Survival Supplies: Water Storage and Purification

In any survival or disaster situation clean, drinkable water is one of the most important commodities.  It’s not necessarily the most immediate concern.  Depending on the climate, the lack of a warm fire might kill you before you even get thirsty.  But I think water should be the absolute top priority in any disaster survival plan.

With a little know-how, fire and shelter can be improvised almost anywhere, with any number of materials. Water, on the other hand, is one of the hardest things to obtain when you need it, and one of the easiest things to prepare for in advance.  One hour after reading this article, for under $50, you can have a month’s worth of safe drinking water ready to go.  This is the top survival priority because it’s the only one you can master today.

We often forget water’s value because it’s piped right into our homes, purified and dirt cheap.  You can even filter tap water further, or buy it distilled at any grocery store, for pennies a gallon.  The real trick is storing it, and single gallon jugs are not the way to go.  There are three good qualities in a water storage container:

  • Keeps your water as close as possible to its original condition when you stored it.
  • Fits the most water into the smallest space for easy storage and transport.
  • Quick to load in case you need to leave your home suddenly.

Single gallon jugs don’t have any of these.  They’re meant to be disposable, so their thin material absorbs impurities from the environment.  Their odd shape and small capacity take up too much space.  And in an emergency, you’ll have to move them one gallon at a time.  They’re not very stackable, either, so even if you have time to load them, you probably won’t have room.

The game becomes getting the amount of storage you need that fits the requirements above, as cheaply as possible.  I think about it in terms of cost per gallon.  You can buy 30+ gallon drums, but they’re surprisingly costly, and you will never be able to load it into a vehicle.  I found the best solution is a cube-ish container holding 8 gallons or less.  Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so anything more is impossible to lift without extra tools.

So without further ado, I give you the best options I’ve found:

This six gallon container isn't very stackable, but it's easy to carry.

This six gallon container isn't very stackable, but it's easy to carry.

This container is a pain in the ass to carry, but you can't beat the cube shape and stackability.

This container is a pain in the ass to carry, but you can't beat the cube shape and stackability.

While I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart, these are the same high-quality water containers you can get at sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s, but much cheaper.  The first holds 6 gallons, weighing under 50 pounds when full.  The slim form makes it easy to carry one in each hand if you can.  It’s also easier to carry if the larger container’s extra 8 pounds of water is too daunting.  It’s $10 at Wal-Mart.

The blue container, Reliance’s Aqua-Tainer 7 gallon water container, is my favorite.  At $11 (Wal-Mart price, other places are $18) it’s slightly cheaper per gallon, and it’s stackable.  The cube shape also makes them easier to fit in car trunks, the back of the van, wherever.  They’re stackable, and I have a reasonably flat surface to stack other supplies on top of them.

Wal-Mart is cheapest, but their inventory is potluck. Bass Pro Shop costs more, but you can buy all you need at once. If you shop at Wal-Mart already, I recommend picking up what they have available whenever you go, until you have enough.  They can be found with camping gear, which can be found in sporting goods all year, and also near the front of the store during summer months.

For around $50, you can buy enough of either container to supply one person with water for a month – one gallon per day.  For a few more bucks, you can refill those containers with water from a lake or stream, and purify them.  Here’s how:

  1. Buy Regular Clorox Bleach. I can’t stress this enough, do NOT get any fancier type, they have detergents and chemicals that make them unsafe to drink.
  2. Filter questionable water through whatever you have handy – coffee filters or clean clothing work well.
  3. Add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water, and let it stand for 30 minutes to kill any bacteria the water may have.
  4. If you smell a slight chlorine scent, like a pool, it’s working.  If not, add another 8 drops per gallon, and wait another 30 minutes.

Plain bleach (Clorox is the only brand I’m sure of) is perfectly safe to consume in these doses, and a much better option than drinking questionable water.  One note, a better option than bleach is to boil water, but I’d rather have the bleach on hand just in case boiling isn’t an option.  For a few bucks, why wouldn’t you?

This is enough water for my large family, for five days.

This is enough water for my large family, for five days.

Due to the money I’ve spent on other survival endeavors (the gun being the most costly) I plan to gradually build up my water stores.  I have a large family to provide for, so these containers are only enough for a five day supply.  The government recommends a 3-day supply for emergencies, but I’ d like to build up to at least a couple weeks worth.  I imagine that during a disaster, the containers themselves will be a hot commodity, and I can trade some for other survival supplies, if needed.

Screw it, on my next pay check I’ll probably spend the $100 to round out my water supply.  It really is the cheapest and easiest of survival measures.

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3 Responses to “Survival Supplies: Water Storage and Purification”

  1. John Says:

    Good suggestions for containers. I’d suggest storing them in a place where it doesn’t matter if there’s a leak or spill. We had a few of the green containers full of water a few years ago, and a couple sprang a very small leak for some reason. I’m told that can be sealed by melting the plastic at the point of the leak, but we haven’t tried it. I just don’t have those containers in service now. I think it’s a good idea to have a rain barrel or some other large barrel full of water that can be kept outdoors, assuming it can be kept somewhat inconspicuously from snoopy neighbors. With such a barrel, you’ll at least have some water that can be replenished with a garden hose and filtered through a Berkey purifier when needed.

  2. chubbysurvivalist Says:

    Wow, awesome advice! As luck would have it, I do already have my containers in a spot where they could leak without problems. I just need to get my other emergency gear off the ground should that ever happen.

    I’ve looked into rain barrels, and I like that idea for a lot of reasons. I’ve been waiting until I get a garden going, when stored rainwater would provide more day-to-day benefit.

    I actually plan to do another posting later this week about water conservation in general. Storing water for “what if” has really started me thinking about how much we waste, it’s crazy. I’m going to check our latest bill to find out how much we’re using, and do a project to see if we can cut that down by at least 10% next month.

  3. Water Rotation for Emergency/Disaster Use « The Chubby Survivalist Says:

    […] filling and storing 7 gallon water containers, the blue Reliance containers I talked about in my Water Storage and Purification post.  So far I have 9 containers, totaling over 60 gallons of filtered tap water.  Now […]

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