Long Term Water Storage and Purification Techniques 

 November 10, 2020

By  Mike Millerson

  • Home
  • /
  • Long Term Water Storage and Purification Techniques

Long-term water storage is the thing to consider while prepping for a survival situation. Water is essential in everyday life, let alone survival situations. Having a water filter, some barrels in the underground storage, a few plastic bottles of drinking water in your garage will increase your survival chances manifold. Read the article to find out more about long-term water storage.

The Best Ideas For Water Storage and Common Errors

It may seem that preparing an emergency water supply is an uncomplicated and straightforward matter.

Water Storage Tanks Of course, it’s not like piloting a plane, but it is also not as easy as making a toast. So, apart from taking a survival rifle with all the ammunition, a survival watch, a tactical pen, a gas mask, and freeze-dried food, ensure you have enough water to drink. You can also think about something small, like a TACT bivvy item.

According to the latest poll conducted in the US, 53% of people have long-term food storage for less than 3 days.

Water is the most critical emergency supply, especially in a desert survival situation, because humans can only go without water for a few days, much less than without food. So you must learn about the right way to store. Many people think about building a bunker or getting a gas mask when it comes to survival skills. However, long term water storage is unduly ignored. Meanwhile, less than half of the US households have enough non-perishable nutrition and water to last three days.

Not stocking up on drinking water is very irresponsible. We are so used that to have good quality tap water, and it doesn’t even occur that one day it might not be available anymore. Don’t repeat the mistake of more than half of Americans and think through your water storage in the case of TEOTWAWKI or any other severe emergency. The first two things to be cut first in a disaster (natural or any other sort) are electricity and city water. Even though it is uncomfortable, human beings can survive without the former, but it won’t last long without the latter. This makes water by far the most crucial survival resource. I highly recommend you start stocking some water in your home because buying bottled water will cost you a fortune in case of emergency and might not even be available immediately. You should also consider buying some self-defense weapons with a substantial amount of ammunition in your storage to ensure your security in any situation.

While it might not seem complicated, storing water in the right way is quite tricky. There are common mistakes that often lead to the water supply going bad. It can even get toxic if not kept correctly. The good news is, though, that these errors are elementary to avoid.

Just a heads up, collecting rainwater and storing it in old beer kegs and buckets is not a good idea as it won’t be clean and suitable for drinking when you actually need it.

Here are some useful tips for you to start planning your emergency water storage if there is a widespread disaster or an emergency.

5 Basic Do-Nots of Water Storage

1. Never store water in a container where you kept other stuff before, as, in the long run, it can lead to water contamination even if you thoroughly washed the containers. And it’s not just chemicals and oils that make the reservoirs unusable. You can’t re-purpose milk jugs or soda bottles, beer kegs, or anything else for drinking water storage. It is practically impossible to get rid of all bacteria and sugars left on a container’s walls. Even a tiny amount of contaminants can make your water go bad in the long run. Use food storage facilities for the purpose.

2. Carboard is not suitable for long-term water storage. It may sound obvious to you, but it has happened before. Cardboard containers may last a couple of days, but it will fail if you plan to store water long-term.

3. Metal containers are not good for water storage unless it’s stainless steel. Any other metals will make your water rusty very fast, and such water is not suitable for drinking and gross.

4. Don’t store your water in containers that cannot be sealed. Except for very peculiar cases, open water is not a good option because it makes contamination – whether it is bird poop, leaves, insects, or anything else that can fall into the water – much easier

5. Never store water in any reservoir that can potentially get contaminated.  If you think your water container might become compromised at some point, find a different option.

6. Avoid heat and direct sunlight when storing water. Try to keep it in a cool and shaded place. Your basement, a windowless pantry, or a temperature-controlled garage is a good option. Ultraviolet rays are powerful and cause plastic, and in some cases, even glass, to leak chemicals.

Things to Avoid When Storing Water

Let’s take a look at the most typical misbeliefs about water storage.

First and foremost, if the water is clear, it is not necessarily safe to drink. Chemicals and parasites that contaminate water usually don’t have any color.

Secondly, even though water cannot really expire, you can’t store it forever in the same repository, even if you think the storage conditions are absolutely perfect.

Thirdly, it does get pretty serious, and if you do things wrong, you can die. In any case, when there is a widespread disaster, the last thing you need is to get poisoning caused by chemicals or parasites in your water.

So before going into detail about how to properly store water, I will share some common mistakes that you should avoid by all means.

Besides keeping yourself in good health condition (using antibiotics, for instance), never use anything but a proper water storage container for stockpiling water. This is very important, and I can’t emphasize it enough: only use quality food-grade containers! Sure, Walmart and Home Depot have this bright orange, cool inexpensive buckets. You can also get cheap lids for them and all. But the thing is, they are not meant for water storage! There are specific barrels and containers made for that purpose, and water storage is not something you should save money on.

There are a few ways to tell whether the container is made of food-grade plastic or not.

1. Have you noticed that plastic containers have these triangular figures with numbers at the bottom? Numbers 1, 2, 4, and 7 mean that this plastic is good for food-grade containers.

2. Another important piece of information you can read at the bottom is a mark showing whether the container can be safely frozen or kept in a storeroom. When you buy a water barrel or any other type of plastic container, it usually says something like “Freezer, Refrigerator, Pantry Safe.” This phrase means that it is fine to store food and water there.

How To Store Water Properly

There are just a few simple rules to follow that will make your long term storage of water right and increase your emergency preparedness. The most important part is how to choose a water storage container.

As I mentioned above, make sure it is water safe. But even within that category, there are hundreds of options. So here are some things to consider.

  • How big your storage space is.
  • How much money you can spare.
  • Several people (family, friends, and neighbors) will rely on this water supply.
  • How long you want the supply to last.
  • Your location and proximity to any natural water source.

Below you will find various water container options to choose from.

Top Water Storage Containers

Glass Water Storage Containers

Glass is usually safe to use for water storage; make sure you clean it well and sanitize it before. FDA generally labels all glass as “GRAS,” meaning that it is “Generally Regarded As Safe.” However, it doesn’t mean that you can repurpose any class reservoir for water storage. As with plastic, I suggest that you avoid any container with food or anything else in it before.

The coolest thing about glass is that it is easy to clean and can serve you for a long time. However, on the flip side, it weighs a lot compared to other materials and is easy to break. Here is a lifehack for you – whap your glass container in old magazines or cardboard, and it will make it a bit more breakage-proof. Check out these glass containers to make the best choice.

Stainless Steel Water Storage Containers

Stainless steel is by far the best material for emergency water storage bottles, but it is also the most expensive one. One 55-gallon water barrel will cost you $150 or more on Amazon. Besides, they weigh quite a lot. While it is an excellent material for water storage, it also requires special care. For example, chlorine often used to make tap water cleaner can lead to erosion of stainless steel water barrels’ protection layer. In the long run, it can make water rusty and unsuitable for drinking because of potential toxicity. Also, it is still important to make sure that your stainless steel water storage containers are food-grade.

Plastic 55-Gallon Water Barrels

The 55-gallon water storage containers made of plastic can be a good alternative to the more expensive steel ones. They weigh a lot when filled with water and are not too easy to store, but if you can find room for them, 55-gallon water storage barrels are a great and relatively cheap solution for long-term water storage. Usually, the plastic 55-gallon water storage containers are blue and drum-shaped.

Water Storage Blatters For Bathtubs

Depending on your bathtub size, you can fit up to 100 gallons of water, perfect for satisfying water storage needs for a while. However, bathtubs are not sterile, and because they are open and can’t be sealed, it is tough to make sure clean water stays clean there. Sure, you can use that water for cooking and sanitary needs, but there is a way to keep that water safe to drink: these water storage containers.

Check out the bathtub water storage container (or BOB): a portable kit that will keep your bathtub storage water drinkable for at least 72 hours. Used by the military during the Korean War, a BOB is not exactly a survival kit, but more of an emergency evacuation option that is not meant to be a long term solution. However, this can be the water storage container you use first before switching to other more long term water barrels.

The kit usually includes a bag that can fit up to 100 gallons of tap water and can be placed in bathtubs, showers, or sinks. Also, in the event of an evacuation, you can empty the bag and pack it up. A water BOB comes with essential items that will make your experience easier. When the bag is full, attach a siphon hand pump to it so that it dispenses the water into jugs or pitchers, making it easy to use your water every day. Both the bag and the hand pump are made of BPA-free, high-quality plastic.

Large Water Storage Containers (Water Tanks)

One of these huge containers is not a space saver pick, but it will dramatically improve your emergency preparedness. They are quite pricey and impossible to move once filled with water, but one of these barrels is the best long term water storage solution. These survival water containers can hold thousands of gallons of water, so if you prepare for an extended emergency, have space and the money, it might be worthwhile.

Plastic Water Storage Containers

Plastic has many advantages for long-term water storage. It is cheap, doesn’t weigh much, is easily accessible, and is incredibly hardwearing if made of high-density polyethylene. This is why many people choose plastic over other materials to store water. However, even food-grade plastic has some serious drawbacks.

More and more studies reveal that plastic starts slowly with time, leaking chemicals into the water. It is especially true for scorching areas and if the containers are left under direct sunlight. Keep in mind that electricity often gets cut off during emergencies, so if you live in South Florida, it won’t be easy to store your plastic water containers at the appropriate temperature.

Propper storage and occasional replacement of water can reduce the risk of chemical contamination.

I highly recommend the 5 Gallon Water Storage System by Legacy Premium storage made of high-quality food-grade plastic. 5-gallon water storage containers cannot be enough for you, so consider a 55-gallon water reservoir instead.

Here are some of the most important characteristics of these 5-gallon containers:

  • They are great for storing water, long-term, ammo, and food storage.
  • You can easily stuff them up to their maximum capacity.
  • These water and food storage containers have convenient handles and are easy to carry.
  • They are very durable and made with high-quality plastic.

If you are building your survival essentials kit, the 30-gallon packs of containers are a good investment. They are not expensive yet can provide enough water for a family of five for around two weeks, or even longer in a water-saving model. Health specialists recommend drinking around 8 cups of water per person per day, which equals about half a gallon.

If you get the pack of six containers, you will also receive several bonuses:

  • A nice and useful cap jolt to make sure you close the containers properly.
  • Two spigots permit you to tap into two barrels simultaneously, which can be handy if you are using different jugs for different purposes.
  • Treatment drops for water purification (with the purchase of six containers, you get enough drops to make precisely 30 gallons clean and drinkable.

Read more about the water storage containers here.

Your Backyard Swimming Pool

Pool water is not meant to be used for drinking, so you should prepare better water storage options. However, if it is terrible and there is no clean water available, the pool can be your last resort. We all, at some point, have ingested it. Swimmers and divers probably ingest gallons of pool water involuntarily, and typically nothing happens. However, keep some things in mind to keep safe and reduce the risk of any stomach problems.

Pools are very susceptible to contamination, especially if the cleaning system is off for a long time (and in case of emergency, it will be because the electricity will likely be cut). So it is best if you boil the water, use a water filter or a water purification kit to make pool water drinkable. Read more on the proper water storage here.

Water Wells

It is not precisely water storage, but it is even better. You can produce drinking water and not worry about having enough stored water. If you live in a private house with some land around and build a wall on your property, I would highly recommend it. Many countries still rely on wells for their drinking water, and often it is even better quality than tap water. Of course, you need to do some research about the soil and underground water in your area. Still, you will have one less problem with a well during a possible disaster and help people around you have enough drinking water. You can also use an underground water storage cellar to ensure you have enough water in case of an emergency.

Cases of Plastic Emergency Water Bottles

Small plastic water bottles are not an excellent option for long-term water storage because the plastic they are made of is usually not BPA-free, so the plastic water bottles will start leaking chemicals into the water in the long run. They are also not as cheap as you might think when you need gallons of water. Small pop bottles are a fine short-term option, but I recommend you think about a bigger water container for the longer term. Besides, plastic water bottles are not a very environment-friendly solution.

Other Emergency Water Storage Tips

There is no agreement between scientists and government health officials on how much water a person needs per day and how much water people should store in case of an emergency. You should generally drink between 2 and 3 liters of water per day, between 68 and 100 ounces. While drinking is and should be a priority, we also need water for cooking and sanitary purposes. Usually, it is around one gallon of water per person daily (for everything). Still, it can be cut in emergencies because you can sacrifice bathing for at least a few days.

The government recommends storing water to last you for three days for survival, but survival experts recommend storing water to last you (and your family) at least a week. Before deciding on your long term storage of water, consider the following things:

  • How many people do you store water for?
  • How long you want your supplies to last?
  • Is the climate very hot or moderate where in your area?
  • Do you have access to a source of freshwater?
  • How long you’ll need to have water?

The general rule is, you can never store too much water in case of an emergency. It is the most important resource you will need, so stock up on those 55-gallon water containers or other water barrels, water filters, and water purification systems. You never know when you will need them.

Get A Water Filter/ Purification System

Even if you have stocked up on gallons of water for your home emergency water storage, it is still good to have a method to purify or filter it. These are basic elements of survival kits and are also good for long back-country camping trips. So besides full water jugs and water barrels, having a pump water filter and purification pills is essential in a survival situation.

Remember that your water barrels need to be cleaned and sanitized before using them to minimize contamination chances. Here are some details of a home-made sanitizer. Mix 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach and one quart of water. Use household bleach that contains 5—6% sodium hypochlorite. Too much sodium hypochlorite can lead to water having a bit too much of the chemical in it.

For water filtering, you can use the Sawyer Mini water filter. It is small and inexpensive, but one of these little devices can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water. It is a nice device for traveling and emergencies, but keep in mind that it is rather slow at filtering water. If you have a big and thirsty family, consider investing in a bigger water filter. Read our article to find out more about water purification techniques.

Stored Water Doesn’t Taste Good

Stored water always tastes a little weird because, with time, it loses oxygen. This doesn’t mean it has gone bad. Shaking a bottle might help a bit, but it is still perfectly safe drinking water. A few things are not good signs, such as rotting, sour, or swampy smell. If your stored water tastes or smells awful, don’t swallow it as there is a good chance it has gone bad.

Rotating Your Water Supply

One trick that can help you keep gallons safe for drinking in case of long term storage. Even if you use sterile containers, the water still has microscopic bacteria that will lead to water spoiling long term. It is not an easy task to do, but you need to rotate water in your gallon water storage barrels at least one time per year. That will increase your emergency preparedness, and you will always have good storage water for a possible disaster.

If you think it is a waste of water, take this into account – you don’t need to throw away all that water that you’ve been storing for all this time. Use it to wash the dishes, shower, or water the plants.


1. How long can water be stored before it goes bad?

Depending on your gallon water storage barrels and an overall way to store water, it can be kept in a sealed and sterile container for up to half a year. Then, you would need to rotate water every six months. However, if you are storing water in a bathtub or a container that is not perfectly clean, it will last less. Follow the tips we shared in this article for the best water storage containers and techniques of long term water storage.

2. Can water be stored indefinitely?

Unfortunately, storing water indefinitely is impossible. The only way to have an (almost) indefinite supply of water is to build a well. But if stored in water barrels, it should be rotated at least every six months.

3. What is the safest container to store water in?

Stainless steel, glass, and plastic containers are generally safe to store water. Make sure you don’t repurpose your barrels and only use them for water storage. Otherwise, even if you have cleaned them with a chlorine bleach solution, there is still a risk of contamination. Make sure a container or containers you buy say “food-grade” on them. You can also use bottled water, but it is a more expensive and less environmentally friendly option.

4. How long can you store water in 5-gallon jugs?

If you have only used the 5-gallon jugs for water storage and have been properly sealed, you can keep the water in them for about six months. Then you will have to change the water. Ensure that your 5-gallon water barrels didn’t have food, oils, or chemicals in them before.

5. How much bleach to purify water 55 gallons?

Bleach is not meant for water purification. If you are worried about your water (and you should be), look at water filters and purification solutions such as iodine tablets.

You may also like

A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.

Be notified about new posts

Sign up with your email and be notified when we publish new blog posts. 

Get prepared and read for survival with us!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}