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Water Prepping - Long Term Water Storage 101

by Andrew Ciccone October 07, 2015

Camels can store water - but even camels need extra help sometimes. 

Prepping for long-term water storage can seem very confusing at first. Not knowing where to start is usually the main cause of procrastination, but when it comes to you and your loved ones chances of survival in the event of a disaster, you need to take the initiative and get started as soon as yesterday!

What Is A "Prepper"?

I know, I know I know. Most people when they hear the term Prepper, the first thoughts that pop into their heads are crazy-minded people preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Ok I admit it, this actually may be the case in a few prepper profiles, but don't let this be another excuse for not stepping up to the plate for your family.

The end of the world might not be around the corner, but the possibilities of natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornado's, blizzards, and wild fires, are all too real and happen everyday. You see it in the news all the time, think about those affected, were they prepared?

Just because you saw it on the news last week, and it's not in the news this week certainly doen't mean those families are not still suffering. Let's just hope they were prepared. In any case, a little survival plan can make all the difference in making a difficult situation into a more comfortable, lower stress situation.

The Importance Of Water

One of the very first things you will need to think about is water. Without water you will be dead in about three days or less. Water is also needed for cooking, wound care, and hygiene. But where are we going to get this water we speak of? Well, we can scout out brooks, streams, puddles, rivers, but why not start at home right now and have a supply of fresh clean water put into long term storage just in case disaster keeps you stranded there?

Advice For Water Storage

Before you go filling any old jug with water and tucking it away in the basement hoping you did the right thing, hold off and please read what advice I am giving you. When water sits even for a short period of time bacteria is sure to grow. You could easily become sick from drinking it. If this happens you just turned a bad situation into a more serious situation as dehydration is inevitable. Remember we are looking for safe drinking water.

What you will first need to do is to figure out how much water per day you and your family will need to store for at least 72 hours. Women need at least 2.2 liters (9 cups) a day, and men need a minimum of 3 liters (13 cups).

To be safe lets figure 1 gallon per house hold member and this will give us the extra needed for cooking, etc. For a family of 4, 4x3 (gallons of water) = 12, 12x3 (days or 72 hours) = 36. So 36 gallons of water is needed.

You may want to plan for more days, but never figure for less. If the disaster lasts longer than your water supply then you will need to find another source. If this happens, start looking a day before your supply is exhausted. Now that we have the minimal amount of water needed, now we need a good vessel to store our supply.

What NOT to Use to Store Water:

  1. Milk jugs.
  2. Non food-grade plastic.
  3. Any type of cardboard containers i.e. orange juice container
  4. Any food grade container or barrel that previously had other liquids or food in it. No matter how much you scrub, there will always be some substance left in the scratches of the plastic, this will start a nice colony of bacteria.
  5. Never EVER use any container that previously had chemicals in it.

Well what the hell do we use you ask?! Spend a few bucks and pick up a brand new large plastic storage container from a food-grade supplier. These are all over the internet from small jugs to 55 gallon drums for a reasonable price. You and your family are worth it right?!

How to Clean Your Storage Container

  1. First clean the outside and the inside of the container with soap and water and rinse very well making sure all soapy residue is gone. Be sure to allow it to air-dry completely before the next step.
  2. Use 1 teaspoon of non-scented household bleach per quart of water to sanitize. I usually mix up a few quarts and pour it into the container, swish it around for a few minutes making sure all areas are being soaked, and let it sit. I also take a spray bottle from the dollar store, and fill it with the mixture and then spray the outside of the container down. I pay extra attention around the spout or bung, dump out the mixture inside and do NOT rinse. Once again, let it air dry.
  3. This next step is controversial and is entirely up to you. The thought is if you're using tap water to fill your containers there is no need to add any bleach to store long term because it is already treated at the water plant. This is true, however if you want the extra ease of mind you can use 1/8 teaspoon of non scented bleach per gallon of water stored with no problems. When adding your water with a hose, make sure you sanitize the first four or five feet of the hose before sticking it in the container to avoid any issues.

Now that you have filled your storage vessels with water, make sure you seal the port or bung air-tight. The water inside will not go bad or spoil, but it's the contamination we are trying to avoid. You may also want to keep your water on pallets off the floor or at least on a carpet or cardboard.

Tapping Into Your Reserves

If the time comes and you need to tap into your reserves, you can directly drink this water without fear of it being bad. There is no need to boil it, and you really don't want to waste the energy or heat source you have on boiling it. Just a word of advice, the water may taste a little odd, or even flat, but no worries, this is only due to the lack of oxygen during storage. To combat this, all you need to do is swish your water around in a bottle or cup and re-introduce the oxygen back in and the odd taste will be gone.

Make sure to purify your reserve water water with one of the items below ...

Also, make sure when opening to be as careful as possible not to touch the opening or put any fingers or sticks in the water in storage so no bacteria is introduced. also close the cap as tight as possible for the next use.


If all else fails there is an easier method for water storage but it is more costly. You can just buy bottled water and store it as-is in closets, basements, under beds, etc. The plus side of this is if you need to relocate your shelter. Cases of water are easy to grab and toss into a car. However, don't allow your bottled water to be stored in or near sunlight. Sunlight causes a chemical reaction the the plastic which can release toxins into the water. These toxins have been known to cause cancer.

Well I hope this info helps you get started in the right direction of keeping you and loved ones safe and prepared. Don't waste any time, get started and do it now, because tomorrow may be too late. 

Here is a great video that discusses the ins and outs of water prepping.


Andrew Ciccone
Andrew Ciccone


Andrew Ciccone, VP Branding & Media Strategy - Andrew's long strange marketing trip began after graduating from Syracuse University with a BS in Marketing. Andrew then developed his marketing prowess when he moved to Madison Avenue big boys Young & Rubicam, Backer Spielvogel, and Grey Advertising. He went on to get a Masters in Corporate Communications from Baruch College, then went on to start his own agency in 2011 - Hudson Valley Public Relations. Andrew has earned a reputation for creative, smart, innovative campaigns that get results. Andrew's spare time is devoted to sailing regattas, family fun and film. To date he has penned four screenplays.

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