Most come with a wide mouth which makes it easy to fill from a collapsible water jug or even a freshwater source. Nalgene water bottles come in a variety of colors and typically include a loop which can be used to hang the bottle from your belt or pack.


These are great for storing water and are helpful if you are trying to stockpile large quantities of water. They are made of plastic and their shapes are designed so that you can stack several of them together under a bed, coffee table or even in your basement or another storage area.

Canned Emergency Water

For those who want to stockpile water without worrying about leaching that is possible with plastic containers, canned emergency water is a great alternative. Canned emergency water is canned under pressure which extends the shelf life to 25 or 50 years. It’s a great stockpiling method that you can buy and forget about until you need it because it’s not as susceptible to heat and sunlight as water stored in plastic bottles.

Plastic Food Grade Barrels

Available in various sizes, these blue food grade containers block light but also allow wave lengths to penetrate to help reduce algae and bacteria growth over time. These are great for connecting to a rainwater catchment system using a filter or screen to keep out any debris. Water should still be purified by boiling or some other method before drinking.

Other Ways to Stockpile and Store Water

Modified Hot Water Tank

Another way that some preppers have come up with to stockpile and store water is to modify their home hot water tank. If your budget allows, you can replace your small water tank with a larger one so you will have more water available to you if the power goes out. One additional modification you can make is to put your hot water tank up on bricks or some other foundation that is high enough for you to put a jug or container underneath the drain. This makes it easy for you to drain several gallons of water at a time for use during a power outage.

Swimming Pools

Outside free standing pools and in-ground swimming pools can be one way to stockpile water for an emergency. You can use the pool for swimming but also have it available as stored water during a power outage or another emergency where you are trapped at home. Due to the pool chemicals, you will need to filter and purify water before using for drinking or cooking.

Empty Gatorade or Other Plastic Drink Bottles

For those who are trying to stockpile water on a tight budget, empty gatorade or other sport drink bottles can be cleaned and used to store tap water. Despite popular belief, you can use plastic juice or milk jugs to collect water and even store it if necessary. Any water that you store that hasn’t been pressure packaged can become contaminated and you must boil before use anyhow. So simply clean out milk and juice jugs really well with soap and let dry before filling with tap water.

Tips for How to Stockpile and Store Water

  • Store in a cool place away from direct sunlight or extreme hot temperatures.
  • Boil or purify water using another method just prior to using.
  • Keep in mind that plastic juice and milk jugs may break down quicker than other water storage containers so water in these containers should be used first when possible to avoid leaky containers and loss of water.
  • If using a chemical method to purify water, follow instructions about wait times carefully for safety.
  • Recommended water stockpile for the average adult is a minimum of 1 gallon daily for drinking. You will need to stockpile more water than recommended for bathing and other hygiene needs and if you have a garden, pets, or livestock.

Do you feel ready to stockpile and store water for the next crisis that may hit your area soon? Which if any of these containers for stockpiling and storing water are you using? Do you have a favorite or foolproof method for collecting water that we forgot to mention above?  Share with us in the comments below.

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16 thoughts on “How to Stockpile and Store Water”

  1. A few years back or longer, I saw a filtering stone that used gravity to filter the water and it never clogged. I have search extensively and cannot find it. I vaguely remember it might have been either on the KI4U site or maybe it was a link. Does anyone know what it is I am talking about and point me in the right direction. I really regret not purchasing a couple back then when I started my prepping.

  2. Bam Bam,

    If a Berkey is out of your price range and you need a water filter, check out the Texas Men’s Baptist Water Ministry. These folks are doing good work.

    I don’t doubt the work they are doing; but, their website seemed a bit confusing to me if all I need is to order filters.
    I have several types of filters; but, the following are reasonable and work well.
    You need only supply the food grade 5-gallon buckets.
    Ceramic Water Filter Kit
    No matter the commercial filter or the filter kit you have, there are always two good practices to employ for both safety & longer filter life.
    1. Always prefilter any turbid water to get the detritus and other things out of it.
    2. If possible boil the water in an open container and allow a full rolling boil to occur for a few minutes.
    #1 catches some of the particles in your coffee filter, cheese cloth, flour sack cloth, T-shirt, etc., where they can be easily rinsed out and not unnecessarily clog the ceramic filter element.
    #2 boils off all of the VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) that might make it through the filter or unnecessarily reduce its operating life.
    The description of how to build the filter is on the website and a look around the web will show you videos.
    I also have some of the Seyschelle water filter bottles and some Alexapure: “Survival Spring Personal Water Filters.” I bought a handful of these back when they were introduced for $10.00 with free shipping. One always has to be on the alert.

  3. Megan,
    All in all a good article; but, I’ll comment one item at a time, as is my engineering nature, LOL.
    Power Outages
    We don’t have those here, since we have a whole house generator and lots of consumables to keep it running. In a long term outage, meaning 1 year or more, we might have to use other means.

    Being Stranded in a Desert Area
    Only if I was kidnapped and drropped off, and the closest desert is thousands of miles away.

    Breakdowns on Roads or Highways
    We keep water packets and water filtration in the car kit.

    Plane Crashes
    If I survive the crash, I suspect someone will be looking for me.

    Car Crashes in Isolated Areas
    We keep supplies and communications gear in the vehicle and don’t travel to really isolated areas.

    Getting Lost in the Woods or Mountains
    I grew up in the woods and always have sufficient gear and skills to take care while there.

    Getting Stuck in the Snow
    Once again. Gear in the vehicle to keep warm and to melt snow for drinking.

    Our property has a good Well and a creek running through it, and there are numerous ponds not far from here. We have numerous ways to filter any water from those sources.

    In Your Home or At Work
    Being retired my home is my work and we have water, heating, lighting, and power all covered in numerous ways.

    We have lots of food grade 2 ½ & 5 gallon Buckets
    We have Plastic bags; but, don’t forget tarps.
    In a pinch the Toilet Tank works; but, modern ones only hold 1.6 gallons
    Our Hot Water Tank holds 50 gallons of water and is already elevated. Don’t forget to drain a bit from the bottom of the tank on occasion. This gets any sediment out of the tank which keeps it from rusting out. We do this every time we add salt to the softener.
    Water from our Outdoor Hoses would need to be boiled and our hoses don’t generally contain much water, since the hydrant shuts off rather completely.
    Our Washer Hoses are only about 2 feet long and hold no water to count on.
    Water pipes in walls would be a really last ditch effort, since once you break into them, they will no longer work should the water be restored.
    Zip lock bags (wrap in bandana when full to help prevent breakage): These would work; but, all we use are freezer bags, which are not all that much more expensive and much more heavy duty and durable.
    Containers for Storing and Stockpiling Water
    The WaterBob (Bathtub Oblong Bladder) is something everyone should have. It also contains a siphon pump to get water back out of it.
    We had a few Collapsible Water Jugs; but, they seemd to degrade rather quickly as we used them.
    We have Camelbaks; but, don’t forget the cleaning kit, since when used, especially in the wild, they can get rather nasty. The kit contains a brush and cleaning tablets.
    I have a case of the Emergency Water Pouches. Mine are made by Datrex and contain 125 ml or 4.23 fluid ounces. Datrex also makes the lifeboat emergency ration bars, and yes I also have some of those.
    I have several Nalgene Water Bottles
    I also have some Canned Emergency Water, canned by our local Anheuser Busch brewery.
    I have several Blue Plastic Food Grade Barrels; but, have not yet started using them.
    Other Ways to Stockpile and Store Water
    Modified Hot Water Tank? No reason to modify it, since they all have a drain valve on the bottom that should be used regularly. You should probably mount the tank a bit elevated from the floor.
    Empty Gatorade or Other Plastic Drink Bottles
    We use these for water; but, mostly for mixing Gatorade powder.
    We also have 2 of the YETI Rambler 64oz Stainless Steel Bottles so we can keep hot or cold water or other liquids for hours

  4. Nice post, Megan. However, I would not recommend using milk jugs for long term storage or potable water storage. No matter how well one thinks they’ve been cleaned, they can still harbor milk residue and/or bacteria (think about it, they are often a more textured plastic than other bottles/jugs). Not to mention, they degrade much more quickly than say, soda or juice bottles. I liked the mention of the numbered codes on the bottom of the bottles, a reminder those numbers are in a triangle on the bottom of all plastic bottles.

    • Grammyprepper,

      I would not recommend using milk jugs for long term storage or potable water storage. No matter how well one thinks they’ve been cleaned, they can still harbor milk residue and/or bacteria (think about it, they are often a more textured plastic than other bottles/jugs). Not to mention, they degrade much more quickly than say, soda or juice bottles.

      Actually the HDPE plastic is very durable and that type of jug is great for water; but, not by rinsing old milk jugs except in an emergency. Our local Kroger has those empty jugs available to fill with R/O water, and other places also sell them. With a high strength-to-density ratio, HDPE is used in the production of plastic bottles, corrosion-resistant piping, geomembranes and plastic lumber. HDPE is commonly recycled, and has the number “2” as its resin identification code. HDPE plastic is the stiff plastic used to make milk jugs, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. It is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic.

      I liked the mention of the numbered codes on the bottom of the bottles, a reminder those numbers are in a triangle on the bottom of all plastic bottles.

      I find the numbers confusing; but, under the number is the plastic resin type as follows:
      #1: PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) …
      #2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) …
      #3: V or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) …
      #4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) …
      #5: PP (Polypropylene) …
      #6: PS (Polystyrene) …
      #7: Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN or others)
      To me the chemical names of the resin types are easier to remember.

      • I have bleached out milk jugs that I keep on hand for emergencies. I would fill them and use them for sanitation purposes–not for drinking. The problem with milk jugs is that they degrade rapidly (at least they do so in the Florida heat).

        • Bam Bam,

          The problem with milk jugs is that they degrade rapidly (at least they do so in the Florida heat).

          Then get some of them out of the heat, by placing them in you rfreezers. This will keep the water and the jug intact and in a power failure will add thermal mass to the freezer to help keep things from thawing.
          2 birds with one stone, LOL.


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