Everyone knows water is crucial to survival but what happens when your water supply is cut off and you don't have access to clean water?
From natural disasters to burst pipes, it doesn't take much for your home's water supply to be interrupted. Having an emergency water supply can ensure you and your family have access to clean water when disaster strikes.
This blog covers everything you need to know to store water long-term in the event of an emergency.
Why It's Important to Store Water Long-Term
There are countless reasons why you should store water long-term.
For example, humans can survive for up to two months without food but only three days without water. Even if you usually have access to clean drinking water, this might not be an option if the water outage was caused by a natural disaster or chemical outbreak.
Besides needing drinkable water to survive, water is also used for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. Bottled water is safe to use for these purposes in the event of an emergency but won't last forever.
Some plastic bottles also contain chemicals and toxins that, over a long period of time, can gradually seep into the water and be ingested into our bodies. This is known as leeching and is more likely to happen when bottled water is exposed to high temperatures.
Storing a sufficient amount of water in a clean container can give you peace of mind when the worst happens. Whether the area you live in is prone to extreme weather or you just like to be prepared, it's a small price to pay for the health and well-being of your loved ones.
Why Might You Need Storage Water Long-Term
There are several reasons why you might need to keep water long-term. Although there are laws and regulations in place to protect the US water supply, accidents still happen and you can never be too prepared.
Here are some of the times when storing large quantities of storage water could come in useful:
During periods of low rainfall, water supplies can become compromised. This can become an ever bigger problem in places susceptible to dry and humid weather. Having an emergency storage of water at home can be the difference between you and your family having enough water to see you through and running out after a few days.
Chemical leak or spill
Chemical leaks and spills are rare but still a possibility. When this happens, chemicals, untreated water and sewage can enter the water supply and contaminate otherwise clean drinking water. This can lead to widespread illness and disease which can be difficult to control.
Power outages can have a knock-on effect on water pumps which can restrict the water supply to a certain area. This can lead to contaminated water seeping into the water supply or a limited amount of water being delivered to each household.
Depending on where you live, natural disasters can be a constant threat to an area's water supply. Having water containers of clean, fresh water can ensure you and your family have access to potable water if the worst was to happen and your town was hit by a hurricane, tornado, polar vortex or earthquake.
Although one of the least common scenarios, deliberate attacks on water supply systems or treatment plants are not unheard of and can take a long time to resolve. Prevent these attacks from impacting you and your loved ones by keeping an emergency water storage system in your home.
How Much Water You Should Store
There is no universally right answer regarding how much water you should store. The amount of water you'll need depends on what you are storing water for and how many people will use it.
For example, a family of four will need substantially more water than someone living alone. Similarly, you'll need more water for a week-long water outage than you will for a temporary water supply issue.
Knowing how much water to store can be tricky but the National Terror Alert and the Federal Emergency Management Agency both recommend storing a gallon of water per person per day. This is based on having half a gallon for drinking and half a gallon for food preparation, cooking, and cleaning.
However, the actual amount you'll need will differ depending on individual factors, such as the local climate and your habits, as well as the number of dependents (and their ages) in your household. If you have pets, you need to take them into consideration as well.
Another top tip when storing water is to always store more water than you think you'll need. Water outages can be scary and it's better to be safe than sorry if your water supply is cut off for longer than expected. Even if this just means buying an extra case of bottled water from the store each month, every little helps.
How Long You Should Store Water For
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends replacing stored water every six months. This is to ensure the water is still pure and safe for consumption.
However, the exact amount of time you should store water depends on where the water is being stored and whether it has been treated.
For example, clean water left outdoors in an unsealed container can go bad in as little as three days but purified water in a food-grade container has a maximum storage life of up to two years.
This is why it's important to not just store water but know how to safely store water. Incorrect water storage can end up doing more damage than good and can put your family's health at risk.
Water storage containers that have been designed for long-term storage can help you store water for longer, reducing water waste. The best water storage tanks are FDA-approved, BPA-free, and NSF-certified. This essentially means they are fit for purpose and made from the highest quality materials.
Can You Store Rainwater?
Capturing rainwater can be a cost-effective way to collect storage water. But if you've considered storing rainwater, you might have wondered if it's legal to do so.
This is known as water harvesting and while there are no nationwide laws prohibiting people from collecting rainwater for storage, each state has its own rules and regulations. Before you collect rainwater for your storage containers, you must research the law in your area to avoid a hefty fine.
Currently, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, Illinois, and Nevada are the only states where water harvesting is regulated. Some states even encourage homeowners to collect the rainwater that falls on their property for the purpose of water storage to ease the strain on the national water supply in the event of an emergency.
Water from a swimming pool can also be used as a last resort if you live somewhere with minimal rainfall. This can provide up to 20,000 gallons of water in the event of an emergency and prevent you from becoming dehydrated.
Most swimming pools are treated with chlorine to kill bacteria but there could be other harmful substances floating on the surface so this should only be an option if you have no other choice.
Is Tap Water Safe to Store Long-Term?
In most cases, tap water is safe to store in water storage containers without the need for chlorine bleach treatment. However, you must ensure it is stored correctly to prolong its storage life.
For example, potable water should always be stored in food-grade plastic containers and kept in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. Examples include under a sink or in a basement.
Labeling water can also remind you when it was stored and when it needs to be replaced. Most experts recommend replacing storage water every six months to prevent illness or disease.
Does Water Have an Expiration Date?
Although water doesn't technically have an expiration date, the quality of water can decrease over time. This can affect the look and taste of the water, making it less pleasant to drink. This is especially true for water being stored in non-food-grade plastic containers.
Even if you only drink water from food-grade containers, you still must check the quality of the water from time to time and never drink it if it tastes like it could be polluted or contaminated.
Potable tap water should be tasteless and odorless. Cloudy water or water that has a strong chemical smell should be replaced as soon as possible. There is only a small chance it could harm you or your family but you can never be too careful.
How to Treat Storage Water
Storage water must be sufficiently treated to maintain optimum quality. This can ensure it is safe to drink and is unlikely to cause any nasty side effects.
There are several water storage treatment options, including:
Water purification tablets
Water purification tablets work by gradually releasing a chlorine-based solution into the water. When used according to the manufacturer's directions, they are effective at killing a wide range of harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses commonly found in contaminated storage water.
Liquid chlorine bleach
Water stored in plastic or glass containers can be treated with liquid chlorine bleach to rid it of any nasty chemicals and toxins. The long-term water storage bleach ratio should be five drops of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. Fresh chlorine bleach can produce a slight chlorine odor but it is nothing to worry about.
Boiling water is the quickest and easiest way to ensure drinking water is free from dangerous bacteria. This is because most bacteria and parasites die when exposed to the high temperatures of boiled water. Simply bring water to a rolling boil for a minute and wait for it to cool before drinking. Adding a long-term water storage additive can also help keep it fresher for longer.
Water filtration unit
Storage water can be treated with a water filtration unit. This can be a commercial or backpack filter that filters out unwanted particles from the water. Some water bottles also come with a self-filtering mechanism so you can filter water quickly and easily in the event of an emergency.
What Containers You Should Store Water In
Water can be stored in various different water storage containers but it's important to choose the right size and material for the purpose. The right container also depends on how long the water will be stored.
The International Bottled Water Association works with the FDA to ensure bottled water is safe for short-term storage. However, bottled water storage is not recommended for long-term use and should be replaced every few months.
For long-term drinking water storage, a food-grade container must be used. Food-grade plastic containers are the most common long-term water storage containers because they have been designed to store food. This means they are made with sturdy food-grade plastic which allows for minimal or no contamination.
Glass containers are also a safe option for stored water but only if they have been thoroughly cleaned and haven't previously stored food. However, they are better suited to short-term water storage as they can be heavy and burdensome in emergencies.
Stainless steel is another option but water stored in stainless steel containers can't be treated because chlorine corrodes steel.
Finally, you should only ever store emergency water in clean containers regardless of which material you choose. This can prevent cloudy water and improve the taste of the water, even several weeks down the line.
Factors Affecting Long-Term Water Storage
There are several factors that affect long-term water storage. From the outside temperature to the material chosen, small decisions can have a big impact on the quality of the water stored.
Here are just some of the factors that can affect long-term water storage:
Hot climates can affect the quality of storage water, especially if it's stored above ground in plastic containers. Living in a hot climate can also increase the need for drinking water, making an emergency supply of water all the more important.
Storage water should always be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Over time, light can break down plastic containers which can lead to leeching and algae growth. This can give water an unsavory look, taste, and smell.
Some water storage tanks have air vents to let air enter and escape. This helps to balance the pressure when the water level changes and can prevent water erosion.
Material is one of the most important factors that affect stored water. For example, food-grade plastic containers are designed to last and keep water purer for longer while low-quality plastic containers can lead to contamination.
The quality of the storage container will have a knock-on effect on the quality of the storage water. Broken or cracked containers can let bacteria in and render water undrinkable while strong sturdy containers can keep water safe and pure for years.
How to Choose the Best Water Storage Solution for Your Needs
There are various types of water tanks and water storage methods out there but finding the right one for your needs can be difficult. From the right size to the right material, there are so many factors to consider.
Here are some tips to help you find the right water storage solution for you:
Choose the right size
One of the most important considerations when shopping for a water storage container is the size. The right size will depend on how many people will use the water and how often it will be used. Sizes of water tanks can vary from ten to 100,000 gallons but only you will know the right size for you and your family.
Water containers must be strong enough to keep water in and withstand the elements, especially if you're storing water for use in the event of a natural disaster. Depending on where you live, your water tank might also need to be strong enough to keep animals out.
Pick a safe material
Water containers come in a wide range of materials but only some are deemed suitable for safe water storage. Food-grade plastic is generally seen as the safest material for long-term water storage because it is designed to come into contact with food and water.
Look for certification
The National Sanitation Foundation sets the standards for safe potable water storage in the US. Although not a requirement, you can be reassured that an NSF-certified water tank will stand the test of time and comes from a reputable manufacturer.
Can water be stored indefinitely?
Water kept in food-grade containers should last a lifetime but water quality can decrease over time. So although it may still be perfectly safe to drink, replacing stored water every six months can help it maintain optimum quality for a pleasant taste.
How much storage water do you need for three months?
The right amount of water to store for three months depends on how many people need the water and what the water will be used for. Generally, a gallon of water per person per day should be enough for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.
Are above or below-ground water tanks better?
Below-ground water tanks are hidden but expensive while above-ground water tanks are exposed to the elements but tend to be cheaper. The right option for you will depend on your budget, but if you have the cash, below-ground tanks are better.
Having an emergency water tank can help keep you and your family safe if something was to happen to your home's water supply. Even if it has never happened to you, accidents can happen and you can never be too careful when it comes to the health and well-being of your loved ones.
From a 15-gallon to a 1500-gallon water tank, there are hundreds of sizes to choose from and you're guaranteed to find something to suit your needs. Knowing exactly what you're looking for can simplify the process and ensure you find a water storage container big enough for your home and your family.