The Practical Prepper

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In my last post, we talked about priorities in your prepping supplies. After air, water is the most important thing you'll need for survival.

As we've considered ways to develop our water preparedness, we've realized that there are three main approaches to obtaining water; you can store water like any other supply, collect it from the environment, or purify any "found" water. For this post, we're just focusing on water storage. (We'll address the other two aspects in a future post.)

We started by storing water, since that's easy in small quantities. Specifically, we've included a half liter per day, per person in our Bug-Out Bags (BOBs). To accomplish that, we just put a 1.5-liter bottle of water in each person's BOB. We found a good deal on that size from a local discount store; you could just as easily use three half-liter bottles per BOB.

After that, we moved on to storing water in greater quantities. Our water supplies are stored in a variety of container sizes. When we occasionally have a re-sealable gallon-size plastic container (from milk, for instance), we wash and rinse it thoroughly and use it to store a gallon of water.

We also watch the local grocery and discount stores for sales on bottled water. Often, you can pick up a gallon of distilled or spring water for less than $.75. Once of our local stores sometimes runs a stackable 3-liter bottle of water on sale for $.49, which is very convenient. We also check our local warehouse stores, which also sometimes have bulk bottled water for reasonable prices. (Early on, we considered the square, 2.5-gallon containers found in many grocery stores. We nixed these because their cost is usually not nearly worth it.)

Storing water is excellent since it gives us control over the quality of the water, but it can be difficult for large groups and/or long periods of time. Typically, one 1 gallon per person, per day is the standard, which allows a half gallon for drinking and the balance for cooking, etc. (Incidentally, that's not a lot of water… many U.S. households normally use 100 times that each day.)

Of course, stored water quickly adds up in both space and weight, especially for individual containers that are a gallon or smaller. Consider a family of four saving 30 days worth of water. At a gallon per person per day, that's 120 gallons. Each gallon weighs about 8-1/3 pounds per gallon, that's 1,000 pounds of water — a half-ton! Also, imagine the shelving space needed for 120 separate gallon containers. It quickly becomes pretty unwieldy.

As we've grown our water storage, we've started considering other options, like large water storage tanks. A stackable storage tank that we're considering is able to hold 120 gallons is just 32" x 32" x 38" in size. Of course, it weighs 130 pounds empty — full, it's over 1,100 pounds. Clearly it's important to plan where to put it, since it will be difficult to move once it's full.

Of course, cost is an issue too. For example, the tank linked above is about $250 before shipping and tax. That also doesn't include any valve or other accessories. A stackable tank is nice because it's modular. We can purchase them one at a time, and also move them a bit more easily, with proper equipment. Still, we are also considering a single larger tank, but they're considerably more expensive. Nevertheless, we'll eventually need to invest in some method of bulk storage in order to extend our water preparedness much beyond what we currently have.

One word of caution here: it may be tempting to save money by finding a second-hand container and using it to store your water. For the most part, we're avoiding that approach from a water safety standpoint. It is important any tank we choose for storing water be suitable for storing potable (i.e., drinkable) water.

Another economical option is an emergency water storage bladder, like the waterBOB or the AquaPod. These are essentially large (food-grade) plastic bags that you put in your bathtub and fill with water in times of impending emergency. The bags come with a manual pump to get the water out of the bag for use. The waterBOB holds up to 100 gallons — over 3 weeks for four people — for a very reasonable price. The downside to this approach is that you have to have advance warning of a probably disaster in order to fill the bag.

One other thing we plan on is that we already have some built-in water-storage around our home. Our water heater holds 50 gallons, and that water can be tapped in an emergency. In addition, each toilet tank holds around a couple of gallons of fresh water (or more if you have older, pre-1994 toilets). Note that if you plan to tap into the latter water storage, be sure that you take the water from the toilet tank, not the bowl.

A final point about stored water: as we've researched things, the consensus seems to be that you should rotate your water supply, just like most other stored goods. The rule of thumb is to store the water for no more than 6 to 12 months, but that's not really a problem for us currently. Since we drink a lot of water, we are just sure to cycle our water supply using a first-in, first-out process.

So, your turn: where are you at with your water preparedness? How do you store your water? I'd especially love to hear from those that are successfully storing and using water in bulk.


Views: 795

Tags: BOB, preparedness, storage, tanks, water

Comment by Pat Barr on January 11, 2012 at 1:40pm


I hope your next blog is on having a stock pond for water storage.  You have a very big supply of washing (as well as animal needs) water, and with the various purifiying kits available... potable water.  That way I would think you could get by with only a weeks worth of stored water.  (even if it's frozen, my ponds very seldom freeze all the way to the bottom, and even it they did, I'd just break ice, and bring inside to melt.)



Comment by Herbert Arce on January 11, 2012 at 9:11pm

Just like you, we use old milk jugs that are rinsed out and filled with potable water. We are also starting to plan out a rain water collection system. Like you, we will be purchasing the 250-gallon tanks to store the water.

Comment by Atticus Freeman on January 11, 2012 at 11:56pm

Hi Pat... thanks for leaving a comment, and for the suggestion. An upcoming post (or two) will discuss collecting water and purifying "found" water. I'm in favor of a stock ponds and may address them. However, not everyone has the space for a pond, and I'm trying to provide information that the broadest group of reader can use.

Comment by Atticus Freeman on January 11, 2012 at 11:58pm

Hi Herbert! Thanks for sharing! Rainwater collection is a great move, and will be included in one of my future posts on water preparedness.

Comment by Atticus Freeman on January 12, 2012 at 12:01am

Hi all... I wanted to share one other note: I've gotten some feedback from a few readers saying that they've had bad experiences with reusing plastic milk jugs for water, particularly with leaking and cracking. Some suggested alternatives are 2-liter soda or juice bottles.

I have not had any problems with the plastic jugs I use, but I wanted to pass this along for your consideration. 

Comment by Pat Barr on January 12, 2012 at 12:25am

I don't know why I keep forgetting the name of this web site.  Farm Dreams... Your right, most of the members probably don't have room for a stock pond... but, it's something they should consider when they make the dream a reality.  I had 1 pond when we moved here, and had 2 more built.  (1 even though it's called a stock pond, the stock ((other than the water birds lol)) don't even have access to. 

Stock ponds besides providing "found" water, also if worked right, provide meat from the fish, meat from the water birds, prime soil (as needed for raised bed gardens) as well as the peace of mind just sitting by it and watching everyone enjoy it.  (Plus, on a hot day... just jump in!)

Thanks for reminding me about our audience.


Comment by Sam Burton on January 12, 2012 at 6:50am

We are using food grade (second hand) IBC totes, 250 gal. We clean them well, find them practical and inexpensive.  We do paint them to avoid the risk of algae build up. We also exchange the water regularly by using it to top up our aquaponics systems. We mostly catch rain water.  We are regularly buying water purification tablets as a part of our preparations and we live under the assumption that we will be boiling water on a regular basis. We do have a few gallon jugs for 'bug out' purposes as well.

Comment by Catherine Kauffman on January 12, 2012 at 7:38am

On my birthday wish list are two 50 gallon water barrels that I can hook up to my gutters. These will provide water for the garden, my animals and for washing. We also keep 4 6 gallon water buffalos filled at all times in the house for emergency drinking water. There are just two of us. When Isabel came through here, years ago, and we went 12 days without electricity, that water did us a world of good. We also collected rain water throughout that storm in plastic sweater bins and the kids swimming pool. We used that for flushing the toilet and for washing and the animals. So, I know I need a way to store water outside for emergencies when we don't have rain.

Comment by NHF on January 12, 2012 at 9:12am

We're looking at this issue closely for a couple of reasons. First of course is to have a store of potable water in a grid down scenario since our well is over 300' deep, although I'm not sure of the average static water level.  Second, given our rural location, there's not an effective way for firefighters to fight a large house fire.  We do have a 1 1/4 acre pond several hundred feet down hill from us, but the fire trucks don't have access at this point.

We're may consider a larger tank (10,000 gallons or so) such as which would not only provide water for fire fighting (you'd need a pump for pressure to fight the fire) but would provide potable and washing water for a long time in grid down.  Having a water source such as this would also lower our home insurance costs, thereby offsetting the investment.  There's a lot to learn so your post is timely.

Comment by All Hallows Farm on January 14, 2012 at 8:17pm

We are doing a variety of water storage options.  Diversify is my idea.  The bug out bags all have camelbacks for if we have enough time to fill them.  They also have filled metal canteens (so you can boil the water right in it if you have to).  We wash and re-fill the milk and bleach containers for water.  I am stocking up on water purification items, pool shock and water bottles when they are on sale at the store since those are more portable.  I already had rainbarrels for water collection both for the garden and the animals. I am buying more this year. I am also going to keep 2 inside in my garage filled for higher water capacity storage.  We are going to get a few water buffaloes for water for the animals in the field.  We currently have a dry pond that needs to be fixed.  And if I am lucky at all we will be putting in a pool.

We get our rain barrels from here

Thank you NHF for the plastic-mart link.  I was looking at building a water tower in my garden and I think that would be perfect.

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