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While you’ve been busy accumulating your food storage, you might have been putting off the one essential: Water.  That’s understandable.

After all, there’s plenty of  water coming out of your tap right now; availability is not a problem. Plenty of time to worry about water once you take care of getting your food stocked up, right?
Well, don’t be so sure. Anything can happen to cut off your supply of water at any time. Even a temporary shutoff can be far more inconvenient than you might have realized, let alone a natural disaster that could leave you high and dry for days. Don’t forget that most of that food you’ve been collecting requires water to reconstitute, and of course you’ll need plenty of water for drinking.

Even if you have to go without bathing for a day or two, you’ll still need to wash your hands, and you’ll also want to keep a bucket of water on hand to flush the toilet with.  If you don’t start storing water right now, the time may soon come when you live to regret your procrastination.

You may have seen others spend a lot of time and money at storing water, and you’ve put off your own storage because it seemed too daunting or too expensive to get started.  The good news is most of those old methods are not the best, anyway.  I’m going to show you how you can store your first 7 gallons of water cheaply, quickly, and inexpensively.  After that you can put away another
container every week or every month.

There’s A Wrong Way, and There’s a Wrong Way

Most people who do get around to storing water often go about it one of two ways. They buy flats of bottled water, stack them in the garage, and forget about them. Or they buy a large storage drum, fill it up, then forget about that in a corner of the basement. Both these methods have serious drawbacks, especially the first.

Although it may seem that the easiest way to accumulate your water storage is to buy a flat of already bottled water every month and keep putting them aside, there’s a very serious problem with that plan, and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the water. The problem is in those bottles.

Water is water, and clean water in its natural environment such as a pure stream or a well or a glacier will remain in
that state practically forever. It will always be plain old water.  But stored water won’t be.

You may find an expiration date on your bottled water, but that’s not because the water expires. What expires is the bottle the water is contained in. And those bottles have been expiring at a rate much faster than experts had previously thought. Contamination of bottled water begins almost the moment the water is bottled.

It’s too bad the most convenient way to store water long term just happens to be about the most dangerous, but there it is. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want water that’s safe and pristine, you won’t get it when you open that bottle of water a couple of years from now. Maybe not even six months from now.

Almost all plastic water bottles contain a dangerous chemical labeled Bisphenol-A (BPA) which constantly leaches into the water contained in those bottles. The longer you store those plastic bottles, the more Bisphenol-A ends up in that water. I’ll discuss some of the problems with Bisphenol-A in a future post, but for now let’s just say you don’t want any more of this stuff in your body than you already have. The average person’s bloodstream is already carrying a dangerous accumulation of it already, and it’s particularly harmful to young children because it can screw up their puberty.

You don’t want to ingest massive doses of BPA from water that has been virtually soaking in the stuff for months and years, especially if that water has been in your garage exposed to the heat of one or more summers.

The Water Barrel

I once met a nice couple who showed me two 55 gallon drums they had put away in their basement over a decade ago.  They believed they were good to go. They told me they were all set for anything, and thought they could just leave those barrels down there and forget about them. At the time I didn’t know any better either.  I’ve long since lost track of those good folks and I wish I hadn’t because I wish I could warn them.

It’s true those large plastic barrels are rugged and safe, and they do store a whole lot of water. But you can’t just fill any container with tap water and forget about it, no matter how sturdy the container.  If you’ve been thinking of buying some of those big barrels for your water storage, there are a couple of things you may want to consider.

In the first place, those drums cost anywhere from 65 to 90 dollars apiece. You’ll also need to buy a long siphon pump to get the water out because you can’t just tip it on its side and pour out a glass of water each time you need to.  That pump is another fifteen dollars.  And don’t forget the special bung wrench you’ll need to open and close the barrel; something that size doesn’t come with a screw top. The wrench alone will cost you about twenty bucks, and if you misplace it, you won’t be able to get at that water when you need it.

Shipping costs for a barrel that size can reach anywhere from $30-$48 dollars. It’s no wonder most people put off the storing of water. It costs too dang much just to get started.

You can’t just fill a big drum with water and forget about it for years. Water has to be purified and changed out at regular intervals, and if you’re keeping your water in large barrels in the basement, that means buying a handcart for hauling those heavy barrels back upstairs, then taking them outside, pouring out all the water, rinsing the barrels, refilling them, capping them off, and hauling them back downstairs. And that assumes you remembered where you put that fershlugginer bung wrench.

I was shown those two barrels in that couple’s basement way back in 1999.  I wouldn’t want to have to depend on drinking water that’s been sitting for over a decade, and I can only hope that sweet couple has learned a thing or two about storing water since then.

Water doesn’t keep well for longer than five years under the very best of conditions, and most stored water is not stored in the best of conditions. Most people don’t know how to prepare their water properly, and they almost never think to flush it out and replace it.

Getting started storing water properly can actually be easy and pretty cheap. Next week I’ll show you a couple of containers that are both convenient to store and inexpensive.  Meet me back here next Thursday and we’ll get you on your way.

5 Responses to “Storing Water Part 1: The Food Storage Item Most People Forget”

  1. KO

    How do you recommend rinsing out those 55 gal plastic drums? I have one, and it sits in the sun and smells like it, but it’s what I’ve got and I have to use it.

    You would not use any dish detergent am I right? How about bleach? Isopropyl Alcohol?


    • Rock

      Man, I don’t know, KO. My initial feeling is that if you fill it half full with a bunch of water and most of a bottle of fresh chlorine bleach and shake it around, that should kill any bugs and odors in there. Then fill it fuller and shake some more. Then just make sure you rinse and rinse and rinse again until it smells okay. I’m assuming you’ll do all this outside, of course.

      Most of these barrels have a small opening of a couple of inches or so, but if you can remove the entire top, it would be easier to hose out. If, after all you can do, it still smells bad, I’d give some thought to letting it go if you can afford to do anything else. Letting it stand in the sun with the top off would be a good way to let it dry out.

      • TCF Burgos

        We use those barrels a lot at my work for juice storage. To clean them, wash with just hot water first, then add about 5 gallons of HOT water and about 1/2 to 1 gallon of plain bleach. Put the top on the barrel and roll it around to make sure the bleach solution gets everywhere, then let it sit for about 20 minutes before emptying out the bleach water. Rinse once with regular water, and then add about 1oz. of citric acid crystals [you can buy them anywhere that sells canning supplies; they’re used as a preservative]. Add enough water to the citric acid to again slosh the solution all around the barrel.

        The citric neutralizes the bleach so after rinsing out the citric water you’re left with a nearly sterile, non-chlorine contaminated plastic barrel.

  2. Lyle Webb

    Concerns over flouride and local tap water convinced us to subscribe to a local water distributor with monthly refills of 10 gallon bottles. Adding an in home dispenser provides chilled and instant hot water that even the kids can dispense for themselves. The best part is that by requesting an initial supply greater than our normal usage we have an automatic emergency stock equal to a three month supply which we store in convenient stackable racks provided by the distributor for a nominal fee.