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How to Store Drinking Water Properly

Two blue water containers with drinking water
Water is a basic need for humans to survive. Whether you’re prepping or merely wanting to ensure a steady supply of drinking water for your family – water is a resource you always want available. A lot of people don’t stock up on water because it’s so prevalent in our daily lives. Because it’s widely available, people assume that it will always be around. But don’t think that way. In the case of a widespread disaster, the first resources to shut down will be electricity and water. You have to store water in your home.

Most people assume that emergency water storage is pretty simple and straightforward. Sure, it’s not rocket science – but if you don’t take the time to learn how to store it properly, then you may ruin your critical supply when you need it the most. So, learn more about how you can store water the right way:

How Much Water to Store

Standard emergency guidelines suggest storing one gallon of water a day for each person in your home for a period of three days to two weeks. Half a gallon of that water is used for drinking and half for hygiene. This number will go up depending on a whole lot of factors. If you live in a hot climate, or if you have small children, or are pregnant or nursing, you’ll want to store more water. A gallon a day is the general rule.

The question of how many days you must prep for depends on how prepared you want to be for different kinds of disasters. Well, three days is a good starting point. It must be enough to get you through periods of water contamination or water shut-off, which can happen during natural calamities such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and snowstorms. It’s a great starting point, but water access can be down for days or weeks longer than that. At best, you want to have at least two weeks’ worth of supply for your family.

How not to Store Drinking Water

Before you learn how to store drinking water properly, let’s get some “don’ts” out of the way. First, just because the water is clear, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. Second, water doesn’t have a real expiration date. However, the quality of water can decline if stored in the same container forever, even if that container is stored in perfect conditions. Here’s what not to do when storing drinking water:

1. Do not store water in anything besides food-grade containers.

Use only food-grade water storage containers. You can find a lot of cheap buckets in the market, and they got lids. But you shouldn’t store drinking water in them, because toxic chemicals may leach into the water, especially when it’s exposed to warmer temperatures. You can identify if a container is food-grade if:

  • It comes in specific numbers in a little triangular recycle symbol on the bottom of the bottle. Plastic numbers 1, 2, 4, and 7 are the plastics used for food-safe containers.
  • It says on the package that it’s “Freezer, Refrigerator, Pantry-Safe” or something like that to indicate that it’s meant to store food and drinks.
  • It comes with a symbol indicating the container safe to freeze or store in a pantry.

2. Do not store water in containers or bottles that previously-stored other items.

Milk jugs, beer kegs, soda bottles, or anything that was used to hold another drink or food is not good to use as long-term storage for your emergency water supply. Even if you washed it out the best you can, it’s tough to remove all the sugars and bacteria that are left over. Even the trace amounts of sugar and bacteria will taint your water. Sure, it may not be deadly, and you can use them just fine occasionally. But don’t use these containers for the drinking water you’re going to store for a longer time.

3. Don’t store it in metallic containers besides stainless steel.

If the metal isn’t made from stainless steel, then it will corrode, making your water go bad fast. Rusty water is useless – you can’t even use it for anything in the home. Don’t waste your resources by putting it in a metal container.

4. Do not store water in hot rooms, or in direct sunlight or heat.

Keep your stock of water away from windows. You want your water to be stored in a shaded and temperature-controlled room. Heat, sunlight, and changing temperatures are hard on everything, and it can contribute to spoilage. It can cause the plastic to leach chemicals on the water.

5. Do not store water in a container that cannot be sealed.

Storing open water is a bad idea if you’re going to drink it later. It becomes more open to contamination, as particles from air, insects, and animals can fall into the water. Don’t store your water in any container with a lid or cap. Make sure that if in case you have to turn it upside down, it won’t leak. The absence of leaks when it’s tightly closed indicates that the water has less chance of becoming contaminated.

Best Storage Containers for Drinking Water

For you to store water the right way, you have to choose your containers wisely. Here are some of the best ones to pick:

1. Plastic water storage containers

Your best pick is the regular blue plastic water containers. These large containers are lightweight, durable, cheap, easy to buy, and easy to replace. Most of these contain a spigot, a handle, and tight-seal caps.

2. Glass water storage containers

Glass is a trusty material. Simply sanitize it before storing your purified water in it, and the water will be fine. Glass is classified by the FDA as “generally regarded as safe.” The only disadvantage of glass is it’s heavy and easily breaks.

3. Stainless steel water storage containers

If you’re looking for the safest water container for long-term storage, stainless steel is your best choice. It’s unbreakable, unlike glass, and doesn’t have chemicals that can leach into the water, unlike plastic. Plus, it protects the contents from sunlight. However, it’s also the most expensive option.

4. 55-gallon plastic water barrels

These large barrels take up a large amount of space and can be heavy when full, but these can be your most reliable water storage for a long time.

5. Water tanks

If you have space and money, it’s best to invest in a personal water tank for your family. If you have it hooked up, you’re going to be set on drinkable, usable water for a long time. Water tanks for homes can hold anywhere from 1,500 gallons of water to 10,000 gallons or more.

6. Store-bought plastic water bottles

Buying packs of bottled water from the store is a viable way to stock up some water. But these cheap plastic bottles will leach BPA and other nasty chemicals to the water over time, even if it’s stored out of sunlight and heat. This option is great for short-term emergency storage, but it’s an acceptable option if you’re willing to rotate your drinking water stock diligently.

Backup Drinking Water Solutions

Besides having a steady stock of drinking water, it’s better to have other options to filter and purify water in case you need to use non-drinking water or water from natural water bodies. Here are your options to produce clean drinking water:

1. Boiling

Boiling is a viable way to purify your water as it can kill any bacteria that are contained in the water. Bring the water to a boil for one to three minutes, then let it cool. When the water is cool, place it in a drinking water container. Boiled water may not taste so good because it lacks oxygen. To restore air, you can pour water back and forth between two clean containers.

2. Water filter

This is one of the best ways to make your water safe to drink. Invest in a good water filter so you can have safe drinking water anytime.

3. Purification tablets

Water purification tablets can kill microorganisms in water so you can prevent getting diarrhea, cholera, or other water-borne illnesses from the water you’ll drink.

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