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The first step in survival preparedness, storing water is part 1 in a 5 part series on procuring water in a disaster situation. Read the introductory article “Water, Water, Neverwhere” for the full story.

In case of an emergency, the first step in getting drinking water is to already have water stored in the first place.

Bad weather can easily lead to a utilities shutdown, and if a power outage affects your city’s water filtration system, you could have only a short amount of time before the water coming through the tap is contaminated.

Even personal crises such as unemployment or other unforseen water shutoffs may arise, even if not a SHTF situation. Therefore, it is a high priority in self-sufficiency to have a backup supply of water storage.

HOW MUCH? As far as your household storage of water goes, FEMA and the Red Cross recommend to save a gallon of water per person, per day, for a minimum of three days’ backup.

However, general consensus among prepping circles and Provident Living guidelines suggest a two weeks’ supply, as well as the means to purify new water sources in case the utilities are out for a longer amount of time.

For those of you survivalists interested in prepping long-term, many people eventually build up to three, six, even 12 months’ supply of water per family member; some water stored in large barrels, some in smaller, portable water jugs.

Out of each gallon of water, you should be drinking at least half of the gallon of water daily. The rest is for hygeine and cooking. Pregnant and nursing mothers should drink more than that. Also, don’t forget to stock water for any pets!

DOES WATER EXPIRE? Water does not expire per se, so technically it will store indefinitely; but, it can become toxic or infected with microorganisms and algae if not stored properly.

This is why you should only use specific containers designated for long-term use, and store as directed.

Do not store the containers on concrete or directly on the floor, as the toxins from the floor can eventually leak into the water supply. Place them on wooden pallets instead.

If your water storage consists of store-bought water bottles, check to see if there’s an expiration date and rotate the storage out before they expire.

Many water bottles are made to break down quicker than other plastics and will eventually leak toxins into the water or become unsealed or begin to leak.

If you fill your own containers with water, it would be unfortunate to wait until a disaster strikes then crack open your water supply only to find out it was contaminated or riddled with fungus.

This could be from a broken seal, or if the container was not sanitized properly beforehand, or if the water was unclean when you stored it. This is another reason to have more than one source of water storage, and to change out your supply every few years or so, just in case.

Also, follow the SANITIZING STEPS (in figure 1) before filling with water. Then for every quart of water, add a teaspoon of 4-6% sodium hypochlorite solution (that just means a capful of chlorine bleach) – unless you are using city tap water, which already has chlorine added. (See figure 2 for DOs and DON’Ts on diy water storage).

After long-term storage, water can taste a little flat. That’s nothing to worry about; just slish it around for a minute or two and it will taste okay. Or, better yet, pass it through a standard household water filter for a better taste.


EMERGENCY DISASTER PREP: If you have enough warning of an impending natural disaster (such as a tornado, earthquake, etc.), quickly fill up your bathtub for an emergency supply of water. However, you’ll probably want to filter that water before drinking if you don’t scrub your tub first!

COMMERCIAL WATER STORAGE: Blue jugs, small and large, blue barrels, and even rain barrels can be used to collect or store water. BUT- you can’t just use any plastic container (see figure 2). Make sure it is food-grade, BPA-free, and only plastics #1, 2, or 4 (you can tell by the number on the bottom of the jug printed inside the plastic identification triangle – see figure 3).

The reason why official water jugs are blue solid plastic is threefold: First, the color blue helps deter any fungal growth in the water.

Second, using blue as the universal color for water jugs prevents anyone from storing anything else in the container. Third, the opaqueness of the blue helps shield the water from sunlight and UV rays.


You can use soda or gatorade bottles as a do-it-yourself water storage collection. Just make sure you sanitize them properly, and do NOT use milk jugs or anything other than plastics #1,2 or 4 (fig 3). Again, do not fill them to capacity because the water will expand and break the seal. (Again, for DOs and DON’Ts on diy storage, see figure 2).

TRAVEL SIZE CANTEENS/POUCHES: Besides diversifying your water stores into several barrels, smaller canteens and travel pouches are also imperative to own in case you have to bug-out.

There are commercially-made individual serving water pouches, but water is heavy when loaded into your backpack in this fashion. Military water bladders and canteens can be hooked on to MOLLE clips; many other sport water bladders are heavier and less durable.


In addition to water storage, technology has given us personal water filtration systems which filter most toxins out of almost any contaminated water supply and render it potable (drinkable).

These come in various forms, most of which consist of some type of straw connected to a filter, connected to an individual-sized water container. This prevents the survivor from having to carry a heavy water store, but you also have to find a new water source everywhere you go.

When shopping for a water filtration system, check to see how many gallons it will filter before needing replaced. Does the entire system need replacing, or can you just replace the filter?

How expensive and accessible are the filters, in case you want to stock up? Or, will you even need another filter? When you divide the amount it will filter by a gallon per day, the answer is how many days the filter will support one person.

Many personal filtration systems will filter anywhere between a years’ and a lifetime’s supply, so be sure to check. Also, check to make sure it filters out at least 99.99% of toxic additives, including lead.

The water supply in Flint, Michigan recently, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin before that, is a good example of the toxins we can expect in a contaminated city water supply.

NEXT WEEK, PART 2 – LOOKING FOR WATER: Finding water in urban areas

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