The human body can survive for weeks without food, but it cannot survive more than three days without water.
In first world countries, we often take running water for granted. Yet, there are situations where you may have to live without running water for a period of time:
- After a natural disaster
- City / county water contamination
- Broken pipe in your home
Combine these two facts: your inability to live without water and the possibility of not having running water and you quickly realize that you should have some emergency water stored in your home.
How Much Water?
At a minimum, you should have 3 gallons per person of emergency water storage. This would give you enough water to drink and take care of basic sanitation needs for three days. Here is what that looks like for families of various sizes:
While this is a great place to start and is better than nothing, this only provides for basic survival needs. It is only 1 gallon per person per day. When you think of all the ways in which you use water each day: washing your hands, flushing the toilet, brushing your teeth, cooking, doing dishes, laundry, showers etc, you realize that 1 gallon a day isn’t much at all.
I recommend having a goal to store at least 14 gallons per person of emergency water storage. This would give you enough water for a minimal 2 week supply or a more robust 1 week supply. Here is what that looks like for families of various sizes:
If you’d like to see how much water I actually store (and why), you can read this post: Living Without Water, a Practical Guide.
You may also be interested in this more detailed way to calculate your water storage needs: How Much Water will YOU need?
Ideas for Small Homes / Apartments:
If you live in a small home / apartment and don’t have much space, consider using Aquabricks for water storage. They are more expensive than other water storage containers, but they stack almost anywhere and interlock to make the best possible use of space. You can put them all over your house: under beds, in the very bottom or very top of closets, on top of kitchen cabinets etc.
Another option for small homes is to store just the bare minimum (3 gallons per person) AND have a quality water filter. This is a good option if you have a water source (river / lake etc) nearby. I recommend Sagan, Katadyn or Aquamira filters.
Last, you can consider a Water Bob which is something you can put in your bathtub and fill up when you get a tornado or hurricane warning.
26 Emergency Water Storage Tips
Here are some general tips for storing water in your home:
- Try to store water away from light and heat.
- If you must store water outside, make sure to store it in opaque containers (such as the blue 55 gallon drums or blue 5 gallon containers) so no light can get in AND rotate it more often.
- Store water in containers in a variety of sizes. For example, large drums work well unless you have to leave your home. 16.9 oz water bottles work well unless you need a sink full of water to bathe or wash dishes in.
- If you do store water in large drums, make sure you also store a bung wrench and siphon pump so you can effectively get the water out.
- If storing water inside, you can use soda, Gatorade, or non-refrigerated juice bottles etc as long as they aren’t exposed to light.
- Do not use milk jugs or refrigerated juice bottles to store water in.
- If storing water in container that previously held juice / soda etc, make sure they are very well cleaned with bleach before storing drinking water in them.
- If storing water in clear containers (like soda or juice bottles), make sure you store them away from light and rotate every 6 months.
- Do not store water containers directly on cement. Instead, place a piece of scrap wood (you can get it for free at Home Depot) under them.
- Do not store water where it will freeze (frozen water is difficult to use)
- As an extra precaution you can add 1/8 tsp bleach to every gallon of water you store.
- If you are concerned about the taste of bleach treated water (especially if you have kids), store powdered drink mixes to help mask that taste.
- If you add bleach to your water, rotate it every 12 months
- If you do not add bleach to your water, rotate it every 6 months and store a water filter in case it becomes contaminated.
- If you do not want to treat your water with bleach (I do not), you can chlorine dioxide instead. It is more expensive, but is tasteless and gives your water a 5 year shelf life. I use Aquamira.
- If you want to be sure your water is safe to drink before you drink it in an emergency, you can store a water safety test.
- You can store water that is to be used for bathing and cleaning in old laundry soap containers (or similar)
- Clearly label all containers: “Drinking water” vs “For cleaning only”
- Consider storing a water filter so that if your stored water is contaminated for any reason (or you haven’t been able to rotate it), you will still be able to use it. I recommend Sagan, Katadyn or Aquamira filters.
- Keep all stored water away from stored gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances.
- It can be a good idea to store a few containers of water in the freezer to help keep food frozen should the power go out for a period of time.
And some tips for using your water during an emergency:
- If supplies run low, DO NOT ration your water. Drink what you need today (2 quarts for most people, more if extremely hot, pregnant or nursing) and try to find more tomorrow.
- Minimize the amount of water you need by reducing activity and staying cool.
- If you have not stored enough water, you can usually find 30-60 gallons of water in your water heater (as long as public water is still considered safe).
- You can also use the water in the reservoir tank of your toilets (not the bowl) if treated with bleach first (1/8 tsp per gallon).
- Canned fruits and vegetable also contain water that you can use to hydrate yourself.
What questions do you have about emergency water storage? Leave me a comment below – I promise to answer you!