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How To Store Water Long Term?

Does water rot? Does it spoil? Or does it disappear in a puff of smoke? No, nope and not literally. However, storing water is not as straightforward as it seems. You can’t just pick a random container and go “Hey! This container is perfect.” Otherwise, you risk not only your source of water but also your health. This article aims to answer the commonly Googled question “How do you store water long term?” Read on to find out the importance of storing water properly, how to do so and what to avoid.

How To Store Water Long Term?

In this article, you will discover

Why You Should Store Water Long Term

How much emergency water do you need?

Emergency Water Storage Calculation Guide

Preparing the Water Storage

Filtering and Cleaning Water to be Stored

Store your Stash of Water in The Right Place



The First Step To Store Water Long Term – KNOWING THE PURPOSE

If you take a look at maps portraying the very first successful civilizations, you will realize a common denominator; they are near sources of water such as the Fertile Crescent, the Indus River, Ganges River and the like. This fact by itself is more than enough to emphasize the importance of water. It is vital to your survival. Yes, you can survive for a few days without water but will end up dying slowly and tortuously if you manage to do so without finding a new source.

So here goes the purpose –storing water for survival. Make sure that your water has both QUALITY and QUANTITY.


How many days do you want to survive after some sort of disaster strikes and deprive you of water? Does it take a really long time to restore your sources of water? These are examples of questions you should ask yourself when preparing. Consider the following guidelines:

  1. An average person needs approximately 1US gallons or 3.785412L excluding relatively trivial water consumption such as toilet flushes, face washing etc. Add a buffer quantity of 0.5 US gallons or 1.892706L to a total of 1.5 US gallons or 5.678118L.
  2. Ideally, you should store as much water as possible. However, you will be limited by factors such as the need to be mobile, availability of water sources and size of time frame. Store as much water as possible and aim to bring water that is worth at least two weeks for each person if you are to abandon your home and move to an evacuation center or somewhere else.

Emergency Water Storage Calculation Guide:

2 Weeks of water : 14days X 3.785412L = 52.99577L or 14US gallons per person.

Simply replace 14 days with your desired duration if you are aiming for more than two weeks.


As I mentioned earlier, water will neither spoil nor rot. However, water can be and WILL BE CONTAMINATED if you store it the wrong way. Water can react with substances it’s in contact with. You don’t have to go and learn the concept of superposition and other rocket science stuff to learn this fact. Just think of water touching iron. The iron rusts and is occasionally chipped away by water. The ending? The water is contaminated!

To cut the long story short, choose the right container. After all, you don’t want to evade dehydration just to become sick, right? Imagine the triumphant reveille echoing in your ears when you outlasted a storm without being dehydrated. Then, imagine that victorious tune turns into a dystopian one as you realize you caught diarrhea from your poorly stored water. It will be very ironic if you die from dehydration due to diarrhea!

If you want to do a shortcut, you can settle to using bottled water to store water long term. Just go to your favored supermarket or convenience store, buy a few boxes of bottled water that can last for a couple weeks and voila! You just saved yourself some trouble. That is if you happened to live in a place where bottled waters are regulated. These places include the US, EU and a number of other countries. You will usually find labels of appropriate authorities in regulated bottled water. The following are examples of such authorities:

Look for their labels if you are looking for a safe bottled water. There is a catch though. Buying boxes of bottled water is a LOT more EXPENSIVE than preparing your own end-of-the-world-survival stash of water. In addition, factory defects do happen. Therefore, this would not be your primary option to store water long term.

Guidelines to Store Water Long Term

If you are willing to take the longer road, the following guidelines will help you choose the right container you can use to store water long term:

Food Grade Symbol


  • Containers you use should not have a history of storing substances that are neither food nor beverage. For instance, if you once used a water jug for keeping gasoline, It’s a big hazard if you’re gonna use it to store water long term.
  • Only use food grade containers. Use containers with the food grade logo.
  • You can also use stainless steel to store water long term. If you’re desperate, you can use glass bottles. Even though they are the least recommended form of storage since they easily break.
  • Clean your containers thoroughly, especially those that contain milk, fruit juice, and other bacteria-promoting substances. To clean a container, use hot water and two drops of household bleach for every liter of water. Rinse properly and do not dry the inner part using a cloth to avoid recontamination.

Things To Also Keep in Mind

  • Check the number in the recycling symbol of the container.  These numbers range from 1 through  7. The number identifies the type of plastic used for the container.Type 2 HDPE - to store water long termAs a rule of thumb,  those with number  1, 2, 4 or 5 are safe. Type  2 (High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)) is your best option for long-term water storage purposes.Type  3, 6 and 7 are not yet proven to be harmful to a person’s health but still warrants further study to be considered 100% safe.

    If you want to know more about what these plastic types are and why they could be harmful, you can check the footnotes of this article.

    Download: A list of all the plastic types and their purposes. (link to image below)

    Plastic Type - How do you store water long term?


  • Since you are aiming for more than 50 liters of water per person, it will be convenient to store your water in 55 gallons airtight and watertight containers.
  • lighter water containers are convenient for when you’re on the move. You can use 7 gallons water container or 5 gallons.



Rubbish is rubbish even if you throw it inside a gold-plated trash bin. Likewise, contaminated water will always be contaminated water no matter how clean your storage vessel is! Don’t put your efforts in preparing the containers to waste. To find out more about storing your water long-term, go on and read the following:


  • Boil your water for 1 to 3 minutes. If boiling your water is not feasible (or at least, you do not want to lose water from boiling) the next guidelines may be useful.
  • Use portable water purification techniques such as utilizing water purification tablets or water disinfectants. Purification tablets like activated charcoal, iodine crystals, and halazone tablets vary in effect, but generally, they can kill harmful microorganisms like hepatitis A virus, Giardia, Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium and Shigella. While effective, they all pose individual side effects.
  • You can use common bleach to purify your water.

    To do this:

    • Prepare bleach and water as per the Environment Protection Agency
    • Prepare a mix of water and regular unscented chlorine bleach. The ideal ratio is 2 drops for every 1 liter or quart.
    • Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes. Use 4 drops instead if the water is colored, cloudy or very cold.
    • If there is no chlorine-like odor, repeat the process and wait for 15 minutes.
    • Your drinking water will smell like a swimming pool but at least is safe.
  • Filter out contaminants. Boiling, portable water purification tablets, and bleaching all involved killing microorganisms. How about other contaminants? If your source of water is contaminated by industrial pollutants, you may have to pass your water through a filter like a carbon activated one then a reverse osmosis machine.
  • You can also use portable water filters if you do not have an RO machine and carbon activated filter. These filters have the advantage of portability so keeping one around is never a bad choice. Bring them along with your stash of water if you need to evacuate.


So we already talked about choosing the right storage for your water. Now we will talk about storing your water storage! No matter how clean your water and vessel is, you may still contaminate them if you store them in the wrong place. Here is a basic guideline to doing so:

  • If you have tons of liquid stashed away to prepare for the worst, label them all to avoid confusion.
  • Store them in a cool dry place. Microorganisms will thrive in warmer temperature. Mold and algae may also form from outside the container. Given the right conditions, these organisms can seep through clear vessels.
  • It will be wise to store water worth three days in small vessels near the opening in case of emergency situations.

Emergency water storage Conclusion

And that, my friend, is how you store water long term. Why water? Because you are approximately 65% water. Without water, you are only a 35% person! It never hurts to prepare for the worst, especially since it will not eat up too much time. If you follow the guidelines above, you can prepare your cache in a few hours. You don’t have to wait for an impending disaster. In fact, you can barely wait for them since they will catch you off guard! Go now my friend, grab a jug and don’t wait for some alien civilization draining all the natural sources of water on Earth before you act. Don’t forget to tell your pals to do the same!


Note: Type 3 is Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). While not necessarily dangerous, keeping your water stored in a PVC container for a long period of time can cause phthalate to leak into the water. Phthalate was once fed to rodents for scientific purposes. Those rodents ended up having serious health problems such as liver and testicle damage. Ouch! A relatively recent scientific review suggests the “plausibility” of reproductive health harm.[1]

Type 6 is Polystyrene. It is not very harmful but still poses some concern. A Harvard scientific review once found that styrene is actually present in various organic products such as strawberries, beef, and spices. However, the experts who conducted the study concluded that there are still reasons to be concerned about the use of Polystyrene for food packaging.

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Written by James Bana


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