Emergency Water Storage

"The World of Water." Photo by Snap® Third Eye a.k.a. D. Basu. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

While we still have a few brain cells left that are not dedicated to (pleasant and non-stressful) holiday thoughts, I thought it would be a good idea to focus in on some of the emergency preparation aspects of our theme.

My own emergency planning could use a little tweaking. I have a lot of projects started in my preparation but need to get them to a completed state. My goals for myself and for you by the end of the year are to get all Ruly readers to have a 30-day food and water store ready as well as essential tools for whatever emergency is likely to befall you given your particular geographic location. Bonus points to anyone who goes above and beyond!

From my post last year, we know that food storage is not necessarily the first and most vital part of our emergency preparation but it is the one psychologically that we associate with safety and security. Since psychological soundness is a good thing (whether in an emergency or otherwise!) we will add that as a priority on our list.

Priority one, however, is water! Ready.gov gives a rough guideline of “one gallon of water per person per day” and recommends a bare minimum 3-day water supply per person in your emergency kit. For our family of four, that is roughly 4 gallons per day, 28 gallons per week and 112 gallons per month. Wow! That is a LOT of water!

When we were first discussing our water storage, I informed my husband that we needed to find a way to store 112 gallons of water. I envisioned lots and lots of plastic bottles of water. “No way!” he said, saying the idea was ridiculous. He then walked me through how he saw the situation.

One gallon of water per day per the ready.gov guidelines includes “drinking and sanitation.” So the one gallon per person is both for drinking as well as an allotment for things like bathing, washing dishes, flushing toilets, etc. He then pointed to the 74 gallon hot water tank in our basement. In an emergency, we would save our bottled water for drinking and drain the hot water tank for bathing, washing and all those other “sanitation” tasks.

So what is the bare minimum level of water you need for drinking purposes? My survival guru, John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman in his book the SAS Survival Handbook suggests a bare minimum of 2 liters (~0.5 gallon) of water per person per day for drinking purposes. So, for our family of 4 that is roughly 2 gallons per day, 14 gallons per week and 56 gallons per month. If we are aiming for a 30-day supply, we need to find a way to store 56 gallons!

Clear Glass Cold Drink Dispenser Jug with Pouring Spigot by Home Essentials. At amazon.com.

So, as of this moment, how much water storage capacity do we have? I purchased three of these 5-gallon (~19 liters) glass storage containers from amazon.com. I am not yet recommending them as I am still testing them out. I like that they are glass since plastic storage containers always seem to impart a strange taste to the water. But, we have had a few problems with leaks which is a big downer. Once we have them all full and are using them regularly, I will provide an update. So, we have 15 gallons right there.

41 gallons (~155 liters) to go. We have a couple of large 3L Deer Park bottles so we can add 9 liters (~2.5 gallons) to the total. A grand total of 17.5 gallons (or close to 9 days survival).

While 9 days is pretty good, it isn’t anywhere close to 30 days. How will we make up the difference?

We can stock up on plastic water bottles. I am not a big fan of plastic water bottles generally due to the taste of the water but have to admit that they are probably the most convenient way to store and transport water in an emergency. They are small, portable, individually contained (which helps keep the supply fresh and prevent contamination) and durable. While you could also invest in a huge water storage tank in your backyard, in an evacuation scenario you would lose access to that water supply. Plastic water bottles could also be used as a form of currency if you need to trade supplies with a neighbor.

Each water bottle is 0.5 L so our family would need a minimum of 16 of those bottles every day in an emergency! Generally, those bottles are sold in packs of about 24 at our local stores. So for a week’s worth of water in plastic water bottle form, we would need to buy at least 5 packs of bottles (120 bottles!). This would give us an additional 16 gallons (60 L).

That leaves 22.5 gallons (85 L) to go. That’s a little over 28 of the 3L Deer Park bottles. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to keep a store of those in the garage.

Our tentative drinking water storage plan:

  • 15 gallons (~57 liters) in large glass jars
  • ~25.5 gallons (96 liters) in 3L plastic water jugs
  • ~16 gallons (60 liters) in 0.5L plastic water bottles

Total drinking water storage: 56.5 gallons (~214 liters)

Our sanitation water storage plan:

  • 74 gallon (~280 liters) hot water heater

Total water storage: 130.5 gallons (~494 liters). We will slightly exceed the 1 gallon per day ready.gov guideline.

Shopping List: (Check expiration dates when buying. Yes, water expires!)

  • 5 24-packs of bottled water
  • 28 3L bottled water containers (or ~22 gallon water containers)

Estimated cost: ~$100

So this is baby step one in your water storage preparation. And I issue you a Ruly Challenge:

The Challenge: Figure out how much water (drinking and otherwise) your family needs for 30 days (or a shorter or longer period of time depending on your situation). Take into account the 1 gallon/person/day ready.gov guideline and the 0.5 gallon/person/day minimum survival drinking water standard and what is likely to happen to you in an emergency. 30 days seems plenty (if not excessive) for us since we are close to a large city and several water sources. If you live in a desert area or a remote area, you might need significantly more.

If water supplies were cut off for you today would you be ready? Are you intimidated by the thought of storing so much water? Please share in the comments.

Friday’s post: Where to store all that water and how to rotate it to monitor expiration dates!