January 25, 2012

How to Store Emergency Drinking Water

Storing emergency water is extremely important. As I've done more research, I decided to put together a new handout to keep in our emergency binder. I'm not an expert, but you may find this information useful. I've written so many times about water on my site, that some of you may be tired of hearing about it. But, you can't live without it. And neither can I.

Hopefully you will find something useful in this post. You can also find information from your local water company, or the link at the end of this post. Much of my information can be found in the FEMA handout. Also, drinking water is Step 2 of the LDS 4-Step Approach to Home Storage.

Emergency Drinking Water.pdf

How Much Water Should I Store? 
• A 2-week supply for each person.
• 1 gallon per person per day, or 14 gallons per person. This is a minimum! Store more for infants, elderly, ill people or people living in hot environments. (I store 4 cases per person in our family for drinking, and additional water in containers for food preparation and hygiene.)
• Plan to use water for drinking, food preparation and hygiene.
• Never ration water. Drink amount needed today, and find more tomorrow.

What Are The Best Water Containers? 
• Commercial bottled water with an expiration date is the best way to store water. (I write the expiration date on the plastic of my cases with a permanent marker. And stack the newest expiration date on the bottom and the oldest on top. Then restack as more is purchased.)
• However, if storing your own, use a food grade container such as a plastic soft drink bottle. Not plastic milk containers. Remember to label the date.
• Or a container similar to this blue 5-gallon stackable container which weighs 40 lbs. when filled.

• Consider how you will empty and refill your containers.
• (I use other containers for food preparation and hygiene, and bottled water for drinking.)

How Do I Prepare & Fill My Own Containers? 
• Don’t use a container that has held toxic chemicals.
• Clean bottles with dishwashing soap and water. Rinse completely
• Add solution of 1 t. non-scented liquid chlorine bleach to a quart (1/4 gallon) of water. Swish solution in bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing bottle, rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.
• Fill bottle to top with regular tap water. (If water utility company treats your tap water with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean.) If the water you use comes from a well or water source not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach to each gallon of water.
• Tightly close container using original cap and being careful not to touch (contaminate) inside of cap with fingers.
 • Write date on outside of the container so that you know when you filled it.
• Replace water every six months.

Where Do I Store My Containers?
• Store in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
• Best temperature is 59 – 86 degrees (U.S. Pharmecopiea).
• When there are extreme hot and cold temperatures in the winter and summer months, bring water inside.
• Keep water containers away from solvents and gasoline, paint thinners, household cleaners, etc.
• If storing on cement floors, raise containers with 2 x 4’s.
• Store it where you can get to it easily after an earthquake.

Where Are Safe Home Sources of Water? 
• Safe water sources include water in your hot-water tank, pipes, and ice cubes.
• You should not use water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds, or pools/spas.

Where Are Safe Outside Sources of Water? 
• Be sure to treat water according to the instructions in the brochure listed before drinking it.
• Rainwater, streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water. Ponds and lakes and natural springs
• Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or dark color.
• You should not drink flood water.

How Do I Treat Water? 
Boiling is the safest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
• Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
• You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.
• Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discard it and find another source of water.
• Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products (sold in camping or surplus stores) that do not contain 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
• While the two methods described above will kill most microorganisms in water, distillation will remove microorganisms that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.
• Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities.
• To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang rightside-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water), and boil the water for 20 minutes.
• The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Adapted from FEMA/Red Cross Brochure: Food and Water in An Emergency
And other research I've done.



  1. How many gallons of water do you store for your cooking and washing?
    AND if i have plastic gallon water bottles from the store that have expired (like a year ago, i don't check it much), can i empty the container and wash it and re-use it? or has the water contaminated the bottle too much?

    1. Treated water can store for a long time past its expiration date it just becomes stale tasting aerating it by pouring it back and forth a few times between containers helps the taste. Also if you are worried about drinking it then keep it for cooking and cleaning and hygiene. Don't just dump it and refill. Especially if it is factory sealed.

  2. Thanks for the excellent information. I printed out your sheets and then went to the FEMA website and printed out the pamphlet on it too. I don't have near the amount of water that we need as a family even for a month. So that is my goal right now. A month's worth and then I will add on. I am hoping to get some 55 gallon drums for water soon.

  3. HI - thank you for the info. I am confused about treating water...

    Up top you mentioned, "If the water you use comes from a well or water source not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach to each gallon of water."

    Then farther down you wrote,"Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discard it and find another source of water."

    There is a 800% difference between the two suggestions, so I am sure I'm missing something...

    Which is the proper way to treat stored water - with 2 drops/gallon or 16 drops/gallon?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Harry,
      I looked at the FEMA pamplet. I believe your second paragraph is about treating "contaminated" water, not water being prepared for storage in containers. Let me know if I am wrong.


  4. If I want to store 5-6gal containers of water will I be able to store it longer then six months if I add chlorine to the stored water?

  5. If I want to store 5-6gal containers for longer then six months can I add chlorine to the stored water to preserve it longer?

  6. We get bottled water on a regular basis because it is cleaner and safer at this point. However, we want to start saving some of it if we can in case of an emergency. You really never know what will happen, so I am glad I know more about storing extra water after reading this. Our bottled water company will be getting more business from us soon.



Thanks for your comments and suggestions!


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