Wondering how to store water for an emergency? This information will help you choose the best way store water for your family.
Note: These are all 2017 prices and may change because of inflation, availability and change in manufacturing. The prices are just here to help in comparing and deciding what you want.
Two types of water emergencies
There are two types of water emergencies that you need to prepare for. The first is a water shortage. This may happen when the power goes out, there is a break in the water main or the water treatment plant is not functioning for some reason. This is the type of water emergency we will discuss here. In Part 2 we will discuss an emergency that affects water safety and quality.
The cheapest and easiest water storage option is to just store water from your tap in containers. Here are your options:
Plastic drums and buckets
Store water in any food safe container, from a 5 gallon bucket to a 55-gallon drum (or something in between.) You can get these containers just about anywhere. You can often get 5 gallon buckets for free from bakeries and restaurants and larger bakeries may give away 55-gallon drums, as well. But be sure that it is made of food-grade plastic. Two good sources for plastic buckets and barrels are BayTec and US Plastic.
The problem with 55-gallon barrels and 5-gallon buckets is that they are round and so they take up a lot of space. You can store more in less space with square water containers. The nice thing about this square container is that it comes with a spigot already in place. At just $17 for two, this is a very affordable storage option.
Another solution to the space problem is to have collapsible containers. You keep them empty and stored in a small space until you know there may be
a water crisis. Then you quickly fill them up. There are two problems with this: Many times, by the time the public is informed of the water contamination, it is too late to find clean, uncontaminated water. And collapsible containers can be difficult to work with when filled.
That is what makes the WaterBOB so genius. You fill it and store it in your bathtub. (So you’ll only want to use this if you have an extra bathtub in the house that won’t be missed if it’s tied up storing water.) It holds 100 gallons, which is enough for a family of 5 for almost three weeks.
And this nylon 5-gallon bag has handles that you can hang it up on a sturdy hook (when
filled it will weigh about 40 lbs.) and a spigot. At just $8, it’s one of the more affordable water storage bags out there.
OR You can can buy stackable containers such as this 5-gallon stackable system. The nice thing about this one is that you can start with
just 5 or 10 containers and add more as you can afford to. Costs about $75 for a 20 gallon system up to $350 for 100 gallons.
You can also stack water with this cardboard box/mylar bag combo kit. Good for 5-year storage, each box holds 5 gallons. A 50-gallon set of 10 costs about $75. The boxes and mylar bags are collapsible, so you can easily store them away until you need them and dispose of them when the water is used. In an emergency, the heavy-duty boxes can be converted to portable toilets, making it a bit more useful. Unfortunately, once used, the bags are not re-usable.
If you’re going store water in barrels or buckets, you’ll probably want to store them on a rack or shelf system of some kind. Most commercially made water racks are designed to just hold 5 gallon jugs. They vary in size, holding between 3-8 jugs, and cost between $35-300 depending on size and style.
If you want a rack to store 5-gallon or 55-gallon drums filled with water, you’ll have to build something yourself. But there is lots of good information online to help you do this, such as this YouTube Video. This video gives very detailed instructions on how to build a rack for $60. The free plans for these wooden racks not only hold 55 gallon drums, but has slanted shelves to hold and rotate #10 cans.
Stand-alone storage container
This is the coolest storage option I’ve seen. I’d love to have one myself, but they are kind of spendy ($400-$800.) They are a great improvement on 55 gallon drums.
When I first saw this, there was only one company that made it. Now there are several, each with different features and dimensions. But in general, they are made of heavy duty BPA-free plastic and have a small footprint—only 30″ wide—so they will fit through a 32″ trimmed house door. Some of the shorter models are stackable and can be connected for an integrated system. The good tanks will have a brass ball and spigots that are easily accessible. You may want a model where the valves are recessed to help prevent them from being damaged.