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Water Storage for Preppers

Updated on May 1, 2014

The Need for Storing Water

If you're like many people, the recent chemical spill in West Virginia, and the polar vortex have caused you to rethink your emergency provisioning. If you haven't begun storing food and water, now is a good time to do so.

The residents of WV had no time to prepare when they were told their public water supply was contaminated. In a short time, stores were sold out of water, leaving many people worried, helpless, and reliant upon others.

In winter, frozen pipes, water main bursts, and power outages can spell disaster for people who aren't prepared. Even if the stores near you aren't sold out, if you are snowed in, you may not be able to easily reach extra water supplies.

West Virginia chemical spill highlights system’s crisis
West Virginia chemical spill highlights system’s crisis | Source

Water - Priority #1

The first item on any prepper's list should be water. Humans can live only 3 days without water before their body begins shutting down.Without clean water, much of a prepper's stored food cannot be cooked; cleaning and sanitation become very real threats.

FEMA's website has good information regarding the storage of water for emergency use.'s website is also very useful; download their preparedness PDF file to be sure you have the necessary food and water for any crisis or emergency.



Have You Begun Storing For Emergencies?

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Water Storage

Many people have begun to store water in their homes in case of disaster. There are many storage methods available and there is no right way to do it; assuming you follow a few guidelines. The list below only contains the absolute minimum recommendations for storing water. :

  • Water that is not commercially bottled, must be replaced every six months.
  • Plastic milk jugs cannot be used to store water (they break down easily, and the bacteria and sugars within milk are difficult to clean)
  • Commercially bottled water can be stored for 1-2 years
  • Rotate and check your water supplies regularly

Water Containers to Avoid

  • Any container that cannot be sealed properly
  • Breakable containers
  • Containers that have ever held harmful or toxic substances
  • Milk bottles or cartons (these are difficult to clean properly, and the plastic breaks down quickly)


Indoor Emergency Water Collection

There are a few places within your home that you can find useable water if you find yourself in an emergency. The key is to make sure the water is clean and safe (we'll talk about that later).

Inside Your Home

  • Hot Water Heater - Remember to turn off the pilot on your hot water heater before draining it.
  • Pipes - Even if public utilities are disrupted, you may have water in your pipes. To get the water from your pipes, open the faucet on your highest water line, and then open the faucet on your lowest; gravity will drain any remaining water from your pipes.
  • Toilet Tank (Not the Bowl!) - Removing the lid from the back of the toilet will allow you to access the water in your tank. Be sure to follow the safety methods listed below before attempting to use this water.

Outdoor Emergency Water Collection

Like the residents of West Virginia, you may find yourself in an without water in an emergency. If you find yourself running low on water reserves in an emergency do not ration.

If the indoor water sources mentioned above are no longer viable, you may need to look elsewhere for water, such as:

  • Collecting Rainwater
  • Water from streams and rivers or any other moving water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs

If you choose to use any of these sources, make the water safer before drinking it.

***Do not drink flood water, nor water with any floating material, odor, or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first.***
Before attempting to drink or cook with any outdoor water, you must first take a few steps to make it safer, or you'll run the risk of getting sick, which can be a killer in a disaster or emergency situation.

Making Water Safe

Note: These instructions are not for treating water that will be stored. Only use these methods in emergencies when no other clean water source is available.

  • Straining
    Pouring the water through thin straining materials such as paper towels, a clean cloth, or a coffee filter will help remove any solid particles. This should be the first step to making collected or contaminated water safe to use for cooking or cleaning. Filtering your water will remove many contaminants, however it will not kill bacteria, pathogens, or parasites; further treatment is necessary to make the water safe.
  • Boiling
    Boiling water for over 3 minutes is recommended to kill many bacteria and pathogens that may be in water. Boiling points are different based upon elevation, therefore, boiling water for 3-5 minutes in any elevation should be enough. If the water has an "off" taste to it after boiling, pour it back and forth between two containers to improve its flavor.
  • Chlorinating
    Using household liquid bleach (unscented), add up to 16 drops per gallon to the water. Stir and let stand for about 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, find another source of water and start over.
  • Distilling
    Fill a large pot about halfway with water. Tie a (non plastic) cup to the handle on the lid of the pot so the cup will hang inside the pot when the lid is upside-down without dipping into the water. Boil the water for around 20-30 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is now distilled and should be safer to drink.

WaterBOB Demonstration


During these harsh winter storms, water main breaks and flooding from melting snow can interrupt or even contaminate your water supply. During these conditions the you may want to consider a waterBOB® for temporary water storage. It is constructed of heavy duty, FDA food storage compliant plastic that is FDA compliant for food storage and will keep water fresh and clean for up to 4 weeks.

Check out the video to the right to see a demonstration.

Water Will Increase Your Chance for Survival

Remember, after 3 days without water, your body will begin shutting down. By keeping yourself hydrated with an ample supply of water, you increase your chances of surviving an emergency. Don't be caught off guard, make water storage your top priority and you'll be in a better position than most people in an emergency or crisis. Water is relatively cheap, and there is no reason to not begin storing it today.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

© 2014 davidwhoward


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    • davidwhoward profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Indiana

      @mecheshier - You're absolutely right about water going rancid; thanks for bringing that up.

      As far as the legality of collecting rainwater in CA. In an emergency, I personally wouldn't care too much about that...

      Thanks for commenting!

    • mecheshier profile image


      4 years ago

      Great post with some very useful information! I must mention that in some states it is illegal to collect water such as California. As well, water will go rancid if it is not properly sealed...

      Thank you for all the hard work you put into this post! Voted up for useful and awesome.


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