Water Barrel Storage For Emergency


Today I filled up and treated a 55 gallon water barrel for long term storage as emergency drinking water (or any other necessary water use).

Having a backup emergency supply of water is one of my highest recommendations for general preparedness at home.

Here’s what I did:

I have several food grade barrels which had been fitted for rainwater collection. Instead I am utilizing them for emergency water storage in the event that my well pump goes bad or if the electricity goes out (even though I do have a generator – but there’s always the possibility of running out of fuel).

I am fortunate in that my water source is from a natural spring here on the property which produces about 10 gallons per minute – so I could always walk down there (to the spring) and collect water in a container via the spring’s overflow spout and haul it back to the house to keep my 55 gallon drums filled (a major chore though – given that water weighs 8 pounds per gallon and the source is about 200 yards from the house ;) ).

Very Popular Water Container

In any event, regardless of your own unique situation, by keeping a water barrel filled – you will have an emergency source for drinking, filling a toilet tank for flushing, use for washing dishes, etc.. during an emergency.

One ideal location for a water barrel is to keep it in the basement. It doesn’t require much room (figure about 3’x3′). If you don’t have a basement, maybe you can clear a spot somewhere on the 1st floor slab. You might consider your garage if it doesn’t freeze in the winter (an attached garage?). Wherever you decide, remember that a 55 gallon barrel filled with water will weigh more than 400 pounds – so you won’t be moving it afterwards unless you drain it.

Get a barrel that is food grade. If you look at the picture above it clearly indicates the symbol icon for food grade. If you purchase a barrel which is specifically designed for emergency water storage – it will almost certainly be food grade (just check).

Augason Farms Emergency Water Storage Kit

Before filling, clean and disinfect the inside of the barrel. Use a solution of 4 teaspoons regular household bleach per gallon of water to sanitize the container (NOT drinking). I filled up a 2 gallon bucket, 8 teaspoons of bleach, and dumped it in the barrel. I then swished it around and carefully rolled the barrel around (without spilling) so as to get the solution on all surfaces. Then I let it sit for 30 minutes before dumping it all out. Note that bleach on your clothes will permanently ‘bleach’ them. So unless you like spots on your clothes, be careful.


My barrels have a water spigot near the bottom, so I set the barrel up on concrete blocks to facilitate fitting a container underneath to collect water if and when I need it. I could also attach a water hose to the spigot for more flexibility while using the water. Note that you can get hoses which are safe for drinking water (designed for RVs and campers).

Some emergency water storage barrels come with (or you can purchase separately) a hand pump for extracting the water.

Next, fill the barrel with your tap water. If you have municipal water, it will already be treated with chlorine to a level of about 0.5 ppm (a small amount), but apparently just enough to eliminate most harmful organisms.

If you’re using untreated water (e.g. well water?) or any untreated source, the CDC recommends adding 8 drops of regular liquid household chlorine bleach (unscented – no additives except for sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water to eliminate most harmful organisms in clear (not cloudy) water. This dosage is based on bleach with between 5 – 6% sodium hypochlorite (it’s listed on the label). Some newer liquid bleach is concentrated to 8.25% sodium hypochlorite (it’s on the label) and will require only 5 drops per gallon of water.

Having said that, I’ve worked up a reference to make it easier:

Fact (from the CDC website)
There are 64 drops of liquid chlorine bleach in one teaspoon.

Note that a drop’s volume depends mainly on the surface tension of the fluid and the aperture being used to create the drop.


How To Treat Water For Long Term Storage

To treat water that has not already been treated:
(numbers rounded for convenience)

For treating water with either 5-6% or 8.25% (sodium hypochlorite) bleach

5 gallons water (40 drops or ‘5’ one-eighth teaspoons of 5-6% bleach)
5 gallons water (27 drops or ‘3’ one-eighth teaspoons of 8.25% bleach)

55 gallon water barrel (7 teaspoons of 5-6% bleach)
55 gallon water barrel (4.5 teaspoons of 8.25% bleach)

Note that household liquid bleach during storage will break down into oxygen and table salt – losing potency over time – up to 50% in just 6 months to a year.


How To Store Water For Long Term Storage

After treatment, be sure that your water barrel is sealed (lid on securely).

Label container as “drinking water” and include storage date.

Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.

Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.

Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.

I recommend that you drain and refill (and re-treat) your water containers every 6 months if you can. It’s generally not necessary (if treated, sealed, and stored properly), however it is good insurance (just in case) while being fairly easy to do, and will ensure quality water if you ever need it.

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What is the brand of the barrel in the picture

I have read that concrete can leach into the water thru a blue water barrel. Is this really a thing?

Seriously Concrete leaching though plastics into water in a barrel?
Please think about what you just asked.

Bam. Yes it can. This is a copy of a quick search.
Concrete attracts fluids and ‘bleeds’. Anything that has been on or in that concrete will find its way into your plastic water barrel.

Again… No, concrete is not going to seep into a plastic barrel.
Please think about the question.
FYI. Do you really expect a chunk of “concrete” to appear in the barrel???
UGH think about the question before running out to the net and giving false information.
Again read and think what the question asked….

Ken, I am cleaning 55 gallon barrel for water also. I’m concerned about storage. Back patio to hot in summer and bright! Garage darker but also hot in summer. Store in closet in house??????

Like Ken, I would also store in the garage. This past week I had to discard a 5 gallon water container because it started leaking. A tiny hole that left a water spot about the size of a quarter. A tiny hole like that might go unnoticed for a very long time. Stored in a closet you could end up with a ruined floor long before you realize you had a leak.

ah…so, they were not originally made/designed to collect rainwater.

(maybe you mentioned this right off)

anyway, at first glance/read, I thought, oh good, I can look for a rainbarrel which is food grade, etc..

glad you clarified up above.

so, then, the person must have added the spigot on bottom? or, possibly, what ever was imported was liquid, so it already had the spigot?

also, did you have any idea, what kind of business imported these/sold them to the person (you purchased from)? as I am just wondering what kind of business to lurk around to look for these.


Ken, since you have access to a stream not too far from your house have you considered a hydro-ram pump? It pumps without power and will even pump up hill.

I have similar barrels. They were pickle barrels.
Make sure any barrel you choose is food grade.

Let the treated water sit in the barrel for 24hrs instead of 30 min.

Why?, what then?


Actually that’s an olive barrel. Note the embossed Greece on the marking. We’ve used these for years as dry storage on extended white water trips. Of course the spigots are not on them.

I am interested in a hand pump that is in line with my current well pump. I have read that this is possible, but I have also read that it is not. My current in well pump is at about 40 feet. My static water level is 25 feet. I have heard these can be used to pressurize pressure tanks and essentially do all water needs except heat. Any experts out there?

I’m not an expert, but look into the “Simple Pump”. Had one installed on our well (35 ft water table, I think) works great.

Sorry, trying to clarify my first post. Well is 175ft deep. Static water level is 35ft. This is a hand pump that works beside the electric pump somehow…

Sir, you made a comment about a 55 gallon drum of water weighing about 400 pounds, & that it could not me moved once filled.

Now I’ll admit to knowing very little about B.O.B, survival in the midst of chaos , etc…
but what if you were to make a simple platform with say 5″ or 6″ steel wheels? and sett the drum on that, then fill it?
I mean, even at 400 pounds, it would not be impossible to move….no idea where you’d move it to, but it could be moved from say room to room?

Or am I just out in left field with this?

There is no way I am refilling 20 (30) gallon drums.
I have had them filled for 4 years. I have a Berkey.
When I empty one, it will become my rain catcher.
Also, check google earth for lakes, ponds, streams near your home.

I also use bleach to purify water. I carry a small bottle in all my bug out bags, especially my medical. Chlorine Bleach is basically a low grade of acid. What ever it comes in contact with usually dies. For sterilizing and survival situations bleach is best. I don’t think that there is one parasite or microorganisms that bleach doesn’t kill. As far as changing out the water, once treatment with bleach their is no need. I do recommend that the barrel be shaken up to keep the bleach mixed. As far as moving a barrel, that is what a dolly is made for. I do want to point out to keep all water containers in a cool place with no sunlight.

I would NEVER use chlorine bleach to treat drinking water, no matter what the CDC or FDA or FBI or CIA or any other government agency says,
after all, how far can you trust any government?

I Tablespoon of Hydrogen Peroxide per gallon of tap water will keep the water safe for a long time if kept covered and light free. If you have food grade peroxide use that but regular store bought 3% will work just as well.

You can use the bleach to sanitize the barrel, but give it a a good rinse with tap water to get rid of the bleach before filling with tap water/peroxide solution.

Jim, Then don’t drink the water coming out of your faucet because ALL water is treated with chlorine in every city and town (with plumbing) in America.

Jim, I think concerns over chlorine are more related to long-term day in & day out use, than you would face with a few hundred gallons of survival water storage. Perhaps what could be bad if you ingested it repeatedly over decades might not be a problem at all in small quantities?

love this idea too…

We buy bottle water from the store then pour it into big 5gal plastic bottles for storage of up to a year without adding anything to it. Is that a safe practice?

why not just leave it in the original bottles? seems like that would be better. Anytime anything is transferred/poured there is potential for contamination. Besides, isn’t the original “sealed”? – further protection, etc.

I do it to maximize space.

If you want water in 5 gallon bottles, why not buy it that way? Locally some stores have water dispensing machines in the lobby. The local Krogers comes to mind.

I do that now but I still don’t treat it with anything!?

Just saw a discussion of how well water filters do at removing heavy metals.

like this idea too…Thanks for sharing :D

I’ve been reading these articles, it seems like forever. Everything requires some kind of periodic maintenance. Has anyone had a 55 gallon reservoir built into their city water supply? You’d need a 55 gallon container with two taps. One high, one low. You splice the 55 gallon container into your city water supply. You supply the container from the bottom, you feed your house from the top. This would reduce particulate matter in the water stream. We use this method in HVAC to precipitate moisture out of air flow. A rapid drop in flow causes the moisture/sediment to fall out of the airflow/water flow. This reservoir would constantly be refreshed by the city water, no need to be measuring chlorine/bleach drops. When the water supply is interrupted for whatever reason, you go to the reservoir and close the ball valve you installed in the supply line. Now you have a 55 gallon emergency water supply that you know is fresh. You would also have placed a drain after the supply shutoff to tap water out of the reservoir. I’m also speculating that you would have the additional water trapped within the homes plumbing system. Open the faucets and the water should backdrain into the reservoir. Multiple containers is also an option for really long term water shortages. US Plastics sells a multitude of water storage containers for short money. I was thinking about this method when the image of opening my emergency water supply reservoir and finding a dead mouse floating in it.

I’m just reading all this and thinking, can’t you just have a big barrel of stored water and no matter how old it is, filter it, boil it or treat it right before drinking? Does water go “bad” enough to not be able to treat it at a certain point?

I see that you stored the 55 gallon drum on concrete bricks….isn’t that a NONO? I read that it had the potential to contaminate the water? Would storing the water in a powder coated metal dolly with wheels present the same possibility of contamination?

Try: sitting a gallon of water, bought fresh from the store, sit it on cement and watch how long it takes to start turning gray. Plastic is porous and chemicals from the cement leach into the water. Use wood to separate the water and cement.

please add me to your news letter and update thank you god bless loner

I got some tanks from the farms around us cleaned them with bleach and i store water in them. but it is about time to drain and clean them .

Regarding pumps, I have installed a Simple Pump. My static water level fluctuates between 35′ and 225′. My pump goes down to 244′. I do not know the recharge rate, but judging from a nearby well, it less than 2 gal per minute. If you are planing to use the Simple Pump, I must make you aware, the linkage clanking as it is pumping is by no means stealthy.

A little off the subject but it is about water.

Was your well established when you purchased the property or was it drilled after you bought the land? Did the other party or yourself have a certified well dowser locate the water source before the well was drilled?