How To Store Water Long Term ( In 7 Easy Steps )

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Water is even more important to store than food is, the average person can go without water for around 3 days and without food for around 3 weeks, although this also depends on the person’s overall health condition. Far too many people make the big mistake of stockpiling a lot of food for hard times and forgetting about storing water, mostly because water is readily available and extremely cheaper compared to food.

You can store water long term by calculating how much water you need to store, storing the water in a dark and cool place, choosing a water storage container that fits your needs, cleaning the water storage container before using it, filtering and purifying the water, labeling the containers and by changing the water once every 6-12 months.

No matter how you decide to store your water you should always filter it, my personal recommendation is to use a water filter that is gravity fed Click here to check it out on

The good news is that water doesn’t have a shelf life and if stored correctly it won’t go bad. The bad news is that how you actually store it will determine how long it is safe to drink. A lot of bacteria and parasites can live in water, and if you do not store the water correctly then you might find that the water is no longer drinkable. This mostly tends to happen if the water gets contaminated, which happens fairly often.

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In what containers you store the water will also determine how long the water will be safe to drink, water tends to be acidic and if you store it in a plastic container like a water barrel then the water will slowly dissolve some of the plastic which you will ingest while drinking the water. One of the biggest issues you which you will face while storing water long term is where to store all that water.

Depending on how large your family and your home are will determine how much water you can store, although the bigger your family is the harder it will be to store enough water for a set period of time. If you want more information about how much water a person needs and how long does it take for dehydration to take effect then check out my recent article How long does it take to die from dehydration? ( Days or Weeks? ).

How To Store Water Long Term

Storing water properly is crucial for emergency preparedness and ensuring a long-term supply. Start by using food-grade water storage containers made of BPA-free plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Thoroughly clean the containers with mild soap and rinse them well before filling. Fill the containers with tap water or, if desired, treat the water with water purification tablets or bleach according to the recommended guidelines.

Label each container with the date of filling and store them in a cool, dark, and dry place, away from direct sunlight and chemicals. Rotate your water supply every six months to ensure freshness, and regularly inspect the containers for any signs of leakage or contamination. Additionally, consider having a water filtration system or water purifier on hand to further ensure the safety of your water in case of contamination.

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Calculate How Much Water You Need To Store

If you want to store water long term then you have to make a couple of calculations. The amount of water you will need to store depends on the size of your family if you have livestock and for how long you want to store water. Generally speaking, the average person needs around half of gallon of water per day, although this water is just for drinking. If you plan to cook and clean with the stored water then you should calculate around one gallon of water per day at least.

In addition to this if you have pets, livestock, or crops to water then you should also add them to the equation as well. The local climate will also play a major factor in how much water you should store. According to FEMA, you should store one gallon of water per person per day, and you should store enough water for around 2-3 weeks. If you are not able to store enough water for 2-3 weeks then try to store water for at least 3 days.

Store The Water In A Dark And Cool Place

Before deciding on what kind of water storage container to use you should pick a place where you will store it. Water tends to occupy a lot of space and if you have a larger family you will have a fairly difficult time finding a good space for storing the water. The water needs to be stored in a cool and dark environment and most importantly without having any direct sunshine on the water containers. Depending on how much water you want to store you might find that you will not have enough space inside your home, and in this case, you should think of investing in a water storage tank.

If you have a food pantry or a basement then these are ideal for storing water as the temperatures are fairly low and stable. Do not store water in the kitchen or in the attic, as these places tend to have higher temperatures. The higher the temperatures are the more acidic the water will be and it will start dissolving the container a lot faster.

Choose A Water Storage Container That Fits Your Needs

You have a couple of options in what you should store the water, although this will mostly depend on how much water you want to store and for how long. In addition to this your budget for storing water will also be a big factor, generally speaking, the more water you want to store the higher your budget should be. Bottled water is fairly cheap but storing water in a water tank will be a lot more expensive.

Bottled Water

If you do not have a lot of space to store water then your best option will be to store them in bottles. Water bottles are usually made out of plastic or glass, although you will have a lot easier time storing water in plastic bottles than in glass bottles. The best part about water bottles is that they can be easily stacked upon each other, although plastic isn’t the best material for storing water, for more information check out my recent article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ).

Stackable Water Containers

Generally speaking, stackable water containers are made out of plastic and they are a lot more efficient than storing water in bottles due to their size. Stackable water containers are also called water bricks, these are relatively cheap and a couple of these stacked upon each other can hold a lot of water. Just keep in mind that not all stackable water containers are actually stackable, as some manufacturers will claim that they are stackable but if you read the fine print you will notice that they are only stackable if they are empty.

Water Barrels

If you live in a house then one of the easiest options for storing water is in water barrels. These are relatively cheap and fairly sturdy, although as you will most likely keep them outside you have to be mindful of where you place them. Generally speaking, you should always cover the water barrels, and try to avoid placing them in an area where sunshine comes in direct contact with them.

Water Storage Tanks

Water storage tanks are an ideal solution for storing a lot of water, usually, people who live off the grid or at a homestead will use water storage tanks. Water tanks can hold a lot of water, although setting one up can be fairly costly. In addition to this, it will be harder to keep the water clean in the long run, for more information check out my recent article How to keep water fresh in a storage tank? ( Top 10 Ways ).

Clean The Water Storage Container Before Using

Even if you have bought brand new water storage barrels or containers you should definitely clean them. Who knows for how long the containers have been sitting in a dusty warehouse somewhere? Rinse the container with lukewarm water, then sanitize it with chlorine. The chlorine will disinfect the entire container, once you are done rinse the container again and you can start adding fresh water to it.

Filter And Purify The Water

For the most part, if you have water running from the tap then you can use tap water, although you should check if the water in your area is actually safe to drink. Just because it is tap water doesn’t mean that it is clean, especially from hard metals and chemicals. If the water doesn’t come from the tap, but from a stream, or river, or if you harvest rainwater then you definitely need to filter and purify the water.

Filtering and purifying water are two different things and you need to do both of them. Filtering water will remove most of the bacteria and protozoa from the water but it will not be able to remove viruses, chemicals, and hard metals. The easiest way to purify water is to boil it for a couple of minutes, this will most likely kill everything in the water. Keep in mind to let the water cool down to room temperature before you place it in the storage tank or bottles. If you want more information about water filters then check out my recent article Do Lifestraws work? ( Or do They? ).

Label The Containers

Once you have stored the water, make sure to label the containers with the date you have placed it in storage. Although water doesn’t have an expiration date and it doesn’t go bad with time but the actual container will start to be dissolved in water, especially if the container is made out of plastic. If you store the water in plastic containers then make sure to rotate the containers, every time you add fresh water make sure to use the oldest water, this way you limit the possibility of the water going bad.

Change The Water Every 6-12 Months

Although water doesn’t go bad with time but you should still change the water every 6-12 months, especially if you are using a large water storage tank. The main reason why you should do this is that after some time the water will start dissolving the actual container and you will end up with a lot of small plastic residue in the water. This plastic residue is too small to be seen with the naked eye but it is there.

If you use water bottles or stackable water bricks then you can skip this part as you will probably consume and refill the water before 12 months have passed. If you do not have the possibility to change all the water then you should add water preservatives to it this way the water will stay fresh for a longer time.

Key Takeaways

  • Use food-grade containers specifically designed for long-term water storage, such as BPA-free plastic containers, glass bottles, or stainless steel drums.
  • Clean and sanitize the containers thoroughly before filling them with water. This helps remove any contaminants and ensures the water remains safe for long-term storage.
  • Store the water in a cool, dark, and dry location away from direct sunlight and chemicals. Avoid storing water near gasoline, solvents, or other substances that could contaminate it. Rotate the stored water every 6-12 months to maintain its freshness and quality.