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It’s important that you read this series in order.  Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.

The sad news is you can’t just fill those containers of water and forget about them for the next twenty-five years like you can with most of your dried food. Stored water needs to be changed out every six months.

But don’t be discouraged; you’ve already bought all the stuff you need: containers, hose, and filter. That 7 gallon container has a handle for a reason. Just lug it back out to the yard, pour it out on the lawn or the garden, and fill it up again. Don’t forget to put in fresh chlorine bleach, though. And from a newly purchased bottle.  Remember chlorine bleach has a short shelf life; you want yours to be potent so it can do its job.

You can also simply use the water for drinking and cooking as you go, rotating your stock in accordance with which container is due next for a refill.  You can set the Aqua-Tainer on its side and dispense the water right from the spigot for your daily use.  Or if you have a sturdy shelf in the laundry room you can keep it in there and out of sight, pouring the water into a pitcher or two as you need it.  That way you aren’t wasting any water, and you’ll know when it’s time to refill a particular container because it will be empty.

One of the reasons you’re replacing the water is because after six months the chlorine is beginning to degrade and not long after that it may no longer be able to fully protect your supply from algae and bacteria. Also, if you leave your water alone to long it may end up tasting stale when you finally do get to it.

So it’s important that you don’t neglect this routine. You may be able to stash your cases of dehydrated canned food off in a far corner, but you’d better keep all your water close enough to get to. You don’t want this to turn into a major project, so choose easy and keep your water accessible.

A very important thing you’ll want to do -and something almost everyone neglects- is to label each jug of water so you know when it was you filled it last.

The Aqua-Tainer and the Desert Patrol both have “rough” plastic exteriors, so if you try to stick an adhesive label on them, they’ll just fall off. What you need to do is go to the office supply store and get some of those tags that look like coroner’s toe tags. You can just twist the elastic band around the top of the cap.

Use a permanent marker so it doesn’t smear, and write the date you last filled the container. You might want to write “filtered” on the tag also just so you know. (As we talked about earlier, you might have a container of non-filtered water around for washing and other uses.) There’s no need to use a new tag each time you change out; just leave enough space to write the date on the tag for several rotations.  You could even number your containers if you want.


It’s not going to be devastating if you let it go an extra few weeks, or even a month or two but don’t let time get away from you. You may also want to write it on your calendar as a reminder.

The task may seem daunting if you decide to wait and change your water out all at once, so don’t make a big project out of it.  Refill those containers one at a time as they become due, or two or three at a time if you have a whole bunch of them.  Again, the longer you put it off, the more you’ll have to do at once, and the more you have to do, the longer you’re apt to put it off until you “have the time.”

The point is, don’t make it so difficult that you keep putting it off; there really isn’t time to play around about this. Think how you’ll feel if the day comes when you need fresh water and you didn’t stay on top of things.  Remember, you and your family are going to be the ones drinking this water.  How fresh your water actually is will be up to you.

Whatever you do, don’t get caught with a bunch of empty containers lying around simply because you never got around to refilling them.  Procrastination is the reason you’re only just now reading about how to do this in the first place.

You’re Going To Have To Filter It Again

It’s true you pre-filtered your water at the hose, but you’re going to want to filter it again before you drink it.  But don’t worry, that’s easy.

The RV filter you used when putting the water into the container is suitable, but it’s not the best around. It’s just good enough to serve the purpose. Smart RV owners don’t rely just on the filter that cleans the water as it goes into the tank; most also keep a higher quality counter-top water filter by the sink to filter the water even further.  Besides, you’ll want to get that chlorine out of the water that you had to put in when you stored it six months earlier.

The very best water filter I’ve ever seen, hands down, is the Berkey Water Filter, so do what you can to get one of those if you don’t have one already. It sets on your counter, and you pour your water in the top tank. Gravity slowly filters the water down to the bottom reservoir where a spigot delivers it right to your glass.  The reservoir holds more than a day’s worth of water, pure and ready.

I’ve seen brown scummy pond water poured into the top of a Berkey filter come out clean and clear below. And you can also get extra attachments for the Berkey that will filter fluoride from the water. I haven’t been able to find any other commercial filter that claimed to filter out fluoride. I wouldn’t think of drinking any water that has not been filtered through my Berkey, let alone water that has been sitting around for six months.

If you don’t already know this, you can get Berkey water filters through eFoods Direct, and when you purchase a one year Freedom or Liberty unit, they’ll cut the price of your Berkey to less than half. Seriously, I wouldn’t depend on anything other than a Berkey, especially during hard times when the municipal water supply may be more iffy than it already is.

Next: Where to store your water

13 Responses to “Storing Water Part 4: How Long Is Your Stored Water Good For?”

  1. wanda jessmon

    would like to know if u fill your water bottle at a store where they have a water filtering machine for filling bottles if that is good for storing water?

    • Rock

      Yes, Wanda, that is as good as the RV filter. And if you HAVE to drink it, it will be fine, but I still recommend you get a Berkey filter to run it through before you drink it because that will remove the chlorine and other toxins that the water machine can’t.

      Most chlorine in your tap water will still be there after it goes through the water machine and the RV filter, but the Berkey will take it all out.

  2. Beth Lambert

    Learning a lot here! Thanks for the info. Time to get busy.

  3. Tammy Miller

    If you have a Berkley water system that will filter out all the bad stuff then why would you have to rotate your water?

    Thanks for all of the info.

  4. Diana

    How long will water purchased (thru a machine like Wanda previously asked) last in a 5 gallon container?

    • Rock

      Water really will last quite a long time; it just won’t taste as good as you’d like it to after sitting for half a year. I’d recycle it at least after 8 months.

  5. Ken Iberg

    Where can I find Part 4: Where to store your water.

  6. Robert

    If the water should only be saved for 6 months and you have no water supply after that six months, can you just add additional bleach to it? and then re-filter with the Berkey Water Filter and have it stored for another 6 months?

  7. Rock

    It won’t hurt the water to let it set another couple of months or so, Robert. even up to a year if you have no choice. But stale water can begin to grow bacteria, especially when the bleach expires. That’s actually a good question regarding whether you should add more bleach if you are unable to rotate it. I’m thinking one more treatment won’t hurt, but then be sure and filter it out through the Berkey.

  8. Carrol

    Thank you Rock for this information, I’m going to have to empty alot of plastic containers & refill only for washing/flushing. I’m wondering if it would be okay to print this for my church group here in Houston?? I will also send everyone a link to your site and those that do computers can see what a fabulous blog you have! I am submitting today for my sample meals to try out! I will also keep them informed of this trial and they can maybe order for themselves. Thank you again…you are doing a great service!!

  9. Travis

    After reading your excerpts, I have a question. Hypothetically speaking, is the final filtering process before consumption absolutely necessary? Are the 5 drops of chlorine bleach added to every gallon of water going to be harmful if consumed? Also, would a Brita water pitcher be sufficient to filtering out the added chlorine bleach (if I would prefer not purchasing an rv water filter)?