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How to store water for emergency short term use

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
How to store water for emergency short term use

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Jan 020Freaking out over water or simply a water freak?  I suppose it really does not matter since when it comes to water, I am a hoarder.  In addition to my 55 gallon water barrel,  I have six cases of bottled drinking water in the cellar and another case or two in the garage.  Is that enough?  Don’t know.  Actually, I hope I will never have to use my stored water.

How about you?  Did you ever purchase that water barrel along with a siphon and a bung wrench?  Or, if like a lot of folks, have you put off that purchase due to financial or space limitations?

It was recently pointed out to me that barring the acquisition of long term storage facilities (such as a water barrel), there are numerous ways to collect and store ordinary tap water for free.  Not a bad idea, actually, especially when you take in to account that you may also use the free, short term water supply for cleaning, laundry, toilet bowl flushing and more.

So how can you safely store the water right out of your tap?  According the the American Red Cross, your best bet is to purchase food grade, water storage containers from outdoor, camping or emergency supply stores.  But that is not free.

Plan B is to accumulate your own plastic storage containers.  Clean, empty soda bottles are the best although glass is good too (albeit heavy and breakable).

When choosing containers for water storage – and let me remind you that this is short term water storage of three to six months max – you want to avoid anything that has had milk of fruit juice in them.  This is because milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial
growth when water is stored in them.  Ditto cardboard.  The cardboard will eventually leak and make a big mess.

So let’s do it.  Let us store some water following these steps:

1.  Clean them up.  Thoroughly clean your plastic bottle and jugs with dishwashing soap and water then rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

2.  Sanitize with bleach.  Sanitize your bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of
non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water.  Swish the sanitizing solution in the containers so that it touches all interior surfaces.  Don’t forget to sanitize the lids and caps as well.  After sanitizing the containers and caps, thoroughly rinse out the bleach solution with clean water.

3.  Fill ‘em up.  Fill them to the top with regular tap water. Add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water, then tightly close the containers using the original caps. It is probably a good idea to use some latex or nitrile gloves at this point so that you maintain the sanitation and do not contaminate the caps by touching the inside of them with your fingers.

4.  Date the outside with a permanent marker such as a sharpie.

5.  Store in a cool, dark place.

6.  Important:  rotate in six months.  Dump the water, re-sanitize the jugs, and start all over.  Personally, I think it would be a good idea to put up a few jugs at the first of  each month.  Do this for six months and you will build up a nice, rotating stock.

How much water should you store?  The Red Cross recommendation is one gallon per person per day.  Using the rotating stock method, a family of four could prepare four gallons a month and after six months, would have a six day supply of water.  Of course more is better in my opinion (that is where the freak part comes in).

Bonus water – the hot water tank

There is another source of free water sitting right under your nose, tucked away some dark corner of your home.  Your hot water tank!  Here is how you get to it:

  • Turn off the electricity of gas.
  • Open the drain at the bottom of the tank.
  • Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve at the tank and turning on a hot-water faucet
  • And don’t forget:  be sure to refill the tank before turning the gas or electricity back on

The Final Word

While not free, I still need/want to learn more about portable water purifiers that can be used with lake water.  Here on San Juan Island there is an abundance of small lakes with plenty of water (along with bugs, bacteria, and other nasties).  Still, with a portable filtration system, this water would become quite usable.  That, along with the desalinators on those big yachts in the harbor, would serve us well.  Guess I better get friendly with some of the local yachtsmen!

Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!


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19 Responses to “How to store water for emergency short term use”

  1. If you want to use your water heater as emergency water, make sure you flush it regularly. Depending on water source quality , the bottom part of the heater may be full of particulate junk. Besides reducing the water heater effectiveness, it could be a suboptimal result when needed.

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