Water is the most important resource man needs to survive. Unfortunately, it’s also the one thing a lot of people forget to store in case of emergencies.

According to a survey conducted in 2012, as much as 53% of American adults don’t stock up on non-perishables and water. These people probably think that they can just get clean, potable water from the usual sources when SHTF, but this is a far cry from the truth. The fact is that the water system may be contaminated, compromised or may even stop working altogether when disaster strikes.

If and when that happens, where will you get H2O?

In a survival context, a person can only last 3 days without clean drinking water. It’s important to know how to store water safely to avoid dehydration, water-borne infections, and other nasty scenarios.

Here’s how you can store and protect water safely when SHTF:

How Much Water Should You Store?

How much water is enough? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing three days’ worth of water at the minimum, allowing at least one gallon per person per day. Half-gallon is for drinking, while the other half is for cooking and hygiene needs. But since water interruptions could last for more than 72 hours, some preppers insist on a water supply that can last for two to four weeks. There are also others who suggest storing as much as 4 gallons of water per day for each member of the family.

Aside from these guidelines, one should also consider the following factors:

  • Climate or weather – do you live in a hot, arid area where people are at high risk for dehydration?
  • Personal needs – do any of your family members have additional hydration needs? Do you live with very young children, pregnant women or the elderly? Will you be doing a lot of physical activities that would cause you to need more water than usual?
  • Space – do you have enough space to store water safely?
  • Other water sources – do you have an alternative water source nearby, like a water tank or well?

Bottled Water For Short-Term Use?

One of the easiest ways to store water for emergencies is to buy bottled water from the store. These bad boys are purified, sealed and easy to store. They’re also very portable in case you need to bug out. Perhaps the biggest downside to storing water bottles is that buying a lot of them can be quite expensive. There’s also the risk of BPA-like substances leaching from the plastic bottle into your water.

Using water bottles are a feasible option when you’re in a solo, short-term survival situation, but you might want to look at other options if you want to store water longer and for more people.

Long-term Water Storage Options

If you’re storing large amounts of water for long-term purposes, you should only use food grade containers that can be stoppered or sealed shut. These containers include food grade plastic, stainless steel, and glass containers.

Plastic Containers

Food grade plastic containers are usually made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize all these long names. All you gotta do is look for the numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 inside a little triangle indicated at the bottom of the plastic container. You can also use water barrels that can store large amounts of water at a given time. When doing this, make sure you use a hose that’s appropriate for handling water for consumption, and not just your regular garden hose. These barrels can be sealed shut and are usually blue in color to prevent UV light penetration and algae growth.

Stainless Steel Containers

Despite the existence of food grade plastic containers, a lot of preppers still don’t want to take their chances with chemical contamination. This is why some prefer using stainless steel containers to store their water supply. These reservoirs usually come in 2-5 gallon sizes and are great for long-term storage. While stainless steel containers reduce the risk of chemical contamination, they can also be a bit pricey and unwieldy in case of a bug out scenario. You also don’t want to treat water with chlorine when using a stainless steel container, as the chemical corrodes steel.

Glass Containers

Glass containers are risky because they can break. Still, you can use them as long-term water reservoirs in case SHTF. Just make sure that these containers didn’t hold any non-food substances before you used them.

Put A Label On It

Water technically doesn’t have an expiry date; what makes it “go bad” are external contaminants like harmful microorganisms, chemicals, and debris. To keep your water safe, make sure it’s sealed properly against contamination. And like any item in your pantry, put a label on the container. Note when it was initially stored and what you treated the water with, if applicable. It’s also important to rotate your stored water supply. If you don’t think it’s ideal for drinking anymore— don’t throw it out! You can use the “stale water” to water the plants, wash your car and the like.

Clear Doesn’t Always Mean Clean

What makes water storage different from food storage is that water can easily “go bad” without you noticing it. Here’s the rule of thumb when it comes to water storage: just because it’s clear doesn’t mean it’s clean. Impurities like sediments or debris could be an indication that the water is not safe to drink, but the more dangerous threats are invisible to the eye. The water could be riddled with microscopic contaminants like water-borne bacteria, protozoa, viruses and even chemicals, so don’t take it at face value. When in doubt, purify the hell out of it before consuming, or don’t consume it at all.

Water Purification Methods

If you’re unable to store large amounts of potable water, you might want to know a purification method or two.
Boiling is one of the most popular ways to do this, as it gets rid of microorganisms and chemicals present in the water. The downside to this method is that you can only boil small amounts of water at a time. Boiling also uses fuel, which can be costly or hard to come by in a survival situation.

A lot of folks also prefer using water purification tablets. These tablets use chlorine to kill impurities in the water. They’re also cheap, lightweight and very easy to store and use. Here’s a more in-depth look at ways to purify your water supply at home.

Unlikely Water Storage Solutions

If space is an issue, don’t worry. You can still store water in some unlikely places. Take your bathtub, for example. In the event of an emergency, you can fill it up before lines shut down. But since bathtubs aren’t the ideal reservoirs for drinking water (they’re kind of gross, actually), you can use a device like the WaterBob to protect your water from contamination.

Another often-overlooked place is the water heater. Your heater can hold as much as 30 gallons of clean water, so keep that in mind when putting your survival plan together. Here‘s a more detailed look at how to maximize water from your heater.

A backyard swimming pool could also be a huge help. Although it’s got a lot of chlorine and is pretty unsafe to drink, you can use that pool water for washing, cleaning, and flushing.

Final Thoughts

Safe water storage isn’t a very complicated affair. The main thing that you have to look out for is contamination. If you follow the guidelines above and come up with a solid plan to store your water properly, it can last for a really, really long time.

Clean water could be inaccessible when disaster strikes, so start storing it while you can. Don’t be like the 53% who didn’t prepare emergency supplies. Be the minority who diligently squirreled some clean water away and will likely survive a major catastrophe.

Any other water storage tips you wanna share? Let us know in the comments below!

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