Prepping 101 – Water Storage

Prepping 101 – Water Storage

Water. Debatably one of the trickiest components of preparedness yet one of the most important as we need water for almost everything. Drinking, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, first aid, gardening, pets & livestock and I’m sure you could find many more uses! If there’s panic and a warning of a hurricane coming through, water is usually one of the first things to sell out in shops. I think we’ve all become too accustomed to just being able to turn our taps on and have clean water coming straight out but think about all of the times recently that you’ve heard of the mains water becoming contaminated and unsafe or boil water notices being advised. Not to mention that in a lot of places, you need to have electricity to have running water. Meaning, if there’s a power outage, it also affects your ability to access water! This can quickly become a big issue if your power is out for days, and so is the water at the store as everyone else panic bought due to not having reserves at home either. 

So how much are we meant to store?

Well, in a typical day, our bodies lose around 2.5-3L of water but if we add in activity, temperatures, illness or injury then we could lose even more. The standard recommendation for water storage is 1 gallon (or 4.5L) per person per day which accounts half for drinking and half for other categories. However, in an emergency situation we aren’t going to be sitting still, meaning more water sweated out and more water needed to sustain us. So my personal recommendation is trying to keep or source 2 gallons (or 9L) of water per person per day. This may seem excessive but the average person is NOT used to conserving water and doesn’t track how much water we actually use every day. Remember that this is not only for drinking, it covers all categories! The good news is that storing water or having different layers can be easy as not all water is used for drinking and cooking so it doesn’t have to be completely purified. What I mean by this is, that you aren’t going to be wasting your stored drinking bottles of water for the likes of flushing the toilet when you could simply use river water for this or in a prolonged emergency have a compost toilet outside. 

How is this possible?

Just as we do with our food storage, let’s try to approach our water storage through a layered system too. Different layers of your water storage could be as simple as keeping some store-bought water bottles and jugs for drinking / cooking and then a rainwater barrel in the garden for watering plants and flushing toilets. You could also keep purification & treatment options to make that rainwater more suitable for drinking.

Let’s break this down further to give you some practical examples of what I mean by layers and options, specifically focusing on storage of water in this article.

Storage containers

Water bottles: 

Whether big or small or store bought or you having filled them yourself. These are good options and we keep a different selection of these. If they are plastic, it is important to rotate these and replenish the bottles every 12 months as it can leech chemicals into the water. Also, if you’re storing these in a garage it’s also best to try and keep the bottles and jugs off direct concrete and store on something like wooden pallets instead. This is because concrete has the ability to absorb and retain heat, which can expose the bottles to higher temperatures. Elevated temperatures and light can potentially affect the quality of the water and accelerate the breakdown of the plastic bottles. We personally use a selection of different containers to store water reserves in and I encourage you to think about what works best for you and your family. 


A great container for water storage as it will not break down over time and contaminate the water. However it is heavy and highly breakable so it shouldn’t be used your primary means of water storage. Water can be water bath canned to kill pathogens and will store indefinitely this way as long as the seal holds. But water stored in jars that is not canned, just treated, will need rotated as normal.

Food Grade Buckets:

 I personally love the versatility of 5 gallon buckets. Beyond just food and water storage, they can be used for other tasks such as carrying water, collecting rainwater, storing supplies, or even makeshift washing / sanitation facilities. You can find these at restaurants and bakeries for a small price but I found this bulk discount on these linked here.


Not only handy for storage but some also come with taps/spigots which make removing the water super easy especially if they are stacked. You can find many different sizes and variations to suit your needs such as these 5 gallon containers4 gallon containers, 3 gallon containers, or 2 gallon containers here.

Water bricks:

Specifically known for their modular design, stackability & space efficiency these are another great option for water storage. The interlocking design of water bricks minimises wasted space as you can stack them vertically or horizontally, making total use of storage capacity in limited spaces. I personally like them as they are lightweight and have integrated handles, making them portable and easy to move. You can find them here.


Storing water using barrels offers several specific benefits that make them a popular choice for larger-scale and longer-term water storage. Mainly being that they often have larger storage capacities compared to other containers. This makes them suitable for bulk storing larger quantities of water, which is essential for extended periods or for multiple people. Some barrels are also specifically suited for rainwater harvesting and collection, bulking out the layers of your water storage and giving you plenty of options when the need arises. I liked the look of this BPA free barrel here,  which stores 55 Gallons. 


Lastly, for the option of storing even more water, you have the option of industrial IBC container tanks. Many people like to dig theirs into the ground and cover to keep cool. I found this one on amazon but you can find cheaper through word of mouth or on the likes of Facebook marketplace. Just remember if it’s been previously used, you will need to ensure it wasn’t used for hazardous chemicals and that it has been properly cleaned and sterilised before use. You can also find liners for them to add before filling.

Is there anything you shouldn’t store drinking water in?

Yes! Milk containers or any cleaning containers such as laundry detergent or pretty much anything that held an item you would not consume. It’s best to aim for food grade storage options only when storing water for drinking. It’s also worth noting that untreated water should be disinfected prior to storage to ensure there are no microscopic organisms that could multiply during storage. If you are on a mains water supply, it should already have enough chlorine in it for storage. Remember, this applies to potable water – whereas water for the likes of flushing toilets can be stored in anything.

Final Notes:

In the event of an emergency or if you know that extreme weather or potential power outages are coming, I highly recommend filling up as many containers of water as you can beforehand. This includes sinks and bathtubs. I know an open body of water around your littles can be dangerous, so it might be worth investing in a water BOB. This essentially is an emergency drinking water storage system that usually holds up to 100 gallons of water that fits into bathtub and these are meant to be filled at the first sign of an emergency. Most come with a small pump to get the water out and these are small and easy to store as they are empty until they are needed. It also helps prevent any soap residue or dirt from contaminating the water.

If you want to know more, consider taking my Preparing Your Pantry Course where we delve into all things food and water preparedness. It has a lot more information in there!

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