How Much Water Will You Need in a Water Shortage?

It is quite likely that you will be faced with a water storage or water pollution at least once, if not more often in your life.  When this happens, you will need to provide clean water for your family.  If you have a well or live near a fresh water source, then you are lucky.  If not, you will need to store water for your family.  If you are reading this article, you likely already know that.  (-:  But the next big questions is:

How Much Water Is Enough?

 Do you know how much water you should store for an emergency? It can be difficult and overwhelming to plan for / calculate! Click to find a quick printable worksheet that will help you nail down what you will need in a water shortage or contamination situation.!

 

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How Much Water Should You Store?

 Honestly, the answer to that question is a tough one and one that you will find many varied answers to.  A “water crisis” can be anything from your city’s water becoming contaminated for a day or two to a long term water shortage in the aftermath of a natural disaster or even worse.   With all the various possibilities, it can be hard to create a clear goal when it comes to water storage.

Today, I will help you determine how much water you should store for your family.  Yes, water is important, but I don’t want you to go overboard and spend too much time, money and stress here.  And while there is no one answer that will fit everyone, I do have some thoughts and suggestions (and another free printable!) for you that should help you determine what your water storage goal should be.

FEMA / Ready.Gov

Fema and Ready.gov recommend storing at least a three day supply of water and they recommend a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day.

I suggest that this be your first goal.  This is a bare minimum and I wish that every single family had at least this much water stored.  Here is a quick chart to help you determine how much water you would need for your family in order to meet this minimum:

Household Size Minimum Gallons Needed
1 3
2 6
3 9
4 12
5 15
6 18
7 21
8 24
9 27
10 30

It really isn’t much!  EVERYONE can find a way to store at least that much water!

That three gallons per person will keep you alive for a few days.  You may not be perfectly clean.  You may not be able to do laundry, but you will have clean drinking water and a bit extra for sanitation purposes.  Some water shortages / water crises won’t last much longer than this.  However, some will: especially those following a natural disaster. If you are serious about being prepared, you will want far more than 3 gallons of water per person.

Other Considerations

Once you’ve met the above minimum, consider other uses you have for water other than simply drinking it.  Below I have a list of questions / thoughts that should get your mind going.   Your answers will help you determine what you water storage goals should be.   If you have anything that you think I should add, just let me know in the comments at the end of this post.

  • Do you have access to a fresh water source AND the means to purify water?  We will discuss water purification later this month, but if you have an abundant fresh water supply nearby, you may not need to store as much water.  But keep in mind that water is heavy.  This fresh water supply should be close by.
  • The amount of water you need in a crises will depend largely on what you are preparing for.  Go back to the prioritized list of “disasters” you made in last month.  How likely are your top five “disasters” to cause a water shortage or water contamination?  Would these water crises be over quickly or would they be more long term?
  • Do you have any extra medical needs in your family?  Is anyone pregnant?  Is anyone nursing?  Does anyone get migraines easily? etc
  • Would the disasters on your list be likely to cause a medical emergency that would require more water?
  • Do you live in a warm climate?  In very hot temperatures, water needs can double.
  • Would any of the disasters on your list require a lot of physical labor which would in turn require more water?
  • Do you want to be able to do laundry, wash dishes, bathe, or flush toilets?  If so, you will need more water.
  • Do you have pets that you would want to store water for?

 

My Experience:

Later this month, I will be updating and re-sharing the experience I had living without running water for 48 hours.  But for today’s purpose I just wanted to share with you the numbers I came up with for my family’s water storage needs.  Again, there is no “magic” number and your goals will be different than mine.  I’m sharing these numbers simply to give you an example and possibly a starting place.

As a result of my experiment , I’m planning on our family of six using approximately 16 gallons of water per day.  This would require us being careful with our water, but would allow us to maintain a relatively normal lifestyle.  We would be able to take a quick bath / shower every few days and do about half of the laundry I do now each week.  I store extra paper products (that we can burn) instead of dish water.  The sixteen gallons would not allow for flushing toilets at all.  We would use “used” water for this purpose such as leftover dish or bath water.

Based on 16 gallons per day, our family of six needs to store:

  • 48 gallons for a 3 day supply
  • 112 gallons for a 1 week supply
  • 224 gallons for a 2 week supply
  • 336 gallons for a 3 week supply
  • 480 gallons for a one month (30 day) supply

Initially, my goal was a one week supply.  Once I had that, I put our resources (time and money) into other preparedness items (to be discussed in later months).  Once I had a bare minimum in other areas, I came back to water.  We currently have enough water stored to last us approximately 3 weeks.  My goal is to make that a full month supply.  In addition to that, we have the means to (easily) filter and purify water for at least a year.

Water For Pets:

I don’t have pets, so I didn’t include them in my calculations, but if you do, here are some guidlines from Hazel who is a favorite reader of mine and a Veterinarian.

“Since cats are all reasonably close in size, you can plan on an average of about 250mL (or about 1 cup) per cat per day.

Dogs are a little more complicated, since there is such a range in sizes. Most dogs will require 60-80mL/kg/day. To put that in US units: 0.12-0.15 cups per pound per day.

Pets that eat canned food will drink less water compared to pets eating dry food due to the increased moisture in the canned food. Pets in hotter climates and more active pets will drink a little more than pets in cooler climates or more sedentary pets.”

 

Your Goals

I suggest you make goals similar to mine:

  • Goal #1: Fema’s recommendation of 3 gallons per person
  • Goal #2: A more realistic goal that would allow for a bit longer than 3 days and a bit more than drinking and basic sanitation
  • Goal #3: A longer term goal to be reached once you’ve got some basics in other areas of emergency preparedness
  • Goal #4: An extremely long term goal (like a year+) that can be reached through water storage and / or purification.

Write these goals down!  Knowing what you are aiming for is half the battle!  And I’ve made it SUPER easy for you!  Just print THIS WORKSHEET (or click on the image below).

Do you know how much water you should store for an emergency? It can be difficult and overwhelming to plan for / calculate! Click to find a quick printable worksheet that will help you nail down what you will need in a water shortage or contamination situation.!

Next week, we will discuss how to store your water!

 

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Do you know how much water you should store for an emergency? It can be difficult and overwhelming to plan for / calculate! Click to find a quick printable worksheet that will help you nail down what you will need in a water shortage or contamination situation.!

 

 

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18 thoughts on “How Much Water Will You Need in a Water Shortage?”

  1. This reminds me every time a big storm would come as a child in the 50”S and 60’s my Mom would fill up all of the bath tubs. She would explain this was to flush the toilet, to wash up if we lost electricity. Being prepared is so important thanks for this. FYI a case of water Aquafina has 32, 16.9 oz bottles of water. Which is 4.225 Galons of water per case. That helps you to know how many cases of water you may want to have on hand.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for the water storage work sheet. It’s going into one of my preparedness binders.

    Living here in the Mohave desert and seeing the news about record low water levels in Lake Mead (where we get our water) we take water storage seriously and we have much more than what FEMA recommends for an emergency.

    I want to be able to not just have a month of drinking water for our household, but to be able to prepare meals from storage food, wash cooking pots, have a daily sponge bath, have water for our pets and at least hand-wash underwear until water service is restored.

    Reply
  3. If you need to transport water a little distance, consider getting/making transport “vehicles” from now. A riding lawnmower with a hitch for a small garden cart can easily transport about 9 5-Gal buckets with minimal fuel a few miles (if the roads are passable, but consider a light off-road path if blocked). Also, re-purposing a jogging stroller hitched to a bicycle can easily move 2 5-gal buckets. If you convert that to a platform carrier instead of the seat, you can increase the capacity nicely. Just be mindful of any hills… that can fry your legs in a hurry :) Be creative!

    Reply
  4. hadn’t really given much thought to water storage, each member of my family has their own life straw filter plus one in reserve as well as two katadyn vario filters. for hygiene I used baby wipes while I was serving overseas. we do keep 2 quart camel back ready with each bag (we change the water every Sunday). but I do like the calculations provided, it showed me that the amount needed was greater than I thought, but used in different ways.

    love the course!!

    Reply
    • I’m glad it was helpful Richard! Do you have a good water source near you for all those filters? I have a lake near us and I would likely store more if I didn’t have that and our filters.

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    • It really depends on what you use and how many are in your family. You can find some numbers for my family here: that might give you a starting point. Scroll to the bottom of that post for the actual numbers!

      Reply
  5. There are 7 of us and a dog so I figured at a minimum we need 240 gal for 30 day supply. If I go off of what your family used then we would need 640 gal for us. We currently have 345 gallons. We recently got 7 more 5 gal containers that I need to get cleaned and filled. Thanks for all your help to get us better prepared!

    Reply
  6. I am alone but for my 3 furry kitty girls – one is 6 pounds, the other two are 15 apiece. I have about 15 gallons of drinking water and another 25 or so for other uses. the 15 gallons are the freshest in my supply, the other 25 are older. I will keep rotating all this to keep it fresh. living in hurricane country, I feel I need lots more but I will continue to build on this. I have 3 retention ponds nearby – one just in the next block, the next is just under a mile and the third I about 2 miles and is a large quarry pond that is quite deep. I have a wagon to take along when needed because of the weight of the water. I also have gravel, sand, and activated charcoal for purifying the water. I plan on building that supply too.

    thanks for all the posts. they are quite interesting and informative. I look forward to each one.

    Reply
    • You can calculate how much water to store for each pet by using the following guidelines:

      Most dogs will require 60-80mL/kg/day. To put that in US units: 0.12-0.15 cups per pound per day.
      For cats, plan on about 250mL (or approximately 1 cup) per cat per day.

      Pets that eat canned food will drink less water compared to pets eating dry food due to the increased moisture in the canned food. Pets in hotter climates and more active pets will drink a little more than pets in cooler climates or more sedentary pets.

      For example my 50 pound (22.7 kg) dog would need about 6 to 7.5 cups of water per day, or 1362-1816 mL of water per day.

      Reply
      • Thanks for adding this here Hazel! I will add it to the actual article sometime this month as I go through and update each post in the course!

        Reply

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