Water: Don’t Be Without It

water drops
photo by steve_lodefink

Not too long ago, I came across something that mentioned having bottled water ready for emergencies.  I sat there reading and thinking, “Yes, yes, very true.”

Then I realized that even though I was nodding my head in agreement, I had not done those things to prepare.

It’s time to do it.

We take water for granted, because it’s easy to turn on the tap.  I expect the water to flow out without even thinking about it.  It’s incredible that we don’t have to think more about something we can’t live without.  Since it’s essential to survival, we need to store bottled water in our homes.

How much water should you store?

At least 1 gallon per person, per day.  This covers essential drinking water, but you need more for preparing food and cleaning.  It’s recommended to have 3 gallons per person, per day for 3-7 days.

It’s easy and cheap to buy bottled water at the store, or you can fill your own containers.  If you use plastic soda bottles or glass jugs, make sure they have a very tight seal.  Plastic milk jugs are not recommended for reuse.  Soda bottles can be stored in the freezer if you have room, and that helps keep food frozen if the power goes out.  You can even buy large barrels for storing water.

My store-bought bottled water has an expiration date of 2 years, but if you fill up water yourself, you need to change it more often.

Water around the house

If you have a few minutes advance notice before an emergency, fill up your bathtub with water.  Look around your house and see what else could be used to hold water:  buckets, jars, trash cans, even heavy-duty plastic bags.  I’m pretty sure Doug will be running with a big bucket out to the apartment swimming pool if we are suddenly without water.

In an emergency you need to turn off the main water supply to your house to protect the water already in your pipes.  You can use water stored in your water heater tank which could be 40 to 50 gallons.

Purify water to make it safe

drop of water 
photo by strelitzia

Carbon filters like a Brita pitcher are good for removing chlorine from municipal water, but they aren’t effective if you need to kill bacteria.

Boiling water is one of the best ways to purify water if you have access to a heat source.  You can aerate boiled water by pouring it from one container to another for taste.

Special filters and equipment can be found at sporting goods stores. Water purification tablets might be a good thing to have.

Household chlorine bleach (5.25%) can chemically disinfect water from some (but not all) microorganisms.  Add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.  Iodine tincture from the first aid kit can also be used.

(Chlorine and iodine are harmful in higher doses — the toxicity is what kills the bacteria in the water.  I don’t relish the thought of drinking chlorine or iodine, but we’re talking about emergency situations, not every-day use.)

Don’t wait!

I have a few gallons of water now in my home.  The water bottles are stackable, and they’re stored up above the kitchen cabinets.  I want to have some in the car too. I want to have enough for my family, plus more to share.  It worries me to think that most of my neighbors would probably not be prepared, so I’ll be buying more this week.

What will you do?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I agree it’s good to be prepared, but it’s also good not to be paranoid. This posting became unreasonable to me when it mentioned 3-7 gallons a day per person to allow for cleaning and food preparation. If our country or your area were in a crisis, do you really think you’d be worried about cleaning your house or your person? Even if you had the extra water, it would be irresponsible not to save it for humans or animals to drink. Furthermore, if there were a crisis of that level, you wouldn’t worried about preparing food with water. You’d be eating whatever was in your cupboards, pantry, refrigerator or freezer without thought to cooking. In fact, there might not even be power for cooking. People should have enough drinking water for 2-3 days. That’s enough.

  2. I always feel a little overwhelmed when confronted with the amount we’re advised to keep on-hand for each person. So…we never have quite enough. That’s one way to handle it, right?! Lucky for us, though, there’s time to fix that problem. I think I might try to make it a habit to pick up a bottle or two every time we shop until there’s a better stockpile. Oh, and since our fridge has an automatic ice maker, I also like to fill up ziploc bags with ice for the same reason you suggest storing the soda bottles in the freezer.

  3. KF, I suggested at least 1 gallon a day, not 7. I added, “This covers essential drinking water, but you need more for preparing food and cleaning. It’s recommended to have 3 gallons per person, per day for 3-7 days.” This recommendation comes from several agencies and organizations.

    Water for cleaning would be used to keep things sanitary, such as washing hands or food. No, I would not be cleaning my house. Some foods do need water for preparation, such as dry beans or rice.

    Meg– if you have a hot water heater, that holds at least 40 gallons. Then you can add a few gallons of bottled water.

    I don’t mean to come across as paranoid, but I am concerned about how many homes do not keep any bottled water stored for emergencies.

  4. KF,

    Do you remember hurricane Katrina? Water was a very important thing to have around (for more than 2 or 3 days). Also, I would love to hear from some people who live in Florida on how much water they think should be kept on hand this time of year. Does anyone remember the Tsunami, or the recent earthquake in China, or the fires in California or the blackout in New York City a few years ago?

    Water is cheap and takes up very little space and in light of not having it when you need it……I’ll be glad to be on the careful side of the equation.

    No worries, you’ll be fine. People are generally very kind and will share, if you need some water just stop and ask a nice (paranoid) person for some…….and to finish…..I have several children one of whom is still in diapers. I’ll be worried about washing her with clean water and making sure she has all she wants to drink.

  5. We have water stored…I agree with you it’s a good idea. Also, just a tip, I have read that if you aerate stored water before you drink it that it will taste better.

  6. You know, I’ve never even thought about storing water. How sad is that? I remember before Y2K we bought a bunch of cases.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  7. This is so timely for me because I live in an area that was affected by the Chino Hills earthquake on July 29. My parents live several miles away from me, and their hot water heater started leaking due to earthquake damage and had to be replaced.

    One expert interviewed on the radio said that in the event of a major earthquake, our normal water supply would unavailable for several weeks. I do need to store some bottled water. Thank you for the information.

  8. There are checklists everywhere about what you need to have on hand but one thing I learned at a recent training was thinking about keeping a change of clothes and shoes right next to your bed at night in case you need to jump up and run out of the house.

    Something people always forget to have is cash on hand. In a true emergency you won’t have access to your ATM and people won’t be accepting your checks.

    If you’ve got space, keep all your emergency water, food and supplies in a large, clean, rolling garbage can with a lid outside your house. Most likely nobody will bother your garbage can. It is a great way to store this stuff and the can will come in handy during a real emergency as well. Especially if you need to stockpile water! Plus it will be outside so if you have to rush out you won’t have to be worrying about grabbing anything out of some closet or a garage. If you need to travel the can will roll. Clearly this is preparing for an extreme emergency, not a normal power outage.

  9. Good tip Rachel..I never even thought of this.

    On a side note I have 3 pairs of trousers all with hems that need sewing. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and I knew you were going to have mending as a ‘prepare’ step in your sidebar one day, i knew there would be no escape from doing them this month …can I have until the weekend do them..pleaseee ;)

  10. Two years ago January, we were out of power for 12 days due to an ice storm. It was awful. I was not a happy camper and I generally really like to camp…just not in my house. We filled the bathtubs, pitchers, water coolers etc. before the power went out just in case. It lasted several days but then of course we eventually used it up. About day 6 Bryon hooked up our generator to our well pump and we refilled everything again. We now have several gallons of water in the garage just in case. Luckily for us we have a big pond full of water in our backyard if things get really crazy. It’s full of catfish and perch, but I’d drink it in a pinch. I’m glad I don’t live in the city to have to compete with people for water and fight my way through Wal-Mart for it. It’s good to be prepared.

  11. We’ve been meaning to do this FOREVAH! I’m going to Costco tomorrow, so I might as well pick up an extra flat of bottled water. And now that I’ve edited the contents of my pantry, I might even have room to store it.

    Thanks for this reminder, Rachel.

  12. Lisa, what an experience. It’s hard to imagine that many days without power.

    Laura, I waited months to finally sew buttons on this week. You can definitely wait a couple days. ;)

  13. Oh yeah! I never would’ve even thought about the water heater. Good tip!

  14. So true … you never think about what it would be like to not have water until it happens. I’ve live in Hurricane Country for a year now, but we have NO emergency water! With hurricane season almost here, stocking up on an emergency water supply is definitely on my must-do list now. Thanks for the great advice!