If you’re looking to store more than a month of water, you might consider getting one (or more!) of these 320-gallon water storage systems. I’m looking to add one to our garage later this year.
How to Store Water in 55-Gallon Barrels
Rain Barrels. In addition to storing tap water, you might consider adding some rain barrels into your system. Simply place a rain barrel at the bottom of your gutter pipe, and whenever it rains your barrel collects the water. Rainwater harvesting is an eco and budget friendly way to create a long-term water storage reserve. Because it comes from the heavens, and it’s sitting in a barely-protected barrel outside, you’ll want to filter and sanitize rainwater before drinking it. Some preppers just use rainwater for hygiene and save their stored tap water for drinking. Although it’s a myth that some states have made rainwater collection illegal, some drought-prone states have regulations on methods and require permits, and some states (like Texas) actually give a tax credit for buying rain collection equipment. Be sure to check the regulations for your state.
Water Cistern System. Water cisterns are a big step up from rain barrels. They’re basically giant holding containers that you use to capture rain water. Water cistern systems can hold anywhere from 1,400 gallons to 12,000 gallons of water. If you’re planning for end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it events, water cisterns are where it’s at. You’ll need space where you can place a giant water tank and you’ll need to develop a system of pipes to deliver rainwater to the cistern. Also, the tanks used in cistern systems usually aren’t food friendly. You’ll want to treat the water before drinking it or use cistern water primarily for hygiene purposes.
Back-up Water Solutions
In addition to having stored water, you’ll want to have options to filter and purify water in case you need to use water from rivers, streams, or lakes to supplement your supply. Creek Stewart recommends having three options on hand to produce clean drinking water: filter, chemical, and boiling.
- Water filter. I have a Katadyn Hiker Pro Filtration System in my bug-out bag. You can produce about 1 liter of clean water per minute with it. You definitely can’t rely on it for your primary source of clean water. It’s just a supplement.
- Purification tablets. I have some iodine and sodium chlorite tablets for purification as well.
- Fuel and stove to boil water. Finally, I have a small stove and fuel in my bug-out bag so I can boil water to purify it.
Common Questions About Water Storage
Do I need to rotate my water every year? This is probably the most common question and the most common answer is, yes, you need to change your water out at least once a year. But after looking into it, I found that this isn’t necessarily true. First, it’s important to understand that water doesn’t have an expiration date. If properly stored, water doesn’t spoil. What makes water go bad is contamination that gets into it. If you take proper precautions in sealing and storing your water so that bacteria or other contaminants don’t get into it, your water could theoretically stay good forever. In fact, I’ve read lots of blog posts from folks who’ve imbibed five-year-old stored waterwithout any problems. So, as long as you take proper precautions, no, you don’t need to change your water out every year. However, if you’re worried about contamination, then go ahead and do it.
Do I need to treat my water with chlorine before I store it? A few prepper sites recommend that you treat your water with chlorine before you seal its storage container. But if you’re using tap water from your city to fill your water storage, it’s unnecessary. Tap water has already been treated with chlorine. If you properly seal your bottle or drum, you shouldn’t have to worry about bacteria or algae growth. If the day comes that you have to crack open your water source and you’re worried about contamination, feel free to add chlorine. The proper amount is 1/8 teaspoon of chlorine per gallon of water. To make it easier, just buy some water treatment drops. They tell you exactly what you need to add.
Do I need to boil my stored water before I drink it? If you have reason to believe that your water has been contaminated, then boil it. If not, don’t. It’s a waste of fuel.
Why does my stored water taste funny? Is it contaminated? Stored water will often taste flat and weird because there’s no oxygen in it. To get rid of that weird stored water taste, simply swish your water around your cup a few times before drinking.
Do I need to store my water off the cement? If you plan on storing water in 55-gallon barrels, you’ll likely come across recommendations to not store the barrels on your garage’s cement floor and to instead place them on wooden pallets. The reason given is that chemicals in the cement can cause a chemical reaction with the plastic storage container and possibly contaminate the water. Looking into this a bit more, this seems to be more of an old prepper wives’ tale. I couldn’t find any scientific research to back up this claim. A few prepper sites claimed that storing your water on cement only became a problem when your cement got really hot.
To be on the safe side, I went ahead and put my water barrels on a pallet. Didn’t cost me much more and didn’t take up much more space. You can also use carpet or flattened cardboard boxes too.
I have a swimming pool. Can’t I just use that for my emergency water? If you have an average size swimming pool out back, you have around 20,000 gallons of water at your disposal in case of an emergency. It’s certainly drinkable. You just have to be smart about it. Because of the chlorine and pump/filter, pool water is typically free of contaminants like algae and bacteria. Don’t be freaked out about drinking chlorinated pool water. The recommended chlorine levels for pools is 2 parts per million. Water with chlorine levels below 4 parts per million is safe for humans to drink.
The problem with relying on pool water for a long-term water solution is that in a grid-down situation in which water and electricity are out for more than a week, that pool water is going to go bad. First, chlorine levels will drop in a few days unless you keep adding chlorine to the pool. If you don’t have enough chlorine on hand, that means the water will become an algae and bacteria breeding ground in a short while. Second, without electricity, your pool’s pump and filter can’t clean out the gunk. So after a week, your pristine drinkable pool water will start to “spoil.” With that in mind, you might consider having several collapsible water carriers on hand and filling them up with pool water if you think the power will be down for more than a week. Fill as many as you can and put them in your garage. You should boil or chemically treat any pool water before drinking it just to be safe.
What about saltwater pools? Well, that’s a bit trickier. There’s a lot of mixed info out there on the topic. A few people make the case that salt levels in saltwater pools aren’t as high as you’d think they’d be, and are arguably in the safe range for drinking. On the other hand, their levels are still pretty high and too much salt consumption in a survival situation can be detrimental to your overall well-being, so you’re better off not swigging the stuff. It’s better to play it safe by avoiding drinking the saltwater from your pool. If you do have a saltwater pool and would like to use the water, consider using it only for hygiene purposes. If you want to use it for drinking, use a solar desalination device like this one. Just be warned, it takes a long time to produce drinkable water.