How to keep water fresh in a storage tank? ( Top 10 Ways )

It is always a good idea to keep at least some water in a storage tank, you never know when you will be needing it. There are a lot of uses for stored water like cooking, cleaning, and washing. As I have started writing this article it just occurred to me that I haven’t paid my water bill in months, luckily I could use the water in my storage tanks if they cut it off before I pay. The number one problem with storing water is that it isn’t that simple to keep the water fresh.

If you have the possibility, then I highly recommend you to get a UV water purifier, this way you will not have to use chlorine or bleach which alters the taste of the water. UV water purifiers not only kill bacteria but they also do not change the taste or even the PH of the water Click here to check price on Amazon.com

I have seen plenty of people using anything from chemicals to just letting the roof water drain pipe continuously filling the opened storage tank. A lot of people who store water for emergency situations make the false presumption that you can store water indefinitely as water itself doesn’t have an expiration date. On the other hand, some people simply do not store the water in the correct containers, which will spoil the water eventually.

Not everybody has the financial and the logistical situation to get a self-cleaning water storage tank, so they improvise, which works well if you know what you are doing and how to actually set it up correctly. When storing water you have basically three options,  use tap water, bottled water or to harvest rainwater, just keep in mind that harvesting rainwater is illegal in some states, for more information check out my recent article Advantages of rainwater harvesting ( Top 25 ).

Use a storage tank which is made for storing water

Although this is a no brainer, but a lot of people do not actually use the correct water tanks. If you want to keep your water fresh for as long as possible then you have to use storage tanks that have been made for storing water and nothing else. You might think that a food grade bucket or storage tank would be just fine, but that depends on what kind of food was stored in it. Foodgrade buckets or storage tanks often contain chemicals and preservatives, not to mention smaller food particles which will be extremely hard to get out.

Depending on the type of plastic which is used for the storage tank you might find that the plastic is fairly porous which means that it will absorb some additives and chemicals. On the other hand, a lot of small bacteria and parasites could still be found in the storage tank if it wasn’t made for storing water, which eventually will spoil the water. If you are planning to store water for the long term in water bottles than my recommendation is to check out my recent article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ).

Use opaque water storage tank to prevent algae growth

One of the main problems with storing freshwater for a long time is that if you do not use an opaque water tank than algae will start to grow in the water. If you have ever stored water in a barrel or a storage tank outside, you have probably noticed that algae were growing on it, making the water green. Although some algae will be present in water tanks, no matter what you do, but they will bloom if they get enough sunshine.

Most people think that if the water tank is covered with a lid than algae will not grow. The problem is that in order for algae to grow they do not need direct sunshine, some containers will actually allow the sun to shine right through them, making it an ideal breathing ground for the algae. If you have a storage tank, then go and check it, as it should be pitch dark in the storage tank in order for algae not to grow.

There are some variations of colors for a water storage tank, I personally find that the opaque ones work the best, although there are other colors which basically do the same job as long as they can keep light out from the storage tank. In an SHTF situation water is vital, as the average person can not survive longer than 3 days without water, for more information check out my recent article How long does it take to die from dehydration? ( Days or Weeks? ).

Why the color of the water tank matters

Most people think that the color of the water tank is just for aesthetic porpuses, the truth is that the color of your water tank matters a lot more when it comes to the freshness of your water than you might think. Lighter colors reflect sunlight but they tend to elt some sunlight trough which will make algae grow in the water, on the other hand, darker colors prevent light from entering the water tank thus preventing the algae growth but they tend to absorb a lot more heat which will raise the PH level of the water.

If you are wondering what color should your water tank be than there is no straight answer as it really depends, of where you will place your water tank if it will be in direct contact with the sunlight or not. If you will keep your water tank in a cool shady place than it is a good idea to get a darker colored water tank, if your water tank will be in a place where it is constantly under the sun then get a beige, mild green or opaque.

Use chlorine and bleach to get rid of algae

If you have ever gone to a swimming pool and the water smelled like water yu have probably thought that the water must be extra clean as they probably put too much chlorine in the water. The truth is that what you are smelling which is called pool smell is a chemical reaction from the chlorine with urine, sweat, and oils, and no it doesn’t mean that the water is clean. So basically if your water tank smells of chlorine you either put too much chlorine in the water or the water isn’t properly cleaned.

There are a lot of chlorine water treatment products, all of them have different ratios of chlorine in them. All of them have a recommended dose and you should follow them accordingly, adding more chlorine doesn’t make the water cleaner.

On the other hand, you can also use bleach to keep the water fresh, just do not use both chlorine and bleach in the same water tank as this will spoil the water. Bleach is fairly similar to chlorine as it will kill the algae, although you should always use the recommended dosage, especially if you are planning to use the water for cooking or drinking.

Clean the water storage tank even if it is brand new

A lot of people who get a storage tank simply fill it up with water and they wonder why does their water smell bad or algae is growing in the water after a couple of weeks. The problem is that during manufacturing, storing and shipping thew water tanks they might get contaminated with chemicals, algae, and bacteria. This is even more problematic if you bought the storage tank from a store where a lot of people touch the tank.

For cleaning the water tank you should use chlorine bleach, just keep in mind to use an unscented one as you don’t want your water to smell of anything else than water. Follow the indications fund on the chlorine bleach as it will tell you exactly how many parts of it you need to add to your water, from there just calculate how much you should use.

Keep the water storage tank in a dark cool place

Ideally, you would want to keep your water storage in a dark cool place like a basement, this way no algae will grow, without even adding bleach or chlorine. Although you should still add bleach or chlorine just to be extra safe. If you store your water in the basement or garage make sure that it is not in the same room where you store fuel or other chemicals which produce vapors, as some types of plastic might actually absorb these fumes ad your water will be contaminated with chemicals.

If your only option is to keep the water storage outside than try to avoid placing it in an area where it will be in direct contact with the sun.

Filter and purify the water

No matter what you do there will be some accumulation of sediment on the bottom of the water tank or the water barrel. This is why you should filter the water before using it for cooking and drinking. If you have a fairly large water tank than it is also a good idea to purify the water, especially if you haven’t cleaned the storage tank in a while. Even if the water in the storage tank is from the tap and you sterilize it with bleach or chlorine, you should still filter and purify the water.

Clean the water tank every 6 months

It is advised that you should clean the storage tank once every 6 months to a year, the more often you do this the fresher your water will be. In addition to this if the main source of water for your water tank is rainwater or spring water than you should change the water every six months or so, especially if it is stale water to which you haven’t added freshwater in a long time. You should drain the entire water tank and scrub it clean with bleach or chlorine solution.

Some people use alcohol instead of bleach and chlorine to scrub the sides of the water tank because it is a great disinfectant and it evaporates in just a couple of minutes. While you are cleaning the water tank make sure to rinse it a couple of times to get rid of residue from the cleaning products. Also do not forget to clean the house if you have one connected to the water tank as they tend to clog up fairly fast especially if you have a large water tank.

If you dint clean your water tank for a year or so you probably will notice that the water tastes funny and has a strange smell, this is because no matter how if you are using chlorine or bleach to disinfect the water you will still have some microbes living in it, which eventually start reproducing and decomposing which will alter the taste of your water and this is why it is vital to rotate the water every 6-12 months or so, depending on the size of your water tank.

Use different sized water tanks for different porpuses

A lot of people who store water tend to have all their water in a large water tank, while this can work out for some but it is not the best idea. If something happens and your water gets contaminated than you will have to throw out all your water. The best practice is to have separate water tanks and containers, keep a large one for cleaning and watering plant, and several smaller ones for drinking, cooking and washing.

Do not put all your eggs in the same basket as one mistake could ruin all of your stored water if it gets contaminated or if the water tank gets punctured, or even toppled over.

Purify your water with UV water purifier

There are some UV water purifiers that are meant to be used inside a water storage tank, although they are mainly for larger water tanks and not water barrels. The UV light alters the DNA of microbes and parasites, which not only kills them but it also stops them from reproducing entirely. Just keep in mind that these UV water purifiers work best if you store your water correctly, so do not expect miracles if you do not store your water properly.

In conclusion

If you have a water storage tank then my suggestion is to follow the above tips to keep the water clean and fresh for as a long time as possible. If your water starts to have a nasty smell or to smell of chlorine than you are not maintaining and cleaning your water properly. Also do not forget to clean the water storage tank and to rotate the water, especially if you are using the water for cooking and drinking.

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