Water Storage For The Suburbanite

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Water storage is one of the least talked about subjects in the preparedness community – sure it’s mentioned from time to time (“Be sure and have a water storage” or “rotate your water storage”) but as far as step by step instructions or detailed examples, it’s not a subject written about often.

Maybe this is because it’s so boring. I mean really how can you jazz up “plain ol’ water”? Or maybe it’s because it’s rather complex depending on your circumstances: your climate, your storage space, your proximity to a natural water source.

In the end it is one of the most important preps in your storage and it should be high on your list of priorities.

There are many reasons that water might become contaminated or completely stop flowing from your faucet.

If you live on a farm, a homestead or even just some acreage chances are you have your own water source, or at least know where there is a water source even if it is not on your land. However, if you live in the suburbs you may not know much about where your water comes from let alone how to get more water (if you can get more) if it stops flowing from the faucet.

If there is a major disaster that lasts for any length of time, people will try and make their way out of the city to find food and water elsewhere; in many parts of the country major cities are only populated during the work week as many people choose to live and raise their families in the suburbs. A lot of these families will no doubt try and shelter in place.

They might have a bit of land, a large storage area and have built up a community that makes this a realistic choice, of course it all depends on the crisis situation, but let’s just assume it is possible to survive in the suburbs. What should your water storage look like?

Of course it is going to be different for every family depending on those things I just mentioned, but here are 10 things that might help you answer that question and help with building and maintain your water storage:

  1. Store water in different containers: Store water in different sized containers to provide options. Consider having at least 4 different sources for clean water. 55 gallon drums are great but are not easily transported. In addition to your large storage drums use smaller, 5 gallon containers to store water. They are easily transported and can be carried to a water source. Also keep some cases of bottled water on hand. They are even easier to transport and can fit into a bug-out bag. Finally, if you want a little extra insurance have a rain collection system in place.
  2. Know the location of  your water source: This is helpful to know because some cities rely on aquifers (or other sources where water has to be pumped in) to supply residents with water. In a  grid down situation you cannot drive/bike/walk to some location and fill up your containers. If your city’s water source is a lake this might be a possibility. In any case locate the nearest water source where you can fill up your containers, even if it is 100 miles away. Then you can store water accordingly.
  3. Know the location of the closest above ground water source: This goes along with number 2. However, even if your city’s water source is “above ground” and you can actually go and fill up your water containers at the source, this might not be the closest water source. So look around your neighborhood and locate the nearest water source. Is there a lake or a pond closer than your city’s water source? Maybe a neighbor has a well. Locate all potential water sources and store water accordingly.
  4. Store water to use for things other than drinking: Depending on the crisis and how long it lasts you might have to use some water for things other than drinking: flushing the toilet, washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning up after babies/children, or just plain cleaning up messes. Store enough water to sustain your family’s activities. You don’t have to be quite as diligent because the water does not have to be safe to drink. Old bleach containers work well for this kind of storage. Although I would not store water indefinitely in these containers I would not worry about rotating it as much as I would drinking water.
  5. Don’t forget pets: Your pets will need fresh drinking water in a crisis – make sure you take this into consideration when calculating the amount of water needed for your family.
  6. Don’t count on your neighbor’s pool for drinking water: Here is something I hear often, “Oh, I’ll just use my pool water or my neighbor’s pool water for my water supply.” Pool water is not safe to drink. It is treated water and the chemicals in the water do not dissipate. They actually build up over time and they cannot be filtered or boiled out. Lisa Bedford talks about this in her book and on her blog, The Survival Mom. The only option for using pool water is to distill the water with a water distillation system, which requires knowledge and practice.
  7. Calculate the amount of water you’ll need to prepare food storage: All those pre-packaged freeze dried meals require water. Not having water to mix with your freeze dried food makes your food storage useless because you cannot (or should not) eat the food. If your food storage is heavily packed with freeze dried food you need to take that into consideration when storing water. You really need to consider water in all types of food preparation, however, canned food, MREs, and even some dehydrated food can be eaten without additional water added so it is not as critical.
  8. Have a plan for water rotation: Even though water that comes out of the faucet is treated it does not mean that it will be drinkable forever. The chlorine in drinking water dissipates over time and then bacteria can grow, and there are other things in treated water that can be problematic: other chemicals, allege, metals, etc. Rotating your water storage at least once a year is ideal.
  9. Have a plan for water purification: You will need to have some kind of water filter or purification system (having both a stationary and portable filter/purifier is ideal) in case you have to get water from a source where the water has not been treated.
  10. Have a plan if you have to bug-out: Water is heavy to carry. If you have to bug-out especially on foot have a route that gives you access to natural water sources. Also make sure you have portable containers and filters to make the trip successfully.
  • Jake W says:

    My emergency prep plan includes having a de-humidifier to capture moisture from the air… clean and free, there is the problem of power to use it though should the grid go down.

  • Leah says:

    Pressure canning jars of water is a simple way to seal and sterilize in one fell swoop, plus the glass containers eliminate any worries about plastic outgassing. The relatively small size of the containers allow them to be stored in lots of odd niches, too. If you want to use a damp storage area like a basement crawl space, dip the tops in wax to prevent rust.

    If you would like to pressure can things like leftovers, etc., but are put off by the thought of running such a small load, filling the rest of the pressure canner with emergency water jars can be very satisfying.

  • Jenni says:

    You can buy a procelain water filter, and use 2 buckets to filter your water. You can buy them at Cheaper Than Dirt online.

  • Pamela says:

    Water is heavy, as mentioned. It also is bulky and awkward to move. One suggestion I have seen is to use a rolling furniture pallet or mechanic creeper to load the bigger containers on, then you can easily move them for access or refilling.

  • Randy says:

    Reminder–go to the Red Cross site. I’ve been in the military for 35 years and during survival school they taught us: 2 drops of plain bleach per quart with clear water, 4 drops per quart if murky. It works and bypasses the dangers of prolonged Iodine use. How to do drops? Empty and clean visine bottle and RE-LABEL as bleach. Would not want someone to mistake and use as eye drops! Carries easily and addresses almost all issues with questionable water from lakes etc.

    We checked chlorinated water every 30 days to make sure levels were sufficient to prevent bacterial etc. growth. There are nice strip check products to do this–use them.

    Why red cross? My son and I took an adventure vacation to Jamaica when he was a freshman in college. We treated all our water as per above. My son argued with me until I showed him their recommendations (which match). Good news–he’s a doctor now. No more arguments on this….

  • maddmac says:

    Number 8 talks about water rotation and how chlorine breaks down. Is it really a problem if the chlorine breaks down in a water tight container? Wouldn’t bacteria have to be present to grow? Just a thought I’ve had.

    • Jennifer says:

      I think it is a possibility for bacteria to get in almost any container. You would probably have to store your water under laboratory conditions for the the threat of bacteria not to be present. Also with water storage there is the aeration issue. If you are rotating your water you don’t have to worry about circulating air through your water. In my opinion rotating is the safest and easiest option.

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