Prepare Every Needful Thing

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"

Emergency and Disaster Response–February 2014

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Long-Term Water Storage

water barrel

Between the California drought and the West Virginia chemical spill, having adequate and clean water is on my mind a lot lately.  We have been directed to store at least one gallon per person per day for two weeks to cover the bare essentials of drinking and hygiene, but we really need to understand what a small amount of water this is.  Estimates on water typically used per person per day in the United States range from 80-150 gallons!  While much of this can be pared down in emergency situations, a ½ gallon hygiene allowance may feel a bit less hygienic than we would wish.  As an experiment, measure how much water you need to use before your hands and face feel really clean, or see how little water you are comfortable washing up your lunch dishes in.  Also, look at any special needs your household may have—babies, pets and midsummer heat waves will necessitate extra water, for instance.  Finally, consider additional water your food storage might require–beans, rice and dehydrated foods all require good quantities of water to become edible.  Get the minimum, by all means, but then figure out how much you are really comfortable with and plan to build up as you are able.

Listed below are some of the common means of water storage with the price per 14 gallons and the pros and cons of each.

Sealed options (sterile, low risk of contamination)–

  • Canned drinking water (Emergency Essentials): 7 cases (12-22 oz. cans) about $360 (on sale this month for $315). Pros: 30 year shelf life, will withstand most shocks and falls, convenient size.  Cons: Metal cans need to be kept dry to prevent rusting.
  • Aseptically packaged water (Emergency Essentials): 5 cases (12-33.8 oz boxes) about $150. Pros: 5 year shelf life, should withstand most falls, space-saving shape, convenient size.  Cons: Pierceable.
  • Home-canned water (5 cases quart jars from Walmart, click here for instructions) about $75.  Pros: 2-year minimum shelf life, reusable packaging, convenient size.  Cons: jars will break if dropped.
  • Bottled water (gallon jugs from grocery store) $15-$20  Pros: Convenient size, low price. Cons: must be replaced annually; pierceable; store in dark, dry area to prevent premature plastic break-down.


Unsealed options (moderate risk of contamination)—

  • Used soda bottles (Generic 2-liter, grocery store, click here for instructions ) $15  Pros:  Convenient size, low price, reuse a trash item if you drink soda.  Cons: Must be refilled/rotated every 6 months, pierceable, requires bleach to sterilize.
  • 5 gallon water carriers (Walmart) $35  Pros:  Reusable, dark color inhibits growth of many organisms; use for road trips and camping; space-saving shape; sturdy construction.  Cons: Weighs about 42 lbs when full, must be rotated or treated annually, requires bleach to sterilize.
  • 15 gallon drum (Emergency Essentials) $50  Pros:  Reusable, dark color inhibits growth of many organisms; sturdy construction.  Cons: Weighs about 125 lbs when full, must be rotated or treated annually, requires bleach to sterilize, will need siphon or pump to remove water.


Larger containers (unsealed, moderate risk of contamination, not portable when full, must be rotated or treated annually, require bleach to sterilize, most require pump or siphon) total price, price per one gallon, dimensions and full weight


Keeping water in large containers fresh–

  • Initial treatment, plus annual treatments with bleach (click here for quantities and instructions)
  • Treat or filter at time of use
  • Rotate every six months to a year (use to water garden, fill kiddie pool, etc)
  • Water your garden “through” your tank: always water from your tank and immediately replace what is used


This is a great rack for 55 gallon water barrels that eliminates the need for pumps and siphons–


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