Water Is The Absolute Basic for Preparedness

The most necessary element of survival preparedness is not food. It is water. Additionally, it is likely the least prepared for, even though most people know that we cannot survive long without it. Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface. All living things consist mostly of water. Water is the most common substance on earth and is basic to life itself.

The thing is… fresh water makes up less than 3% of the earth’s total water volume and most of the fresh water supply (80%) is in the form of glacial ice and is unavailable for our use. Most of the remaining fresh water supply is underground, only 5% of which is on the surface such as lakes, rivers and streams.

The volume of fresh water withdrawn for human use is increasing while at the same time, the major nations are facing increasing problems with pollution of their water supplies.

Water is a precious commodity and is second only to having air to breathe. It may sound crazy, but it’s true… you can only live a few days without any source of water. Water is required to digest food, lubricate the body’s organs, joints, and membranes, and to maintain the electrical balance of the body’s cells. In addition to its life sustaining properties, water is used to wash, cook food, and to clean.

The first priority in survival preparedness should be to store an adequate reserve of water. It is the cheapest preparedness item there is although somewhat challenging to store enough of it. It weighs a lot (about 8 pounds per gallon) and takes up a fair amount of room. But these obstacles can be overcome.

A typical person needs to drink about 2 quarts of water per day. Add to that requirement your very basic personal needs such as cooking, brushing teeth, washing face-hands-etc… at a very minimum you should store at least 1 gallon per person per day. This is just the very basic amount and does not include other allowances for washing dishes or the body (hand washing – not bathing), or other sanitary needs, which would bump up the requirement to 2 gallons per day.

A simple way to look at it or visualize how much water storage you need, is to consider that a typical 55-gallon size drum (most of us ‘know’ or can visualize the approximate size of this item) will accommodate one person for about a month. To store it that way (in a food-grade water storage drum) is efficient and takes up the least space, however it will weigh about 400 pounds filled, and you won’t be able to move it afterward (which may not be an issue for you).

If procuring and dealing with 55-gallon water drums is too daunting, don’t give up… keep smaller-size water containers on hand instead. All sorts of sizes and shapes are available which are safe enough for water storage. Don’t get all caught up in the plastic BPA scare – after all… this is in the context of emergency survival – not potential long term effects of plastic leaching BPA. Simply be sure that the plastic containers that you choose are food grade. Periodically rotating and/or refilling your water storage will minimize concerns regarding plastic leaching. 6 months is a good rule regarding water rotation.

Recommendations for Water Storage

Store water from the source you’re currently drinking. This will avoid ‘adjustments’ you will have to make by drinking water with different taste and mineral content.

Store your water in new, cleaned, heavy duty plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Heavy duty containers are more shatterproof. Don’t go cheap by storing in used containers. Water will absorb the ‘flavor’ of whatever was previously stored in that container.

Store your water supply away from any contaminants like paint products, petroleum based products, or anything releasing odors. Plastic will ‘breathe’ somewhat over time allowing contamination of the surrounding environment to potentially enter.

Don’t use metal containers for water storage. Water makes metal rust.

Rotate, rotate, rotate. Water that is bacteria-free when stored in clean containers will be safe for several years. However, supply rotation will ensure that any bacteria that may exist will not have a chance to grow to a point of becoming unsafe.


Some content of this article sourced from the book, “Making the Best of Basics


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  1. A Simple Rule of Thumb–You can only go

    3 MINUTES without air
    3 DAYS without water
    3 WEEKS without food

    1. @lightnbug.

      I would put panic or poor mental outlook at the top of the list. Either can get you dead in seconds.

      Be well.

  2. Don’t forget, if you even have a few minutes notice of an impending emergency, you can quickly and easily fill up a bathtub with at least 30 – 40 gallons of water from the tap.

    1. Good point, JDW. And, a collapsible plastic bladder that is formed to fit your bathtub is available. One brand is called the Water Bob. It runs about $20-$25, and comes in a box about the same size as a kleenex box. It is advertised to hold about 100 gallons of water in your bathtub, filled from the tub spout, and comes with an inexpensive plastic pump to remove the water for use. I keep a Water Bob on the closet shelf, just in case.

      1. waterBOB Emergency drinking water storage
        From manufacturer: “unique bladder manufactured from FDA food grade plastic”
        From reviewer: “The plastic is food grade and is thick and durable (plenty tough enough for sitting in your bathtub)”

        This product is an especially good idea for those who live near hurricane vulnerable areas, where the likelihood of longer term power loss (and resultant loss of water pressure) is greater than most.

        1. @Ken.

          My plan is to fill the tub and a stock tank (use is for dog bath time, he hates water). I don’t need to have the container as food safe as I plan to use the water for bathing and toilet flushing.

          Be well.

    2. @John.

      You probably have more time than that. Municipal water supplies run on gravity. They pump the water into towers.

      Domestic wells are if different story. Get the biggest pressure tank you can afford.

      Be well.

  3. If you use 55 gallon drums you should invest in a barrel dolly for each drum. Makes it a lot easier to move 400+ pounds. Also keeps the drums off of the floor.

    You should also have an ability to filter water. Finding out that your water supply has gone bad would really suck. I got a Big Berkey from Jeff at goberkey.com. His prices are competitive, great customer service. He emails special deals every month. Do some research on the filter element. The black ones cost more but are better in a ‘bad’ water environment.

    If you live near salt water, I don’t, consider some capability to desalinate water.

    Be well.

  4. I’m a little behind the curve on this thread, but don’t forget that the average water heater has at least 40 gallons in it. A good ace in the hole if you get caught by surprise.

    1. When I moved into this house, it had a 20 gallon rv water heater that had rusted out, so to save money (new water heaters can be big $$) I looked for a decent used one. The one I found is 75 gallons and was only $50 so I bought it. Had to enlarge the lean-to where it lives to accommodate it but now I have 75 gallon hot water/storage tank.

    2. @Dave.

      Using water heaters for storage is a great idea. If anyone asks, tell them that you take really long showers.

      A friend has four of them piped together on the cold water side. They aren’t even plugged in. The drums worked better for me. It’s a real biatch to get the anode off a hot water heater to add bleach or whatever. If you go with the water heater idea be sure to install a shut off valve before the unit(s). It’s code and it makes sense. Having polluted water get into your supply when it could have been avoided might really suck.

      When deciding how to store water it is very important to consider your circumstances. Do the best that you can.

      Be well.

      1. Actually, I was not so much advising to use water heaters for storage as reminding folks that they have a large tank of water that they may not realize(in case of emergency).

        1. @Dave.

          Be sure that you have some way to filter the water from the hot water heater. A tee shirt would probably work as it’s tap water. I tried to empty the water heater where I live. Removed the spigot on the bottom. No flow. Probably filled with sediment.

          Be well.

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