How To Store Water For An Emergency


What would you do if your water supply became contaminated? Natural disasters can interrupt the flow of clean water. Following a disaster, some people may not have access to food and water for days or weeks. You can live for days without food; but you must have clean, potable water, or you will dehydrate. Whenever there is a crisis, water is the first thing to go.

How Much Water Do I Need To Store?

Each person in your family will need a 72-hour emergency supply of water: one gallon per person per day for drinking, plus an additional three gallons per person for washing, cooking, sponge bathing, doing the laundry, cleaning dishes, etc.

I recommend a three-month supply of water if possible: 90 gallons per person for drinking and 90 gallons for other uses. Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more. Store a little extra for them.

What Kind Of Containers Are The Best For Storing Water?

Plastic: Soda, water or juice bottles are all good. I save every heavy plastic jug that comes into my house. I fill them with water and store them in my basement and garage. Make sure all plastic containers used for water storage are food-grade, with a high-quality polyethylene terephthalate (PET) rating, and that they have never held chemicals or poisons. Clean all containers thoroughly.

Milk jugs: Milk jugs are not good containers to store water in. After about six months, they start to biodegrade, collapse and leak. Even the 1-gallon blue containers that you can fill up at grocery stores don’t last for very long. They are not heavy-duty enough. You will have a big mess.

Bleach bottles: Plastic bleach bottles can be used by filling the bleach bottle with water and sealing it with a tight-fitting lid. Do not drink the water stored in bleach bottles. You can use the water for cleaning or washing hands. Label it with a black marker.

Bottled water: Bottled water can be purchased in grocery stores. Cases of bottled water can be stacked.

Tap water: Tap water that comes from a municipal water system contains enough chlorine to be safe for long-term water storage. Just fill your containers with tap water and store them away from sunlight, preferably in a cool, dark place like a basement or garage.

Polyethylene barrels: Commercial water storage barrels are available, and they come in several sizes. There are smaller water containers that hold five gallons of water. They weigh about 40 pounds and have a spigot. These are nice because they can be moved more easily than 55-gallon drums.

Glass containers: Water can be stored in pint-sized or quart-sized jars sealed by the water bath canning method. Fill the jars with water leaving a headspace of about one inch. Tighten the lid and ring onto the jar. Boil the jars in the water bath or use a steamer canner. Store the jars with cardboard in between so they don’t break. Pint jars require 20 minutes boiling time and quart jars require 25 minutes.

250-gallon storage tanker: I own one of these water tanks. I really like it because it takes up less space than a 55-gallon drum. This 250-gallon or 185-gallon water tank is shaped to easily fit through doors or set on the floor of your garage. With two locations for spigots and being set up to be gravity fed, there is no need to worry about pumps. The larger tank is equipped for 250 days’ of water storage for one person (based on one gallon per person per day) or 125 days for two people and 62.5 days for four people. These water tanks are manufactured in and shipped from Utah.

Where Can I Store My Emergency Water Supply?

Store your water supply in a location where you can get to it easily. I like to store most of my water in smaller containers, because it’s much easier to carry around.

What Do I Do After An Emergency?

In an emergency situation, immediately shut off the water supply to your home. It’s a good idea to locate the shut-off valve before you need it and teach everyone in the family to do it immediately after a disaster. The main gas valve must be shut off also. You can drain the pipes and collect the water that is left in your water lines. Just turn on the faucet that is located in the highest room of the house to let air into the lines. Draw the water from the lowest faucet of the house.

What Are Some Other Supplemental Sources Of Water?

  • The water in the hot water heater is available for use. Be sure to shut off the incoming water or intake valve to prevent the contaminated water from mixing with the safe water. To take water out of the tank, open the drain valve. A hose can be attached to this valve and the water drained into containers.
  • The water in the tank of the toilet (not the bowl) can be scooped out and used if needed.
  • Other liquids for drinking can be obtained from canned fruits, juices, vegetables and soft drinks, or anything that has been water-packed using a canning process.
  • Snow can be melted and rainwater can be used, if you have a collection barrel. Be sure to disinfect the water before drinking.
  • Swimming pools or spas contain treated water. Lakes, streams, ponds, rivers and ditches contain water that can be used if it is clarified and treated. To clarify, strain the water through a cloth placed over a bowl or pot. This will take out impurities. Boiling it vigorously for five minutes will kill all bacteria.

Boiling method: The safest method of purifying water is to boil it vigorously for five minutes. Do not use cloudy water if you have a choice between clear or cloudy. Cloudy water is caused by bacterial growth. Cloudy water must be strained through a cloth to remove the particles. Then boil or treat the water with chemicals.

What Type Of Water Purifier Should I Purchase?

The Berkey Light™ Water Filter is a gravity feed unit that comes complete with two purification elements and a base. Black Berkey® Purification Elements are more powerful than any other gravity filter element currently available.

Most rainwater and water found in lakes, streams, ponds, rivers and ditches would make you sick if you consumed it. The last thing you need in an emergency situation is to become sick. This is where the Berkey purifier comes in. Berkey designed this filter system to purify water from questionable sources to make it safe for drinking. The filtering system is portable, which is perfect for emergencies since it eliminates the need to store and transport hundreds of pounds of water. This system weighs less than seven pounds and can be taken with you anywhere.


ION is a stabilized oxygen product that I have found to be very effective in water treatment. Studies show ION will kill giardia, cholera and dysentery within a few minutes. It doesn’t have any of the harmful side effects that are associated with chlorine or iodine. ION is a high concentration of oxygen.

High levels of oxygen may kill harmful bacteria. The name ION stands for ions of oxygen with a negative charge. Removing the positive charge from the water creates stabilized nontoxic oxygen. Anaerobic pathogens or infectious microorganisms in the water cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. ION will not harm the normal flora in our bodies. ION can be taken every day (five drops per 8-ounce glass of water). This will help boost the immune system by introducing stabilized oxygen into the bloodstream.

Because ION is nontoxic, it can be used medicinally and can be used every day to prevent illness. It can also be applied topically on wounds to kill any harmful bacteria. It’s great to put in the medical kit. One bottle of ION will treat 110 gallons of water. To use, add 20 drops of ION to a gallon of water. It’s small enough to carry in a purse and use every day.

There are many kinds of toxins that ION will neutralize. Bee stings and bites from spiders or nonvenomous snakes are all toxic. Dropping ION on the injuries will neutralize them almost immediately. It can also help you if you suffer from a bacterial or viral infection. During times of illness, take 50 drops every three hours diluted in a glass of water. The ION goes into the stomach and fights the bacteria or virus. To purchase ION, click here. If you purchase six bottles at a time, you can get a discount. If you purchase 25 or more bottles, you can buy them wholesale.

The information in this article was taken from my books: Food Storage 101. Where do I begin? and Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook.

–Peggy Layton

Personal Liberty

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

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  • FreedomFighter

    A very time full article. Fresh clean water is essential. Some in the scientific community believe Comet ISON will leave a Sodium Dioxide residue as it passes earth and earth passes thru the Sodium Dioxide cloud (comet trail). The resulting contamination to ground water may make a great deal of the available fresh water undrinkable. (Time table is from now to January 2014.
    IMHO its best to be a bit prepared, just in case.
    Laus DeoSemper FI

  • Shorty Stuff

    Nice long advertisement for ION. How much profit you make off those sales? I just make my on colloidal silver to do the same thing that ION does, and for much less money.

  • MFS

    Any thoughts on ozone systems for contaminated water?

    I also found some of the Facebook poster comments interesting: Living +/- 20 miles outside downtown DC makes me very leery as to what kind of ravenous horde will make it to the surrounding counties when The Crunch comes.

    And what’s with ‘Comet ISON’? I have been staying away from the politics of despair due to excessive high blood pressure lately.

  • Jim B

    I live in an area where sandy loom runs 8 to 12 feet thick. My home is near 100 years old and was supplied by well water prior to the town water being run to the community many years ago. Consequently, and with an addition (w/ full basement) added to the house, I had to add a sum pump which, because of the soil and the huge well water supply no longer in use, runs consistently every 20 minutes or so, and even hourly if we are experiencing a two or three week spout of dry weather. The water that fills the sump hole is clear and unbelievably cold, many many uses. So I thought I’d mention it since I didn’t see anything said about this source of water which exists in millions of American homes.

  • RatedBestComment

    You talk about storing water, but for the larger containers nothing about keeping it DRINKABLE.

    There is a method of hooking your large water barrels to your incoming water line BEFORE it gets to anything else, thereby keeping the water fresh and you never have to worry about it being too old.

    Please do an article about that! It makes sense and seems the right way to do it.