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Blog | How To Safely Use Water Storage Barrels

The following are the basics for storing water. A few good choices made in the beginning will save you grief, when an emergency develops.

The first consideration when using water storage barrels is, what kind of water should you store: tap water or commercially available bottled water? Bottled spring, drinking, or distilled water is great for emergency storage, but it can be expensive. I suggest you have some commercially bottled water in your cache. However, the bulk of your stored water will probably be tap water.

How much water should be stored? We each need a minimum of a gallon of water for drinking, and a gallon of water for cooking and washing per day. Thus, we need to store two gallons of water, per day, per person. As an example, we need to store a minimum of 56 gallons of water for two people for two weeks. Or, 112 gallons for four people. Although this is no small amount, it isn't enough for your daily shower.

Choosing the proper containers to store water is a major consideration. There are commercial containers available for water storage. Be very sure they are for water storage. An improper container will "leach" chemicals into the water. Your camping thermos jug is OK, and should be your starting container to fill with water. There are 5-gallon "collapsible" water carrier (containers) available through camping supply stores. A 2- or 3-liter disposable plastic soft drink bottle makes an excellent container for water storage. They are readily available, flexible, and made for storing liquids. Be sure and wash the empty containers very well, then let them completely air dry before using. A 2-liter soft drink container holds about two quarts of water (one liter equals 1.0567 US liquid quarts), or about 1/2 gallon of water. Glass bottles won't leach, but may be broken if they fall during an earthquake, tornado, wind storm, etc. This may not be the problem in preparing for a winter freeze, but should be considered for long term storage. Store the water in a place where it can't freeze. Frozen water will expand and break the container. The ideal place to store water storage barrels is away from direct sunlight, in a place where the temperature is moderate, and away from chemicals (like gasoline, pesticides, etc).

To insure safe drinking water you should add about ten drops of liquid chlorine bleach (Clorox) per gallon of stored water. This will kill most microorganisms in the water. Then fill the water completely to the top of the bottle, to force out all air. When you use this water, a slight chlorine smell is acceptable.

If you have to use the water (an emergency happens), use the commercially bottled water first for drinking (human consumption). Use the tap water for cooking and washing. If you run out of the bottled water and are concerned about the stored tap water, boil the water (assuming you have cooking heat available via gas, wood, etc).

Another thing to consider when an emergency occurs; you may have several other sources of water available to use. Water from a hot tub, water bed, or pond can be used for commode flushing (assuming the plumbing still works). Water from the commode tank (not the bowl) and your hot water heater can be used for washing or possibly drinking. And if you suspect a water shortage (as an example, before an on-coming freeze) you should fill your bath tubs and empty containers with water while it is available.

A couple of other things you should know are: stored water doesn't keep forever. Rotate your stored tap water about every six months. Pour it out, clean the containers, and refill them with fresh water. And, although food is very important, water is even more important. You can live longer without food, than you can without water.

I realize that most of this is common stuff, and I apologize if it insults anyone. Hopefully, it won't even be needed. But if it saves one life, I will consider it worth the time and effort.


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