National Geographic Society

  • Connect:

Water: Storage

Water Storage

Water Storage (View larger version)

Published

As Practical Preppers’ Scott Hunt explains, storing water is probably the most important thing that a prepper can do—and it’s one of the easiest measures to take, as well. “Storage is the easiest part of the solution, and it’s easy for anybody to do, whether you live in downtown Manhattan or Idaho,” he says. Here are some basic tips.

  • Figure Out How Much Water You Need to Store. Hunt says that you need about five gallons a day—one gallon for drinking, and another four gallons for bathing, personal hygiene and washing dishes. And while you can get away with using recycled or “grey” water for toilets, you need clean water that’s free of dangerous pathogens for everything else. That means you’ll need 50 gallons for each person in your household to make it through 10 days of a crisis, which gives you time to get your resupply system up and running.
  • Find a Safe Place to Store Your Water. Remember that a gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, so you need to store it in a place that can support the added weight. You want to keep it in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. That makes a basement probably the ideal place for your water storage. Because hydrocarbon vapors can penetrate plastic water containers, you want to keep your water supply away from gasoline, pesticides, kerosene, and similar substances.
  • Set Up a Storage System.  Basic55-gallon plastic water drums go for around $60, but if you’ve got a larger group to provide for, you’ll save money by investing in one of the bigger models available from Internet prepper supply companies. You can get a 10,000 gallon plastic tank for around $5,500. There are even more expensive stainless steel water tanks, which manufacturers claim are more resistant to bacteria and mold growth, and less vulnerable to fire damage. On the downside, that chlorine from your municipal water can corrode steel, so you may want to look for a tank that’s specially lined to cope with that. Offthegridnews.com, a prepper website, provides a detailed guide to various container options.
  • Make Sure Your Water Doesn’t Become Contaminated or Foul-Tasting.  Bottled water that has a seal showing it has been certified by theInternational Bottled Water Association or the National Sanitation Foundation generally has a shelf-life of one year. If you’re storing tap water or water from some other source, you probably should replace it every six months. To improve the taste of water stored for a long time, pour it from one clean container to another clean container several times, to put air back into it. If you’re concerned that a water supply may have become contaminated, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service offers this handy guide to storing water, which includes instructions of simple disinfection methods.
  • Know How to Get the Hidden Supply That’s in Your Pipes. To do this in the event of an emergency, Hunt says, you need to shut off the valve that connects your municipal water supply to your home. (The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that you do that first step immediately in the event of a disaster, to prevent contamination from non-functioning water purification plants from getting into your plumbing.) Then place a container under the lowest faucet in your system, and open it in the cold direction. After that, open a second faucet, which will allow air to enter the system. That’ll get all the cold water that’s been lingering in your plumbing.
  • Know What Water Sources You Can’t Safely Use.  FEMA advises that radiators, hot water boilers, water beds, toilet bowls and tanks, and swimming pools and spas aren’t safe sources of potable water. Here’s FEMA’s guide to securing stored water and other necessities for emergencies.

If you only do three things:

  • Get some two-liter plastic bottles and fill them up with tap water.  As James Wesley Rawles notes in his book How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It, Even the most cramped apartment dweller can store some small jugs under a bed.
  • Learn how to get drain the water that remains in your pipes.  All you need to do is locate your water cutoff switch, and get some jugs or other containers to collect the water.
  • Remember all the places and types of water that you can’t drink safely.  It’s tough being thirsty, but it’s even worse to be thirsty and sick.


The Doomsday Preppers articles, videos, links, images, and instructions (“Content”) are for entertainment purposes only. The National Geographic Channel makes no express or implied representations regarding whether the Content is up-to-date, complete, or accurate, and shall not be liable for any consequential damages, claims, losses, or demands of any kind based upon reliance of the Content. Do not rely on this Content for disaster, medical, health or safety advice.

3 comments
Tammy Erdmann
Tammy Erdmann

I live in a mobile home how do I know how much weight I can store in any given area.

Cory Larsen
Cory Larsen

I have a better solution for high capacity emergency water storage. I call it the Armageddon Water tank, and I'm trying to get it developed through Quirky.com. It only takes 5 square feet of garage space for 250 gallons of water kept sterile with UV light. I need people to vote for it - 200 votes guarantees it will get executive review. Please check it out! http://www.quirky.com/invent/630528/action/vote/query/sort=ending_soon

Eve Herrell
Eve Herrell

Doomsday Preppers offer tips to filter water after a natural disaster..tornado ... or other emergency such as a bombing...