How to Safely Store Water in Water Containers

water storage

Being able to purchase bottled water from the store has many advantages. If you’re able to purchase a few cases of bottles and a few gallons to have on hand, those can certainly help to have a buffer of clean water that will last a significant amount of time when stored away from direct sunlight.

Buying bottled water can get expensive and I have even experienced water shortages in stores.

Another way to store water is in water containers.

Water containers are affordable and easy to store. Many of them are stackable, as well.

You can safely store both bottled water and containers outdoors in a shed, away from direct sunlight, you can even bury them in the ground if you’re able to.

In the winter, you may want to warm the area they’re stored in, or at least try to insulate with some reflex, covering with a wool blanket or something else that could help to insulate them from the cold. If storing in a shed, insulate the shed to keep the temperature slightly warmer than outdoors.

How to store water in containers

Make sure the container is food grade and/or made specifically for water. This is especially important to pay attention to when looking at used containers such as IBC totes or 55 gallon drums.

Whether a new container or used, before storing water inside of it, clean it out with soap and water.

Next, fill the container with clean water. If you’re taking the water from a stream or other questionable source, filter and purify it first.

In addition, you may also add a little bit of water purification tablets inside of the water, or a small amount of bleach, to help preserve the water inside of the container.

Here are ratios for using bleach with water:

If using 6% bleach:

  • 2 drops of bleach per quart or liter of water
  • 8 drops per gallon of water
  • 16 drops per 2 gallons of water
  • 1/3-teaspoon per 4 gallons of water
  • 2/3-teaspoon per 8 gallons of water

If using 8.25% bleach:

  • 2 drops of bleach per quart or liter of water
  • 6 drops per gallon of water
  • 12 drops per 2 gallons of water
  • 1/4-teaspoon per 4 gallons of water
  • 1/2-teaspoon per 8 gallons of water

Store the containers away from direct sunlight. May also be covered with a blanket for additional protection.

Don’t fill the water completely up to the top, if the water does freeze, it’ll allow for some expansion and keep from breaking the container.

What to do when consuming water from a water container

When you decide to consume the water, take a look at the inside with a flashlight. If you see any algae or anything else in the water, be sure to sanitize the water before consuming. Sanitize by filtering and boiling or with another water purification method.

In general, if you have any doubt of the drinkability of the water, purify before use or discard. This is one reason we want to inventory and check on our water at least once a year.

How long will water last in a water container?

Water should last a significant amount of time, at least 2-5 years, depending on how it’s store and how clean the container is, as well as how clean the water is.

In general, you may want to rotate your water every 2 years or so.

The most important thing is to keep it away from direct sunlight.

Can I use any used container to fill water with?

Food grade plastic, stainless steel and glass are usually the best options. Clean the containers out, including the lids, as best as you can with soap and water. Make sure there’s no smell after it’s dried. If there’s a smell, continue to clean until there is no smell. The containers need to be free of any remnants of the previous contents. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I would not recommend using used milk containers or any old dairy containers to store potable water in for long term purposes. This is because even with the best cleaning effort, dairy products can cling to the fibers of the plastic and will contaminate the water.

I would also not recommend storing potable water in old laundry containers. However, old laundry containers can be great for grey water.

Keep Inventory

Keeping a solid inventory of your water preps will keep you on track and instead of going and counting all the water you have, you can look at your inventory and see when it was added, where it’s being stored and how much is there. That way you can determine if it needs to be rotated or you need some more water.

I use the Prepper Nerd system for all my tracking and inventory purposes.

How are you storing water?

There are many ways to store water safely, whether you purchase it from the store in a sealed container, or fill clean containers yourself. Make sure you have plenty of water purification methods on hand and store water away from direct sunlight. Warm water is still ok to drink, but water that has been introduced to sunlight for an extended period of time will produce algae.

How are you storing water for long term emergency purposes? Let me know if you have any questions!

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Morgan is the founder of Rogue Preparedness. She has been a prepper for over a decade. She's a wife, mother of two daughters and is homesteading off grid. She teaches people how to be prepared for emergencies and disasters.

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  1. I have 20 gal in four bricks and keep 10-12 gal jugs from the store, plus I have a well on property.

    1. Sounds great!

  2. I’ve got 2 IBC totes on 2 concrete blocks that gives me enough height to place a bucket under. One has a garden hose attachment.
    I’ve got several 65gl pickle barrels filled with 55gls. I initially cleaned them out using pool shock. I like the screw on open tops because it’s easy to retrieve the water with any container.
    I store 10gl in 2 containers in the storm shelter in a water can and an orange sports jug.
    My in house water is in Military water cans.
    I rotate annually in July except for the storm shelter which is accomplished in March when I do the annual clean out.
    Water is extremely important

    1. Sounds like you have a good system. Thanks!

  3. I store my water in water jugs but have found once in awhile they seem to develop holes. I need to look for other containers that are small. Water is so important!

    1. Yes the gallon water jugs tend not to be as long lasting. Plenty of other durable options, though. Good luck!

    2. 5 gallon buckets with lids from Home Depot are an option.

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