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How to store water for emergency preparedness

Updated: Feb 1

How to Store Water for Emergency Preparedness

What is your 72-hour game plan after an expected or unanticipated disaster? Does your 72-hour kit, 72-hour bag, survival vest, or bug out bag include sufficient water – or sources of water – for you and everyone with you, including pets?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is important to create and maintain a sufficient supply of clean drinking water in case your regular water source becomes contaminated and unavailable.


Water During Emergencies

Emergencies that can disrupt clean water sources include:

  • Water pollution

  • Broken pipes or pump malfunction

  • Failure of the community water system

  • Weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, heatwave, lightning, and drought

  • Natural disasters including earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and floods

  • Construction damage

  • Wildfires

  • Outdoor adventure mishaps

With so many potential disasters, it is logical to have a clean water emergency supply. Many of us do not think of this until it is too late. Knowledge and preparation are essential to ensure an adequate amount of water in the event of an emergency. Following is important information and guidelines to help you get prepared.


What is the use of water in an emergency?

  • Water is essential to maintain good health and to sustain life. Clean water is also critical during and following an emergency to supply basic hygienic needs.

  • An average person can last three days without water. Just going one day without water causes dehydration, low energy, headaches, and dizziness. This will cause a loss of focus resulting in irrational decisions crucial for survival.

  • A person requires at least two quarts of water every day to replace the water lost through daily activities. Depending on the climate, medical needs, and age of the person, this need fluctuates. Preparing food requires water, as well.

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Store a minimum of one gallon of water per person for at least three days.

  • Keep a two-week supply of water for adequate emergency preparedness.

  • A total of five gallons of stored water is required per person for two weeks.


How to store drinking water

  • Emergency water should be stored in a cool (50-70 degrees fahrenheit) dark, and dry place. This prevents bacterial growth, which can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Keep water stored away from direct sunlight, which can result in adverse health effects. It should also be stored away from cleaning supplies or other chemicals.

  • The best and recommended option is to purchase an emergency supply kit. They are intended to be easily accessible and are meant to be long-lasting. These contain water pouches that stay safe for up to five years. They usually include water purification tablets or water purifiers.

  • Purchase emergency water barrels made of non-toxic plastic. These large containers are difficult to move around and take up a lot of space but can store a lot of water.

  • Bottled water can be purchased from a store and stockpiled in a basement or garage. A less expensive alternative is to save FDA-approved food-grade plastic bottles (soda bottles and milk jugs) and fill them with tap water. It is important to clean the bottles thoroughly before filling them and then cap them tightly. Label the bottles with the date they were filled and also indicate what they contain.

  • Store water in glass bottles using tap water from the faucet. Use only bottles that have not been used to store non-food items. Another option is to use stainless steel containers, but chlorine bleach will corrode the steel. Label the container “Drinking water” and the date stored.

Do you have to rotate a water emergency supply?


Yes! Although water does not go bad, it may stagnate, and the taste will not be as fresh. Carbon dioxide in the air mixes with water and makes it more acidic. If the emergency water is kept in plastic bottles, certain chemicals in the plastic can leach into the water over time, affecting your health.


How often should you rotate your emergency water supply?

Store-bought water usually has an expiration date printed on the packaging. It is recommended that you swap the water out every six months. Use the old water for necessities in your home or garden. You can purchase water cases for emergencies online, which can have a shelf life of many years. Check with the supplier to be aware of the expected shelf life.


Other ways to disinfect water for emergencies


Boiling water

If stored emergency water has an odor or odd taste, it is best to boil it before drinking it. This will kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. If the altitude is above 5,00 feet, boil the water for three minutes. Let the water cool before storing it in clean containers and capping them tightly. You can add a pinch of salt to each quart to improve the flat taste of boiled water. Boiled water should be rotated every six months.

Disinfect with bleach


It is recommended that chlorine bleach be stocked separately to disinfect stored emergency water for cleaning and sanitation. First, strain the water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter if the water is cloudy. Bleach comes in two strengths containing either 6 or 8.25% hypochlorite.



If the chlorine taste is too strong, you can pour the water from one clean container to another and then let it stand for a few hours before using.


In many disasters, there may not be adequate clean water readily available for basic needs. A water source may become contaminated or cut off. Having access to safe water during emergencies is the most important precaution. Follow these guidelines to prepare yourself to have clean water for emergencies.


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