Water storage

Before I go any further, since preparedness and guns are my two favorite blog topics, I must say that Massad Ayoob becomes more of a hero of mine everyday.  Check out his awesome blog (he’s truly an expert in both areas) here.

When it comes to preparedness, without water you’re done.  All the guns and ammo in the world won’t help you if are waterless.  Not that you can buy ammo now anyway, but work with me.

First, the bad news:

  • Water is heavy.  8.34 pounds per gallon.  Yikes!  That adds up very quickly.
  • It’s hard to store reliably.
  • It takes up a lot of space.
  • You need a LOT of it to survive.  Minimum amounts of drinking water are about a gallon per person per day (and per pet per day).  But realistically, you need 2-3 times that when you include cooking, cleaning, re-hydrating food, etc.  That’s a lot.  There are 3 of us in our family, plus the dog, that’s 12 gallons per day.  Our 27-gallon fish tank, which sounds like a lot, is barely a weekend’s worth of water for us.
  • Double that if you are exerting a lot of energy or if it’s abnormally hot out.
  • It doesn’t store particularly well.

Now, the good news:

  • It’s cheap
  • You can store it in all kinds of interesting things

Here are some expensive ideas:

Pools hold water pretty well

Now we’re talking

Huh, wait, that’s even better

Since I don’t have a swimming pool, we store water in just about everything else we can – Sprite bottles, Gatorade bottles, orange juice bottles, pretty much any plastic container that we use regularly.  We have some more robust 5-gallon containers as well, but we have a ton of those “everyday plastic bottles” around.  All we do is wash them out, then write the date on them with a Sharpie, then fill them with tap water.  Since nearly every municipality puts all sorts of chemicals in their water (like chlorine), it doesn’t need to be treated – as long as it was safe when it came out of the tap.

I’m more worried about the plastic breaking down than I am about the water going bad, so we try and rotate through our water about every 6-9 months.  Those plastic bottles won’t last forever, so after one rotation with water in them, we throw them away and use the water.  But if you’re storing it in a much larger container, I highly recommend treating it since you’re less likely to rotate it as frequently.  Some people recommend unscented bleach; others don’t.  But the bottom line is that you don’t want stuff growing in your water.  When in doubt, treat it, boil it, or filter it – or heck, do all 3.

Speaking of which, when it comes to making questionable water safe to drink, there are 3 ways to make it drinkable (and by the way, rainwater is generally regarded as completely safe until it touches something – your rain gutters are NOT safe; so if you’re collecting water, you still need a way to make it drinkable):

  1. Water treatment
    1. Here’s what the Center for Disease Control has to say about the topic.
    2. But in a nutshell, you’re putting some sort of chemical like bleach or iodine into the water to kill the bad stuff.
    3. Some of those treatment methods leave the water discolored, and tasting nasty – but at least it won’t kill you.
    4. A new entrance to this market is the SteriPen.  Pretty cool idea, actually – you zap the water with some UV light, which kills off all the bad stuff, and wallah – drinkable water.  Besides, those things are tiny and pretty inexpensive.  They just don’t treat a ton of water at a time and I’m not sure how long they last.
  2. Boiling
    1. For clear water, boil it for 1 minute, 3 minutes above 6,500 feet (rolling boil, not the weak, pathetic boil)
    2. If the water isn’t clear, consider filtering it as best you can first, then boil it like crazy
    3. Let it cool in a sanitary container.  Your stomach is a great sanitary container, it’s just slightly difficult to chug boiling water.  But speaking of which, if you have to travel and you’re forced to leave some water behind, don’t be afraid to drink it.  If nothing else, you’ve reset your 3-day clock (you need water within 3 days).
  3. Water filtration
    1. Hikers are pros at filtering water.  There are lots of great water filters on the market (geared toward hikers) that are small and compact like this one and this one.  Those charcoal filters work great, but they won’t last forever.  You may want to stock up on those little filters.  They’re great in a get-home-bag!!
    2. If your plan is to bug-in, you might want to consider a non-travel filter, like the Berkey.  Love ’em or hate ’em, we own one and I like it.  The thing is huge, it wasn’t cheap, but it’s VERY nice knowing that we have a backup water filtration plan if we need it.  Besides, I’ve bought in to the marketing.
    3. You can do years of research on microns, and I know people who have, but I think the common thread is buy a filter that you trust.

In Colorado, it’s pretty much illegal to collect rainwater.  Something about how the states downstream own the rights to it now or something.  Who knows.  But we’re still a desert climate, and water is a huge issue for us.

How do you guys store water?


4 comments on “Water storage

  1. Shawn says:

    I store water the same way you do, plastic bottles everywhere in my house! I have also used some glass bottles when available. We store all the water in cabinets and try to keep it all in a dark cool place. Also, we always thoroughly clean the plastic bottles with soap before filling them with water. Just wish the plastic would last longer, it stinks to have to rotate it, better safe than sorry.

  2. Will says:

    We have 90 gal we drink/use first from the water heaters. Then 2 55 gal drums treated with chlorine. We have several 3 micron filters I would use to process any new sources. Our sump pump does operate and cycle 3 times a day in the spring once per day in the summer so I hope we could filter that too if worse came to worst. Lastly we have a reverse osmosis system that we plan to use a hand pump to make drinking water. I wish I had much more!

  3. Robert says:

    Jeff, you conveniently pirated image content from my website in violation of my user terms (such as without posting visible credits on or below the image back to my website). It’s the image you named “slightly smaller than a pool”. Do you do this often ? My website analytics lead me to your site . . .

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