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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.
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 on Water Storage
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.
Be sure to check out the updated BDS guide to Water Filters here!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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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 Filter: 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 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.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.
These days, when I use shredded cheese I use freeze-dried. There is no waste meaning no moldy cheese languishing in the refrigerator. I especially like the mozzarella and cheddar on my pizza. This month, Emergency Essentials has a combo of freeze-dried cheese on sale at 27% off.
The Freeze-Dried Cheese Combo includes 2 cans of Sharp Cheddar, 2 Mozzarella, 1 Colby, and 1 Monterrey Jack. And by the way, these make great snacks right out of the can.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials
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26 Responses to “The Five Myths of Water Storage”
Thank you for the information concerning water storage. It was most informative and it let me know what I was doing right and what I needed to be doing.
Thanks for explaining that you can’t keep water in just any container. I didn’t think about how it would need to be stored in something that is UV-resistant. That explains why you commonly see water in big, blue containers. In addition to these features, I want to find containers that are stackable, so I have room for more things in my food storage. https://www.waterbrick.org/product-category/waterbrick/
One comment, two questions..
I”m just getting started, so THANK YOU for the heads up about storing my drums on concrete. Except…. I already did it.
I have 3 55 gallon drums from Costco (Nutristore Deluxe BPA free. I’ve actually had them outside, on concrete, exposed to sun, empty, for several months waiting to build a shed for them. Q1 – Have I ruined them?
I have read that it is essential to disinfect the water that is being stored (ie, use bleach or tablets in the drums). I’ve also read that it will degrade the drums, so leave the water as-is out of the tap, and bleach the smaller amounts as they are used. Q2 – does it matter which way I go? Even if I store it disinfected I’m really likely to filter it to drink anyway cause I’m not fond of “stale” water taste.
I live in az. I have a shed that can store 4 or 5 55 gal barrows. Can I store water in these with 114 degree weather?
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.
I’m not sure of the type. I will be purchasing them from Sportsman Warehouse. Thank you
How long can Reverse Osmosis water sit in a pipe before it goes stagnant?
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
Great article, Gaye. I love it when someone knows what they are talking about when writing about water storage.
I put my drums on a small cheap dollies ($20 Tractor Supply). This way even I can move filled drums if needed.
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.
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..?