The Five Myths of Water Storage

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For many, water becomes their very first prep.  By that I mean that steps are taken to either purchase a supply of bottled water, set up a water barrel, or locate a source of local water that can be filtered and purified for consumption.

I was no exception.  Water was my first major prepping purchase – before food storage, before a bug out bag, before first aid and trauma supplies, and before firearms.  My first major preparedness purchase was a 55 gallon water barrel.

5 Myths of Water Storage

Like many newbies, I made a mistake with this initial purchase.  I sunk a lot of many into a water storage system when I should have filled some smaller jugs, invested in a Berkey or other system, and figured out a way to transport water from local fresh-water ponds to my home.  I also filled the barrel and stored it on concrete – a no no.  It had to be emptied and refilled from the get go.

Naturally, all in time, those things happened.  And as with all things that come with a certain age, if I had known then what I know now I would saved a lot of time and been a lot richer!

I can’t say that you will not make mistakes as your expand your preparedness efforts.  What I can do, though, is help point you in the right direction so at the very least, the decisions you make are done with a modicum of knowledge.

Before you jump both feet first into setting up a water storage system, take heed of these five myths of water storage.

Water Storage – Myth vs. Fact

Myth #1: Water can expire

Water does not expire.  Ever.  Sure, water can become chemically or biologically contaminated and foul, but it doesn’t go bad or spoil.

What can happen to water is that it can go stale and look or taste bad.  One thing you can do to make water that has been standing around for awhile taste better is to aerate it by stirring it up or pouring it from one jug to another to introduce some oxygen.

If the cleanliness of the the water is in question, it can be purified with purification tablets, fresh bleach, or a filtering system such as the Berkey or LifeStraw, among others.

Technically, if water is stored in a cool, dark area and away from chemical and toxic fumes, it should last forever.

Myth #2: Water can be stored in any old container that you find around the house

Water should be stored in a UV-resistant, food-grade plastic container or in metallized bags. Traditionally, water storage barrels are blue. The reason for this is that the blue color limits light exposure and biological growth (bacteria and algae) and also signifies that what is stored in the container is safe for human consumption.

The safest containers to hold water in are polyethylene-based plastics, or plastics #1, #2, and #4. Most water barrels are made out of plastic #2 and are BPA-free.  If you are in doubt, check with the manufacturer before making purchase, especially if the water is going to be used for drinking.

Don’t use milk jugs for water storage. Since milk jugs are biodegradable, they will break down over time. In addition, it is almost impossible to remove all of the milk sugars from the used jug, opening the risk of contamination.

On the other hand, repurposed soda or juice bottles (made from PETE plastic), make great water storage containers.  Just be sure to rinse them well beforehand with a mild bleach solution.  This will eliminate any soda or juice residue plus lingering odors.

Another good option for water storage is re-useable Nalgene bottles.

Myth #3:  A water barrel is all you need to consider yourself water–prepared

This one is actually comical.  I can just see you now: the flooding river is rising and you need to evacuate.  Strap on your water barrel and your bug out bag and you are good to go. Not!

Depending on the number of people in your family and whether you have located or set aside a separate water source for hygiene and cleaning, 55 gallons is not going to last long.  Conservatively, you are going to need one gallon of water per person per day.

It is always a good idea to have a portable water filter you can transport when you are on the go.  In addition, rain barrels can be a great source of non-potable water for flushing and for use in the garden.  Good sense dictates that you store water in various sized containers and plan for different situations such as bugging-out, sheltering-in-place, sanitation and so on.

Myth #4: You can save space by stacking water barrels on top of each other

Most water barrels are not designed to be stacked. If space is limited, consider a stacking system designed to accommodate the weight of filled barrels.  A good example is this one from Titan ReadyWater.

Also, there are options other than barrels, that can be stacked,  These include water bricks and even canned water.

Myth #5: Since I have a water purifier, I don’t need a water filter

According to the water specialists at Emergency Essentials, water purifiers like Chlorine Dioxide will kill 99.9% of all microorganisms (like protozoa, bacteria, and viruses) in your water. Chlorine Dioxide is excellent for sheltering-in-place, and also great for treating water from your barrels or water you collect from streams or rivers while hiking.

Bleach is also a decent purified as long as it is fresh (less than a year old) and the unscented type.

Water purifiers alone will not  remove dirt, silt, “gunk” and chemicals from your water.  For these nasties, you need a filter.  Using a purifier and filter together are an ideal combination to make sure your water is clean enough for drinking.

A Note About Storing Water Barrels

Did you know that water should not be stored on bare cement including the cement on the floor of your basement or garage?

The reason for this is that plastics absorb flavors and odors from chemicals and liquids spilled on the floor and also from the chemicals used to create the concrete.  What you need to do is store your water on a piece of wood that sits between the floor and the concrete.  A repurposed wood pallet would be ideal.

The Final Word

There is no question that having an adequate supply of water following a disaster or other emergency is paramount to both our health and our comfort.  Having a large water barrel or two, if stored properly, will serve you well but should not preclude the storage of bottle water, frozen jugs of water in your freezer (which will them become a makeshift cooler when the power goes out), and water purification and filtering systems.

Redundancy is good and even more so when it comes to water.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

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Bargain Bin:  Today I feature items related to water and water storage.  My top picks?  A Berkey water filter and a Lifestraw Family.

LifeStraw Personal Water FilterThe Sunday Survival Buzz Volume 102   Backdoor Survival:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out.  It weighs only 2oz. making it perfect for the prepper.  There is also a larger sized, LifeStraw Family currently available with free shipping.

Royal Berkey Water Filtration System: This is the Berkey I own – available from the LPC Survival Storefront on Amazon.

AquaPodKit – Emergency Drinking Water  Have you considered storing water in your bathtub?  The AquaPod is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing.

55 Gallon Water Barrel Combo: There is definitely a place for a water barrel in your water storage plan – just don’t make it your only source of emergency water.  This kit includes everything you need and is well priced.

NALGENE BPA-Free Water Bottle:  These $8 water bottles have served me well.  I fill them up with water from my Royal Berkey and keep one bedside, one at my desk and another in the bathroom.  Keep in mind that price-wise, some colors will be more expensive so if color does not matter, go with the cheapest (currently the green version). Have a few of these around will be useful with your Lifestraw Family as well.

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Comments

The Five Myths of Water Storage — 22 Comments

  1. I have a question on the wood pallet option to put my rain barrel. There’s a lot of people who say the wood has chemicals in it & you shouldn’t use them. Do you have any ideas on that one?

    • This is one of those better be safe than sorry recommendations. Everything I have read has indicated that the lime in the concrete can leach and etch the bottom of the barrel. In addition, if the area is damp, mold can form on the concrete and underneath the barrel.

      Here is a quote:

      “Concrete attracts fluids and ‘bleeds’. Anything that has been on or in that concrete will find it’s way into your plastic water barrel. This includes the lime in the concrete, any hazardous materials (i.e. gasoline, oils, kerosene or anything a contractor used in construction), algae, etc. Usually it is not enough to make the water toxic but it will taint the water enough to make the taste unbearable.”

      • Thanks,ill buy that reason. i have left assorted jugs containers coolers etc on the basement floor and its always damp when i pick them up .everything is raised off the floor now

  2. I have (20) 30 gallon food grade drums from Lexington Containers.
    They have been stacked 2 high for 3 years. They are fine.

  3. I am SO glad to see you write this!! If people would just think about it, our water is the same recycled stuff that fell on Noah’s Ark!!! Or as one guy put it, when you replace your “old water with new” you are still just using what was at one time Dinasaur pee!

  4. I have been vaguely aware that one shouldn’t store one’s water barrel/s on concrete, but this is the first time I have seen a reason given. Thanks!

    When we got our barrel, we had some big scraps of granite counter tops, so I laid one under the barrel. Does anyone out there know if granite is a problem? It seems like pretty stable stuff.

    Stacking: There are racks available. There are also water storage drums much bigger than the 55 gallon size, which are the same diameter, but taller. They take up the same floor space as the 55s, but hold 125, and I think 250 gallons. Of course, one should tie them to a wall so they don’t tip over…

  5. Loved all your great info as always. I already knew a lot of these techniques but some I didn’t. I had heard it wasn’t good to keep water in old soda plastic bottles so I was glad to see you specified the PETE plastic requirement. I will have to check out my stores. The Lifestraws are great and a wonderful product to endorse!

  6. Thanks for the information! The reasons you gave are definitely why you shouldn’t leave water in plastic bottles in a car on a hot summers day – the chemicals will leach in to your water!

  7. I can a great deal of food each fall..when I have extra room in my canned I can my reverse osmosis water..Do you think that is safe way to save water and how long do you think it will be safe..?

  8. Do you have to rotate your water? If I understand what I read correctly, as long as I store my water in a cool, dry place in the correct container, off the ground there is no need to rotate our water storage every 6-12 months? All I have to do is aerate it when I want to use it?

    • Water does not go bad. On the other hand, if the container it is stored in has even a smidgen of its former contents (i.e. repurposed juice jugs), over time bacteria can multiply making the water unsafe. The only reason to aerate the water is to introduce oxygen so that it tastes better.

  9. The problem with catching rain water is that most people I have seen using this method are doing so by re-routing their gutter downspouts to the barrels. Bad idea. Roof tops collect many more contaminants than a fresh water lake or pond. Actually the same but the concentration level is higher in a barrel. Consider that bird poop and radiation are the two concentrated contaminants that must be dealt with, although radiation is there to stay for your lifetime, and actually the concentration levels vary depending on location and winds. Instead of a Lifestraw, I am going with Sawyers system. It appears to do much more for upwards of 100,000 gallons as opposed to Lifestraw’s 260 gallons

    • You did not indicate what type of 55 gallon barrels you have but if they are food-grade (typically a polyethylene resin/BPA-free plastic), they will be fine. Mine are in a garage that gets extremely hot and they are none the worse for the wear.

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