Water is one of the most difficult things to stockpile; not because of any problem in finding water that we can stockpile, but because of how much water we need. We need much more water than food or anything else that we might stockpile.
Most survival experts will tell you that you need one gallon of clean water per person, per day, in order to survive. That’s just for drinking and cooking. Considering that we need to drink about a half a gallon of water per day to maintain our health, that’s not an unreasonable number in most cases. But if you are trying to survive in a hot climate, you can sweat out more water than that in a day, requiring a severe increase in your water consumption.
Not only that, but we use water for more than just drinking and cooking. We also need water for bathing, washing our clothes, cleaning our homes and watering our vegetable gardens. While none of that water needs to be clean enough to drink, we still need it and have to include it in our overall water budget. Including those items, we are more likely to use five gallons of water, per person, per day, even if we are extremely cautious in how we use water.
That’s actually not much, compared to how much water we use now. According to statistics, the average American family uses 100 gallons of water, per person, per day. Of that, about 40% is used to water the lawn, 18.5% is used to flush the toilet, 15% is used to wash clothes and 22.5% is used between bathing and washing. That’s a lot of water.
No matter what, we can’t expect to have that much water available to us in a survival situation. Even if that much water exists nearby our homes, hauling that much water every day is impractical. So we’re going to have to find ways to use what water we have as efficiently as possible.
But even though we will need to be harvesting water from nature in some way or another, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stockpile it. We should stockpile water, because we have no guarantee that any of the ways that we expect to get water in the event of an emergency will be available to us. There’s also the need to have enough water to get us through the disaster and into the time when we are living in our post-disaster mode, where we are harvesting water from what’s available around us.
So how much water should we stockpile?
There’s no real answer to that question, because none of us know what sort of disaster we are going to face. So the best I can say is to store as much as you possibly can, while leaving room for everything else in your life.
Keeping Water Pure
One of the most important parts of stockpiling water is ensuring its purity. I don’t care where you get your water from, the tap, your private well, rainwater capture or the local creek, it’s probably not pure. You have to assume that the water will have microscopic pathogens in it.
While the level of those pathogens may be low enough that the water is safe to drink at the time you store it, you can’t be sure that it will stay that way. Bacteria can multiply, turning that drinkable water into dangerous water. Unfortunately, you won’t know if that has happened or not, until it’s too late.
The solution to this potential problem is to treat your water with chemical purifiers to prevent any bacteria from growing in it. The most common and readily available of these is chlorine, the same chemical that municipal water authorities use to ensure that the bacteria count in their water is low enough as to be safe to drink. Chlorine will kill pretty much all bacteria and other microscopic pathogens.
You probably already have chlorine in your home, in the form of bleach. The bleach that we use to whiten our clothes in the wash is 6% chlorine, which will purify water just fine. All you need to do is add eight drops per gallon of water that you are going to store.
Chemists have standardized on there being 20 drops in a cubic centimeter, so for larger water containers, you can use:
- 2cc for a 5-gallon bucket
- 12cc for a 30-gallon drum
- 22cc for a 55-gallon drum
- 40cc for every 100 gallons in a large storage tank
As long as the container is sealed, you shouldn’t need to add any more chlorine. But if the tank is open, like a cistern might be, you will need to continue adding chlorine periodically.
Bottled & Gallons of Water
The most inefficient way of stockpiling water is to buy bottles and gallons of water at the local supermarket. While you can definitely build a stockpile that way and it will definitely be purified water, it will also be expensive. Considering how cheap water out of the tap is, buying bottled water just doesn’t make any sense.
The other problem with bottled water is that it really isn’t purified with the intent of long-term storage; therefore, there is a risk of bacteria growth making the water unsafe to drink. On the other hand, if you bottle your own water, either from the tap or after passing through your own water purification system, you can add bleach to it, making it good for long-term storage.
Some preppers do this with gallon milk jugs that they have cleaned out after drinking the milk they contained. Gallon jugs fit nicely under most beds, giving you a convenient place to store a lot of gallon containers of water.
Drums of Water
While gallon milk jugs work for storing water, they are still somewhat inefficient. It takes a lot of gallon containers to store enough water so that you can be sure of meeting your family’s needs. You might want to up your game to some larger containers.
The blue plastic chemical drums you see everywhere are a common replacement for those gallon jugs, allowing you to put 55 gallons of water in one container, which can go in the basement, shed or garage. While these containers are cheap when buying them used, you want to be careful about them. The last thing you need is some poisonous chemical residue remaining in the drum to contaminate your water supply.
If you buy these drums, always be sure to buy ones which still have the label on them, so that you can see what they originally contained. Armed with that information, you can find out if the chemical is dangerous and what you need to use to clean it out of the drum. That will solve that problem.
On the other hand, if you can find white plastic drums, instead of blue ones, they are probably food-grade and were used to transport food products, such as cooking oil. In that case, it is much easier to know what to do to clean them out and make them safe for storing your water.
Tanks of Water
Another alternative in the used container market is what they call IBCs, which stands for “intermediate bulk containers.” These are roughly four foot cube plastic containers surrounded by an aluminum framework. They hold 175 gallons of water and will have a drain outlet at the bottom. This makes them an ideal water storage container. Just use the same precautions about properly cleaning them before use.
I used to live on the Texas/Mexico border, which made it convenient for me to buy water tanks in Mexico. It was easier to get them in Mexico because many people put a water tank on the roof of their house, so that they will always have water, even when the city water isn’t running well (a common problem). The tanks are cheaper there, than buying them at a feed store in the US. I bought two of these containers, giving me a total capacity of about 400 gallons between them. That was a good starting point.
One of the best stealth water tanks I’ve ever seen is an above-ground swimming pool. A 12’ diameter, 3’ deep pool can be bought for about $200. That will hold just over 2,500 gallons of water. If you up that to 16’ diameter and 4’ deep the price goes up considerably, but it will be able to hold 6,000 gallons.
Not only will using a swimming pool for a water tank be well camouflaged from nosy neighbors, helping you to maintain your OPSEC, but the normal maintenance requirements to keep it clean will ensure that the water is safe to drink. You’ll be adding chlorine to the water all the time, just as I mentioned above for other water you would be storing.