How, Where & Why to Store Water for an Emergency

With everything that’s been happening in America and around the world over the past three years, it’s never been more important to prepare. Storing clean water for a variety of needs should be an essential part of our preparations.

Today I’m going to tell you why, how and where you should store that water. But first a very brief reminder of how things used to be.

My grandparents lived in a three-story, 1800s Victorian house in southern New Jersey. The house’s previous residents had a second-floor bathroom built on stilts. Why? Because they didn’t trust indoor plumbing.

Fortunately for us, we live during a time in history when we can simply turn a faucet handle. And suddenly cold or hot water will come out. We use it for drinking, showering, bathing, washing our hands and brushing our teeth.

Not to mention cooking, washing clothes and cleaning our homes. But there could come a time when that water is unavailable. Or it’s contaminated.

How much should I store?

I think we all agree it’s a good idea to store plenty of clean water. How much to store is the question.

The answer depends on several factors. Such as how many people are in your household. And how much storage space you have. As well as the type of climate where you live. And how long you’d like your supply to last. 

The more water you have, the more prepared you’ll be. But most people don’t have space to store sufficient water for the long term. 

So your preparation plans should also include where to source and how to collect water. Plus, how to purify it. 

Recommendation: 1.5 gallons a day

The general rule of thumb is to store at least one gallon of drinking water per day per person. You should also have another half gallon or so per person per day for sanitary and cleaning purposes.

Even if you don’t normally drink a gallon of water per day, it will be good to have in an emergency. A crisis could involve being more active than normal. So, more is better. Especially if you have a garden.

You should aim for at least a three-day supply of water. But that’s a bare minimum. We’ve seen far too often in recent years that many emergencies go on for a week or more. 

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

Where should I store it?

Some folks are fortunate enough to have a basement in which they can dedicate space for emergency water storage. Others live in small apartments and don’t have any extra space.

Still, if you are creative, you should be able to find ways to store enough water to last your family in an emergency.

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. Don’t store bottles where a leak could damage wood floors or cause other problems.

Storing water outside is not ideal. As mentioned, you want to 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.

What should I store it in?

For those with limited space, the types of containers you choose are crucial. Take advantage of space under beds or consider dedicating part of an extra closet to storage. Some people raise their beds to add extra storage space.

If you have more space, blue, polyethylene plastic storage barrels for large quantities of water are popular. They’ll also help differentiate your water from other containers.

Clean the containers. Before filling them with water, dilute one teaspoon of bleach in a gallon of water and wash the containers thoroughly. Including insides, lips and lids.

Place labels on your containers. Clearly mark the date you filled the container on each label, as well as the source (filtered water, tap water, ground water, etc.).

Tips for water storage

If you store water in your basement or other cool, dark place, make sure to follow these suggestions.

  • Store various sizes of water containers. Water is heavy. If all you have is large containers, not everyone in your family may be able to comfortably handle them.
  • Keep your water away from chemicals. And only use containers with airtight lids.
  • Don’t let your water freeze. Frozen water could break its containers. Plus, you might not have time to wait until it thaws before you need to drink it.
  • Filter your water before you store it. At the very least, have a water-filtering plan in place in case your water becomes contaminated.
  • Replace your supply regularly. Yes, it could last for a long time if stored properly. But replacing it at least once a year is a good idea.  

Boil it if necessary

Something we’ve all seen in the news many times is a boil order. Even after an emergency has occurred and been dealt with, tap water is often not immediately safe to drink.

So, city officials tell residents to boil their water before using it to drink, bathe, cook or clean.

Now, boiling water does not get rid of all contaminants. But it is effective against bacteria and some other organisms. And the taste of boiled water will improve if it is first poured back and forth between two clean containers.

If your power is out, however, you may not be able to boil water. This is one of the reasons you need to have an alternative way to heat water.

None of us can live for long without water. Make your emergency water storage a priority while there is still time.


  • Ernest Simmons Jr - September 16, 2022

    Hello again
    I just copied all of this information and I plan to use it so thank you for all that you are doing please don’t stop helping everyone as you do okay thank you and please stay strong safe and healthy sincerely Sgt Simmons

  • Kerry - September 16, 2022

    Also I have heard you don’t want to store water in plastic jugs, etc., on direct concrete. Might be worth researching. Just a thought.

  • Bruce Van Eerde - September 16, 2022

    Arizona Ice Tea gallon containers work well for storing water. After drinking the tea I wash them thoroughly and let them dry for about a week, then fill them with water. They are thick durable plastic and they come with built in handles.

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