Sunday, October 19, 2014

Water Storage for Preppers

One of the basic principles of prepping is the survival rule of threes. Under extreme conditions, you can only live:

Three Minutes without Oxygen
Three Hours without Shelter
Three Days without Water
Three Weeks without Food

Water is life. A person can only survive a few days without water. The easy availability of clean drinking water right now often makes us complacent about our water storage. However, you cannot assume that the current water infrastructure will be intact after a major disaster or other emergency. Water is delivered to your home through a series of buried pipes of various sizes and materials. If these pipes are damaged, it could take from a few days up to a few weeks to get them repaired to deliver water to your home again. Natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes may cause such damage, and pollute or disrupt public water supplies. It is wise to prepare now for such an event by storing appropriate amounts of water that will meet your water needs in an emergency.

For preppers, having an adequate water supply requires three steps: Catchment, Purification + Storage. Here we will deal with water storage for preppers as an integral part of a preparedness plan.

One easy way for preppers to implement a water storage plan is to utilize the S.I.T. method ... Store, Isolate, Treat.

S – Store
Stored water must be pure, treated water to prevent microbial growth, and stored in food-grade containers. See below for specific information on storing water in your home.

I – Isolate
There are several gallons of clean water in the water heater and piping within your home at all times. If a natural disaster occurs, such as an earthquake, you should assume that the public water supply is no longer safe to drink and this may be your safest source of drinking water. After securing the safety of your family members, please isolate your home from the public water system by turning of the main water valve to your home. This will allow you to use this water even if the public water system has been contaminated. Assume a boil order is in effect after an emergency until you hear from an official otherwise.

T – Treat
Depending upon the disaster at hand, water may still be available but not safe to drink. Contaminated or suspect water can be treated at home during an emergency to make it safe for consumption. Several of the easiest and simplest ways to do this are discussed below.

How much water do I need?

Most sources that we have researched recommend one gallon per person per day should provide enough for sanitary and hydration needs in an emergency. These same sources recommend that you store about two weeks’ worth, or 14 gallons, of water per person. I urge you to try living on only one gallon of water per person, per day for a weekend. After this trial run, you will see why we believe that one gallon per day is wholly inadequate.

What contaminants should I worry about?

There are several possible contaminants that you need to consider when making a selection for emergency water: bacteria, protozoa, viruses and chemicals are all possible contaminants that make water unsafe to drink. Debris and color in the water may not be harmful by themselves. But if they carry bacteria, the water becomes unsafe. Aesthetic components such as taste, odor, and hardness are not at all harmful to health, but they may be a consideration in the storage or treatment option you choose.





Do I need to put chlorine in the water before I store it?

If the water source is not chlorinated, household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) should be added. Regular, unscented bleach is best but brand does not matter. No bleach is needed if you are storing chlorinated water from a public water supply. If you don’t know whether your tap water has been chlorinated, you can call your water provider or test your tap water with a spa kit (a commercially-available water quality testing kit for home hot tubs and pools).

How much chlorine do I need to use?

Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops) of bleach per gallon of water if the water is cloudy and 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) if the water is clear.

What about calcium hypochlorite?

Calcium Hypochlorite more commonly known as Pool Shock, is one of our preferred methods for water purification. We cover this extensively here:

pool shock calcium hypochlorite water purification

How long do I need to boil contaminated water?

Boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes will kill pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, viruses, etc.). The higher the elevation, the longer you need boil the water to kill the same pathogens (as much as 12 minutes in the high mountains). Note that boiling will change the taste of the water and should be cooled before drinking.

Can I just plan on treating water as I need it, instead of storing it?

Since some treatment equipment is easier to store than water, and you never know the nature of the disturbance that will necessitate the need for water, we recommend preparing for at least one treatment option in addition to storing water. Treating water instead of storing it will save space but relies on a water source and one may not be available. If the delivery of water to your home is interrupted, a treatment option will not work. However, if water is still available but the safety and quality of the water is suspect, then treatment methods will be useful in making that water safe to drink.

How long will it keep?

Commercially packaged water can be stored for about 5 years; home filled stored water should be changed annually. Stored water will go flat but can be aerated prior to consumption by pouring it between two containers a few times.

What kind of container can I use?

Storage containers should be airtight, resistant to breakage, and heavy enough to hold water--which weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. They should have a lining that will not rust or affect the flavor. Consider the size, weight (once filled with water), ease of use, rotation and portability of the container you select. See the list of common containers below.

How do I store it?

Stored water must be pure and disinfected to prevent microbial growth, then stored in food-grade containers (water from the tap stores well). Stored water should then be protected from light and heat to prevent algae growth. Water should also be stored in areas that will not cause damage to the home if the containers leak. Water containers should not be stored directly on a concrete floor. Concrete easily changes temperatures and continues to give off moisture for years so you should place a small platform under the water container for air movement.

Here is an excellent method of water storage known as the Water B.O.B.


There are many pros and cons to the various methods of water storage and water purification. These are covered extensively at

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