Whatever emergency you might find yourself in, water will always be at the top of your basic survival needs list.  Every household should have a reliable long-term water storage plan as well as a plan for water acquisition should you be forced out of your home.  When the city water supply shuts off as a result of an emergency it may be a long time before its available again and there will most likely not be a re-supply of any kind in the meantime.

Provided you didn’t have to leave your current location, would you have enough water in your home for you and your family to last until the water came back on? On the 21st of April, 2018, an emergency alert was issued for the town of Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta, by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). The alert stated that a primary water line has been damaged and crews were repairing it. Residents were asked to conserve water until further notice and town water was shut off completely to certain parts of the community. This alert remained in effect for only a few hours but had the damage been more extensive, a long-term water storage plan might have been a life-saver. So what should this plan look like?


The general rule of thumb is that you’ll need four liters of water per person per day. Two liters used for drinking and the other two are used for hygiene. These figures will change depending on a wide range of factors such as climate or special needs of some members of your group.  The question that often arises at this point is “how many days’ worth of water should you store?” The answer depends on many different factors.  AEMA recommends three days’ supply of water for all members of the family and don’t forget about your pets. This means that for a family of four people, you will need 48 Liters for three days. That’s a lot of water.

The general consensus among preppers and survival experts is that you should have enough water for at least two weeks.  As great a starting point as three days is, even during run-of-the-mill disasters water access can be down for much longer than that, so consider three days the minimum requirement. This means that our family of four now needs 224L of water.

Whether you decide to go above and beyond the two-week minimum is up to you.  However, if you have the room then adding an additional two weeks’ worth is recommended.  For some, finding the storage space in their home or apartment for this amount of water presents a whole slew of additional logistical problems, which means you have to plan.

Planning does not have to be complicated.  Simply take note of how much water you actually consume. Average it out over a week and base your supply on your figures.  Some people will require more water than others and water intake will also vary from winter to summer so keep this in mind.

The best way would be to start off with the two-week supply and slowly build up to larger amounts as space and money become available.


Containers will be the first concern when storing water.  You should use food grade plastic bottles or glass.  These containers must not have been used for non-food products in the past.  You can also use stainless steel containers however, you will not be able to add any chlorine as this will corrode the steel.  You can re-use containers such as Gatorade and Water bottles, but they must be thoroughly cleaned with dish soap and then disinfected with bleach, keeping in mind that all water containers should be sealed to prevent things crawling in.


Store bought bottled water provides the easiest, all though not the cheapest way of storing water for emergencies

Store bought bottled water will be the easiest although a slightly more expensive way to reach your water storage goals.  Pre-packaged bottled water is clean, well-sealed, and comes in food-grade plastic containers. Moreover, bottled water is highly portable which comes in handy if you need to leave your location in a hurry.  This is also a great option if you have limited space in your home or apartment.  You can purchase a bunch of cases and store them under beds.




Twenty Liter Jerry cans are an excellent option for storing water.

Twenty-liter jerry cans are another great option and if you’re a regular camper you may already have a few of these in your garage.  They are made from sturdy, food-grade plastic which is usually dark blue in color, restricts light and helps prevent algae growth.  They may also come in a tan or black color if they were at some point destined for the military.  All military grade jerry cans will have ONE single handle on the top versus THREE handles which are on military fuel cans so you can tell the difference at night.  You can stack the cans by placing several on the floor, then take a board and place it on top of those cans, and then start the second row on the top of the board.  The jerry cans smaller size also makes for easy transport in your vehicle in case you need to leave your home base.




Water barrels are a great way of storing lots of water for a long-term

Water barrels are great if you have enough space and you’re looking to have at least one month’s worth of water supply on hand.  They are made from sturdy food-grade plastic and have bungs at the top that can be sealed super tight in order to protect your water from contamination.  The plastic is also BPA-free and UV-resistant.  You may have to buy a pump and hose to get the water in/out keeping in mind it needs to stay super clean.  The weight of these barrels, once they are full (over 400 lbs), will make any movement of them prohibitive.  This means that if you have to bug out in a hurry, you will need smaller containers.


If you are using tap water as your survival cache, many municipalities continue to use fluoride and other chemicals as additives.  It is up to you to do your research so that you understand what you’re consuming. The other side of the coin is that all tap water is treated with chlorine which prevents the growth of algae.  You can purchase your own water treatment and use it to stem the growth of algae if you’re using rainwater.

Water purification tabs are another way to keep your water clean. Make sure you read and understand the instructions!

If you have doubts as to the cleanliness of your water, boil it for one minute in elevations up to 2000 Meters (6562 Feet) and three minutes for elevations higher than that before consumption, to kill all bacteria.  You can also use water purification tablets to clean your water.

Water itself does not have an expiry date, if stored properly it will last forever.  Contaminants in water are what makes it “go bad”.  Often times this happens from improper containers or contamination such as bugs crawling in.  Therefore, water does not need to be rotated through unless you are not sure about the cleanliness of it.





You can purchase your own water treatment for larger containers.



This article outlined a few ways of storing water for long-term emergency use.  There are many other ways in which you can explore and educate yourself about the storage of water by utilizing lakes, rivers, rainwater, and wells.  Your mind is always going to be your best preparedness tool so use it to find creative ways of obtaining water in a pinch.  Knowing yourself is also a very valuable asset during hard times, therefore, knowing how much water you actually need may save you space and time.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I live in California and we are always told to store water in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake, but I always wondered how to effectively do that for a long term. This information is very useful. I had no idea about amounts or even water treatments. Thanks so much for the info!

  2. Thanks so much for this post. Water is indeed very important to human life, though its preservation and storage is something we overlook way too often. From now on I will be sure to keep some extra water on hand for those ‘non-rainy’ days, Thanks. The water purifiers are of good help too.

  3. Dennis, In San Diego, to conserve water during the drought (did it ever end?) the County was asking us to pee in the shower, and save the toilet tank flush! I remember once going 6 months without a drop of rain there. Think it was June thru November. Now I’m on the east coast, and we have unlimited water that just flows from the rivers into the saltwater ocean – use it or lose it. I have a 6-stage reverse osmosis system for drinking water. I guess I could increase the size of the holding tank if the water supply is interrupted somehow.

    1. I understand that the Southern California coast has various water use restrictions. This may vary from county to county and in different times of the year. It sounds like your water needs are currently well taken care of. When you have a solid supply of basics needs, such as water, you have eliminated a very important “stress factor”. When one desperately needs the basics of life he or she will do anything to get at it…that’s how more problems are created.
      I would suggest that if you sense a problem or disaster coming your way, immediately try to build up your water supply as much as you can…

      Well done and thank you for your comment!

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