Organizing Theory & Artistry

Emergency Water Storage – Implementation!

In my last post, I discussed how to calculate how much emergency water you might need to store for yourself or your family. In today’s post, we discuss how to implement the solution.

Stage One: Acquisition

This morning I went to the grocery store in search of 38 gallons of water. As soon as I walked in the front door, I saw this display of 3L Deer Park water bottles. (Is this a coincidence or a sign!) Exactly what I was looking for and it seems to be on sale too!

I loaded up my cart with 18 bottles and headed toward the checkout. With characteristic Southern hospitality, the checkout woman looked at my odd purchase and said, “Oh, stocking up for the winter?” We then had a brief chat about my emergency water storage plans. (My husband advises that the correct response for this situation is to look deadly serious and say, “No, I’m just REALLY thirsty.”)

I loaded the 18 bottles into my car and went back in for a second load. This time, I loaded up 20 bottles, checked out and loaded them into the car. One more pass. Back into the store for 5 24-packs of water and a 2.5 gallon container with built-in dispenser. I checked out and added to the stockpile in the car.

Total cost: $61.96

Our car loaded with 40 gallons of water!

Note: Before you stock up on water, make sure you have tasted the particular brand you are buying at least once before. A few years back we were drinking only bottled water and must have tasted every brand out there. Each one has a slightly different flavor/aftertaste to it. We found that we consistently liked Deer Park water and that there were some (particularly the least expensive brands) that we thought tasted awful. The most delicious water we tasted was a European brand that comes in an elegant glass bottle but alas, that will not work well for our emergency storage.

Stage Two: Storage

Shopping is a relatively easy activity. Now that we have all this water, where on earth do we put it? This was my husband’s biggest concern about this whole project. “Isn’t the point of organizing to have as few things as possible?” he asked. “This just seems wasteful to stockpile all this stuff.”

There is a tension between stockpiling/emergency preparedness and organizing to be sure. It has made me stop to think why it doesn’t bother us to stockpile things that we love, like books, craft supplies, tools, clothes, etc. but we bristle at the thought of stockpiling a boring but essential item like drinking water!

The great thing about the Deer Park water 3L containers we purchased is that the bottle is ingeniously designed to be stacked! There is a recessed area on the bottom of each bottle that just fits the neck of a fellow Deer Park 3L bottle. Based on some simple experiments, you can stack them about 3 high but they are a bit unstable so you want them in an area where they won’t be bothered. In the grocery store, they grouped them 6 bottles to a cardboard separator tray and stacked them 6 units high. The store had over 300 bottles in a relatively compact space. There is no reason why someone couldn’t do the same in their basement.

It is also somewhat comforting to know that if you did have to evacuate and toss all of your food and water supplies in your car that you could pack in more of these 3L Deer Park bottles easily by stacking them. You can’t really do that with gallon containers of water.

Fortunately, I already had a spot in mind for our water storage and I made a rough estimate of its capacity in advance. The bulk of our water storage fits on the bottom two shelves of our kitchen pantry. (It would probably all fit if the bottom shelf of our pantry was just about an inch taller so we could stack the 3L bottles 2 high. Oh for the benefits of adjustable shelving!)

The bulk of our water supply on our lower two pantry shelves.

There was a little water left over that didn’t fit in the pantry so I cleaned out a kitchen cabinet that had become a repository for unused stuff. We are now using it for a more valuable purpose.

Water storage in our kitchen cabinet.

Stage Three: Maintenance

The Red Cross advises that you should put your emergency drinking water in a dark, cool place (like a basement) so that algae doesn’t grow in it and plastic bottles don’t degrade. If you are not purchasing commercially packaged water and are bottling your own, there is a whole list of requirements to follow about sanitizing the containers, adding a little bit of bleach and making sure to replace the water every 6 months(!). This has made me rethink the glass water storage portion of our solution. I think we will keep one of the 5-gallon glass containers and give the rest away, replacing the missing 10-gallons with plastic commercially-bottled water.

Commercially purchased water is far easier to maintain. It’s cheap and presumably the bottler has to comply with a million regulations about water quality, packaging, sanitation, etc. The earliest expiration dates on the water I purchased today are June 2012 (or about 21 months).

So, with regard to maintaining your emergency water supply you have a couple of choices. The simple option would be to say, “Well, it only costs about $60 for all this water. I’ll just buy it, stick it in the basement and when it expires I’ll use it to water my garden, recycle the bottles and buy new.”

“Throwing away” $60 doesn’t sit all that well with me or my husband so we are going to try to cycle through the water and keep the stock rotated continuously. In order to be able to do this, however, we can’t store the water in the basement where we will never think about it or walk down the steps to get it. This was the primary reason why we are storing it in the pantry that we use all the time.

With regard to the excess stock in the kitchen cabinet, the hope is that this space is close enough to the pantry that we will remember to rotate this water supply along with the pantry supply but in the worst case, we will do a good job on the pantry water and toss the kitchen water as it expires.

How do you rotate your water supply? Well, first chart how much water you have and when it expires. Then divide the number of bottles by the number of months until it expires to get an estimate of how quickly to use your water. In our case, since I bought all the water at the same time it generally all expires at the same time (plus or minus a few months).

Bottles Expiration Usage Rate Required
120 0.5 L bottles 21 months ~6 bottles per month
31 3L bottles 21 months ~1.5 bottles per month

To keep the supply up, this means that we will also have to buy a new 24-pack of water bottles at least once every 4 months and about one 3L bottle per month.

Likely, we will put the new bottles in the kitchen cabinet and shift all the bottles down, moving them to the pantry. The oldest bottles (to be used first) will be on the leftmost side of the pantry/cabinet and the newer ones on the right.

Will this work? We’ll just have to wait and see. In any event, we are basically done with our 30-day water supply. Ideally, we would pick up another 3 of the 2.5 gallon dispensers to replace the 10-gallon glass containers we will phase out. We’ll save this for the next trip to the grocery store.

So, what do you think? Could this work in your home? Please share in the comments.