How to Properly Prepare and Maintain an Emergency Water Storage

February 24th, 2014

Don’t forget your pets when calculating your emergency water supply needs!

dog with water bottle

Image via Jackie (Flickr)

How to Properly Prepare and Maintain an Emergency Water Storage

You can never be too prepared when it comes to drinking water. The human body can live without food for approximately three weeks, but it can only live without water for approximately three days. You never want to think that you will be without water, but we are all susceptible to natural or manmade disasters. This is why it is critically important to include water storage in your household’s emergency preparedness plan. I hope that you will never face a situation where you do not have access to safe drinking water, but if you do, you’ll be relieved to know you can tap into your emergency water storage when necessary.

How Much Water to Store

The first step in preparing an emergency drinking water storage supply for your household is to calculate how much water you should actually keep for your entire family. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day per person. Keep in mind, however, that if you have children, elderly, or ill family members, you might need more water. You will also need extra supplies in your emergency preparedness water storage if you are pregnant, nursing a child, or live in a warmer climate. If you live in a particularly hot environment, you should double your water needs to two gallons per person per day.

I also recommend storing additional water for cooking, cleaning, and your pets. Don’t forget that your animals cannot live without water either. Other things to keep in mind – if you have the storage space that is – is extra water for medical emergencies, disaster crews, and/or your neighbors should their supplies run short. The most important thing, however, is to ensure you have enough water for your family and pets for at least three days.

How to Store Your Water

If you keep up with my blog, you know that I normally never recommend bottled water. In this case, however, purchasing bottled water is a safe way to ensure your family has plenty of safe drinking water in the event of an emergency. If you purchase bottled water, the only things you need to take into consideration are the water’s “use by” or expiration dates and ensuring the water remains in its sealed container until you need to drink it. You’ll simply need to buy enough bottled water per the specifications above to build up your emergency water storage supplies.

You do not have to purchase bottled water, however, to build up your water storage supplies. You can also “bottle” the drinking water yourself. Here’s how:

  • Purchase food-grade water containers or use empty two-liter soda bottles.
  • Properly clean the containers and their caps with dish soap and water.
  • Rinse the containers and caps thoroughly to ensure all soap is washed away.
  • Take 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach and add it to 1 quart of water.
  • Pour the bleach/water mixture into your emergency drinking water storage bottles and swish it around, ensuring all surfaces of the bottles are touched.
  • Sanitize your caps with the bleach/water mixture as well.
  • Rinse your bottles and caps thoroughly with clean water.
  • Fill your emergency preparedness water storage bottles with your filtered tap or well water.
  • Secure the lids tightly.

Sanitizing Your Water

If your water is not properly treated by your water municipality, you will need to sanitize it further. To do so:

  • Take a dropper and add two drops of your unscented chlorine bleach to each water bottle.
  • Do not cap your water bottle.
  • Allow the water to stand for 30 minutes.
  • Smell the water to ensure there is a slight chlorine odor to it and tightly cap your water bottles if so.
  • If you do not notice a slight chlorine smell, add two more drops and let the water stand for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Tightly cap your water storage bottles and write the date you filled them on the outside of the bottles.
  • Store a supply of water purification tablets with your emergency water storage supply just in case you need them.

Maintaining Your Water Supply

You know how to prepare your emergency water, so let’s talk about maintaining your emergency drinking water storage supply. Maintaining the water supply is easy. You simply:

  • Ensure all water bottles are sealed tightly, and do not open purchased bottled water prior to use.
  • Store your water bottles in a cool, dark, and easily accessible place.
  • Use all commercially bottled water prior to its “use by” date and replace as necessary.
  • Use any home-bottled water within six months of bottling and replace as necessary.

What Not To Do

Finally, let me tell you what not to do, because you want to make sure your emergency preparedness water storage supply is usable in the unfortunate event that you need it. Some things to avoid when preparing and maintaining your water supply are:

  • Do not use plastic jugs or cardboard containers for your emergency water; only use 2-liter soda bottles, because jugs or cardboard containers that have had juice or milk in them cannot be properly sanitized for your protection.
  • Do not use glass bottles; they might seem safer, but they can break and are heavier to carry should you need to evacuate.
  • Do not use your water if it has expired or you suspect it is contaminated or bad in some way; sanitize with your water purification tablets if necessary.

I hope you never have to use the tips in this blog post, but in the event that you do, these are the safest ways you can ensure you have plenty of safe drinking water should you face a disaster. Keeping your water clean and safe for use should be a priority in every household – emergency or no emergency. Ensure your drinking and bathing water is properly filtered at all times, and make certain you have plenty of water for every family member stored away in the event of an emergency.


Written By: Lynn Taylor

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