How to Build an Emergency Water Supply


When you’re thirsty, want to wash your hands or take a shower, or need to clean your home, you simply walk to a sink or bathtub and turn the faucet handle.

Most people in the U.S. have never turned that handle and been met with a lack of flowing water. And that’s probably why we take running water for granted.

But the infrastructure in our country has become vulnerable in recent years. This has been proven repeatedly. Extreme weather, natural disasters, and manmade crises have left some people without clean, running water.

Water becomes contaminated either at its source or en route to homes and businesses. Especially when it travels through aging lead pipes. We can’t live long without clean water.

If your water access at home were cut off, you’d need to find clean drinking water to survive. And quickly. Stores will run out of bottled water in a hurry.

Don’t get caught high and dry

Today I want to tell you how to make sure you don’t get caught high and dry when an emergency compromises the quality of water coming out of your taps.

By building a backup water supply, you can safeguard the health of yourself and your family for when a crisis occurs. And remember – the next crisis could be right around the corner.  

Please don’t think you’ll be able to count on FEMA when this happens. The agency is stretched thin. They realize they can’t help everyone in a timely fashion. 

That’s why they advise Americans to have an emergency water supply. They know it could be a matter of life or death. The time for you to take this potential situation seriously is now.

How to store it

In addition to bottled water from stores, there are many types of storage containers appropriate for storing your water. Regardless which container you use, make sure to clean it before putting water into it.

Repurposed Containers: These include empty soda bottles, juice bottles, and any other containers. But keep this in mind:

  • Durability – These bottles and containers were not designed for long-term use. For that reason, they are more apt to develop leaks than more durable containers.
  • Clear – Many of these containers are clear. This makes it more likely that algae may develop as none of the light is being filtered. That being said, these containers are better than nothing. If you use repurposed containers for all or some of your water storage, it is important to rotate the water and to keep the water out of direct sunlight.

Boxes: Boxed water storage kits are a great choice for a number of reasons.

  • The boxes, most of which hold several gallons, can be stacked, making this a good choice for those with limited space. You can easily stack 20 or more gallons in most closets and still be able to use the closet for other purposes.
  • Boxed water storage kits keep out light completely, making this a good option for long-term storage.
  • Should you have to bug out, boxed water storage kits are easy to take with you. Unlike large barrels that can be heavy to move, water boxes are more manageable.

Barrels: For large quantities of water storage, barrels are a good choice. Be sure to buy barrels designed for water storage. These barrels are made of food grade plastic and are resistant to light and algae.

Pouches: Mylar pouches, similar to those used with boxed storage kits, are a good choice for water storage that doesn’t take up a lot of room. Mylar pouches are lightweight and available in a variety of sizes.

Water bricks: These study plastic bricks come in a variety of sizes with spigots that allow for easy pouring. Some of them are designed for convenient stacking due to their interlocking structure. They’re heavy, but usually have handles for easier transportation.

Prepackaged water: This is another option for your water storage plans. The most common would be jugs and cases of drinking water. These are fine for short-term storage and must be rotated regularly.

Where to store it

You need to find a place to store enough water to last your family in an emergency. Regardless of whether you live in a house with a basement or in a small apartment.

In all cases, you want to be sure to store water away from light and heat. A cool, dark space is best. You also want to be mindful of the potential for containers to leak.

If feasible, take advantage of space under beds or consider dedicating part of an extra closet to your storage.

Storing water outside is not ideal. Avoid extreme temperatures and sunlight. If it is your only option, aim for storage in a carport or other covered area where you can at least avoid direct sunlight.

How much to store

How much water you store depends on many factors. Such as the number of people in your household, how much storage space you have, and how long you would like your supply to last.

The general rule of thumb is one gallon of drinking water per day per person. This is especially important if you live in a hot climate. Or if you need to engage in much physical activity.

You should also have another half-gallon or so per person per day for sanitary purposes and handling other tasks. So, 1½ gallons of water per person per day total.

Some organizations recommend a three-day supply. That’s a bare minimum. Try to store as much as possible.

Even if you have access to water, such as a nearby stream or lake, you still need to consider a water storage program. Many types of disasters could cause your water source to become contaminated.

Sourcing and collecting water

Sourcing and collecting water can be important for both the short-term and long-term. Even if you have stored water, it might not be enough. It’s important to know where you can find water.

Know sources near you: Become familiar with water sources near you. This includes lakes, rivers, streams, etc.

Rain collection: Learning the basics of rain collection is one of the best things you can do in terms of your water survival planning. Rainwater collection includes three steps: collecting, purifying, and channeling it to tanks or barrels for storage.

Some rainwater collection systems are homemade, and it is inexpensive to get started. Others are more industrial and more costly to set up. If you have the proper purification systems in place, you can use rainwater for everything. Including drinking water.

For the most basic of rainwater collection systems, you need to simply cut one of your drainpipes and divert it to a large barrel. Be sure to have more than one barrel on hand so you can collect as much water as possible during a good rain.

Underground water still: This method will not provide you with a significant amount of water. But if done properly, you can acquire about a quart per day.

  • Choose a location that gets plenty of sun during the daylight hours and is in a low-lying area.
  • Dig about 15 inches down. The sides of the hole should not be straight up and down. Instead, aim for a bowl shape.
  • Place your collection container in the center. Cover the entire hole (including container) with plastic sheeting.
  • Place a rock over the container and use other rocks to hold down the sides of the plastic sheeting.

Because water collected in this manner may contain bacteria and other impurities, it is important to filter the water before use.

Wells: If possible, consider installing a well on your property as another option. As is the case with other water sources, this water can become contaminated.

Hot water heater: Depending on the size of your water heater, you have somewhere between 30 and 60 gallons of water on hand. Most hot water heaters have a valve from which you can access the water. But you will need a hose or pump to make collecting water easier.

Treating water

You may not have sufficient potable water in your storage. Or you might find yourself in an emergency situation in which you need to treat water. There are several methods to consider.

Boiling: Boiling water will kill pathogens and bacteria, making many water sources safe for drinking. You must boil the water for at least three to five minutes. Cover the pot to avoid losing some water through evaporation.

If possible, filter the water before boiling. This is especially important if the water appears cloudy or has visible debris.

Filters: A high-quality water filter is important. It can mean the difference between safe drinking water and questionable water. Due to the many contaminants found in water, it’s a good idea to filter your water in normal conditions. Not only during an emergency.  

Ideally, you will include two water filters in your kit. The first will be a small pump-type filter, like the ones you would use for camping. The other would be larger and would have the ability to process larger volumes of water.

Chemicals: There are two chemicals commonly used to treat water: chlorine and iodine. Keeping iodine in your emergency kit is a good idea, as it is effective at killing many bacteria found in water. Iodine must be safely stored at the correct temperature or it will lose some of its potency.

All you need to treat water with chlorine is simple household bleach. For every quart of water, add two small drops of chlorine bleach and allow the water to sit for about 30 minutes. If the water is very cloudy, add a couple more drops and allow it to sit an extra 30 minutes.

When a disaster is imminent

On rare occasions, you may know that a potential water contamination event is on its way. Such as a predicted storm. In that case, there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Fill bathtub: Fill your bathtub and sinks with water.

Fill other containers: Even if you do not have large containers, fill anything you can with water. Keep in mind that water stored in some containers should only be used for sanitary purposes. Not for drinking. Such as non-food grade containers.

Buy extra cases of water: This step illustrates the importance of preparing. If you wait until a disaster is coming, you will probably have a hard time finding cases of water.

Clean water is essential… for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. Make sure you don’t get caught without an adequate stockpile of this life-giving essential.


  • Donald King - May 31, 2024

    Another method of creating clean drinking water is with the use of a dehumidifier, if power is available.

  • Donald King - May 31, 2024

    What about the old time practice of putting a pure silver coin in a barrel of water to help keep it clean. This method was used by wooden ship sailers back in the Columbus era.

  • Carol A Ghan - March 03, 2024

    Thank you for the helpful information.

  • Debra Woods - February 18, 2024

    Thank you for the information. I was always thinking about this because food kits need water to prepare specifically freeze dried. I worry about my animals also. I’m 69 and not strong like I used to be. Social security doesn’t leave much to do the things I need to. We need to all pray for each other and ourselves

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