# 06 - Long-Term Water Storage
In Episode 2 we discussed Short-Term Water Storage, now we want to focus on our long-term needs for water storage.
Before we get started, first off, I DO NOT recommend setting up a rain catchment system on your downspout as your primary means of collecting your water.
These systems are not designed to be used for drinking water. Rain water is non-potable, which means you can not drink it without first filtering it and disinfecting it to make it safe. We want to have a safe drinking water supply readily available that does not have to be treated before it can be used.
Remember, there are a lot of pollutants in the air that become attached to the rain drops as they fall through the sky, especially if you live near a large city, airport, or industrial area. Then the water runs across your roof and down the downspout collecting any fallout from the sky, bird droppings, and other contaminates and microorganisms along the way, carrying them right into your water collection barrel. flow diverter filter systems will not keep all of these pollutants out of the water.
Rain water catchments are good to collect water for your gardening needs, but not for drinking, dishwashing, brushing your teeth, sanitation, etc. We need to make sure that we are using potable water for any of these purposes.
Rainwater catchments are a good backup supply of water to have in case you did not store enough water or if something were to happen to your water supply, but remember that water needs to be filtered and disinfected before it can be used as drinking water or to cook or clean with. We will get into Water Purification and Sanitation in a future episode.
Long-term water storage is not as difficult as many people lead you to believe, especially if you live in an area where you have a city water supply. If you have your own well to draw water from it is only slightly more challenging as you will see. We will first start off discussing long-term water storage for those of you who are on a city supplied water system and then we will go into the additional requirements for those not using city water.
First off we need to decide how much water we need to store. The easiest answer to this question is absolutely as much as you possibly can. But an easy way to calculate your needs like we discussed in the Short-Term Water Storage episode, is to store at least 5 gallons of water per person per day, plus at least of 1 gallon of water per pet per day. Remember, the water is not only used for drinking.
So, if you have a typical family if 4 people, and 2 pets, you would need to store at least 22 gallons of water per day for how ever many days the event will last. FEMA is now recommending that you have at a bare minimum, at least enough supplies for 14 days, so that would mean that the typical family that I described above would need to have at least 308 gallons of water stored and ready to be used in an emergency.
Thats a lot of water, but remember, that is only a 14 day supply. What if the disaster is more widespread and it takes longer to have access to safe drinking water? That is why we say this is the MINIMUM amount that you should be storing.
Water storage will be the one item that takes up the most room in your disaster supplies. In the same sized area where I can store a 2 week supply of water I can store an entire years worth of food supplies. So when you are planning on where you will store your emergency supplies, keep that in mind and let that guide you in your plans. You will need much more room for water than anything else.
Water for long-term storage is best stored in blue plastic barrels. These can be found in a range of sizes, but 35 gal and 55 gal seem to be the most common sized used for long-term water storage.
There is a common fallacy that these barrels can not be sitting directly on concrete. This is incorrect and stems from a misunderstanding of the teaching that the barrels should be kept cool so the water does not get warm which could lead to microbial growth in the water and we do not want the water to freeze.
There are some people that also believe that the acids from the concrete will leach into the barrel and ruin the water, this is also false and has no basis in any scientific evidence.
Placing the barrel directly on concrete will not adversely affect the temperature, condition, or safety of the water inside the barrel.
Many people, like myself, store their water barrels by stacking them laying on their sides on racks, but this is simply for convenient access to the water. The water can drain using gravity if it is stored in this manner instead of having to have a manual pump to get water out of the barrel with.
Your water barrel can be stored in racks, or sitting directly on concrete, whichever you prefer and whichever way is more convenient for you to be able to access the water when you need it.
But you can not just go to the store and buy a new water barrel, fill it up, and expect the water to be drinkable months later. We have to take precautions first to make sure the barrel is thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated from anything that could potentially endanger our water supply.
Make a solution of 5 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide (5:1) that will be used to clean the inside of the barrel out with. Pour the solution in the barrel through one of the bung hole openings at the top of the barrel, then cap it back off sealing the solution inside.
Now is where we get to have some fun, slosh and roll the barrel around to make sure that every square inch of the inside of the barrel is covered with the solution that you made. Do this for about 15 minutes. When you are finished, simply drain the solution out and recap the barrel.
You do not need to rinse the solution from the inside of the barrel, the little bit that may remain coating the walls of the barrel is safe and will not harm the drinking water. In fact, hydrogen peroxide is one of the things that we use to purify a contaminated water supply which we will get into in a later episode.
Your water barrel is now ready to be filled with drinking water, but DO NOT just grab your garden hose to fill it with. The material that your garden hose is made with contains chemicals that can be harmful and will contaminate your water supply. We must make sure that we are using a clean and sanitized food-grade water hose. These can easily be purchased at a boat supply store or online at amazon. They are used to fill the drinking water storage tanks of your boat at the docks. For those of you who have boats with onboard drinking water storage, don't forget about this source in an emergency.
Personally, I use the cheaper 25' version to fill my water storage barrels and I have a drum dolly to move them to the location where they are stored. Do not try to use a regular dolly or hand-cart to move a 35 gallon or 55 gallon barrel with. It will not handle the weight, believe me, I found out the hard way.
Once you have your food-grade water hose you are ready to fill your barrels, almost. First we need to clean the connector that you will be attaching your hose to, especially if you will be attaching the hose to an outside water spigot. This is very easy to do, just turn the water on and allow it to run for a couple minutes to flush anything out of the line.
After you have flushed the line, connect your food-grade water hose to the line and flush it out in the same manner.
Now your hose is ready to be used to fill your water storage tanks.
Be very careful not to contaminate your water storage when you are filling the barrels. If the barrels are stored inside, also be careful that the hose does not slip out of the opening and spray water everywhere.
Depending on the size of barrel you are filling, this make take several minutes to fill, but stay aware so that it does not overfill.
Once the barrel has been filled, immediately replace the bung-hole cap and tighten it down. Since you used a city water supply to fill your barrel with, there is no further treatment that you need to do to the water, it has already been treated by the city with chlorine, and is ready to go.
For those of you who are using well water or another source to fill your barrels, you will now need to treat your water before it can be stored. I recommend the two-part Chlorine Dioxide water treatment from Aquamira which treats up to 55 gallons of water for up to 5 years. Yes, with this type of water treatment you will have to rotate the water out with fresh every 5 years, but without starting with pre-treated city water, this is the best and safest option for now. Make sure you follow the directions carefully to receive the best water treatment.
Now is where the controversy comes in. How long can you store the water for before you have to rotate it out with fresh water.
Lets use some common sense here, what is water made from? Water is very simple, it is 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen that have bonded together, that is it. That is all that is in water. There is absolutely nothing at all in water to go bad. As long as it has not been contaminated, and is stored correctly (away from light) it can be stored indefinitely.
For security reasons, I am not going to tell you how much water I have stored, just like I will not tell you how much food I have stored, or how many weapons I may or may not have, or my Social Security Number. But suffice to say that I have enough properly stored for an "extended duration event" and I do not have all of my supplies stored in one location. We will get into the reasons that you will want to have multiple storage cashes in different locations in a later episode.
Half of my water supply has been stored for 10 years untouched. The other half has been stored for 5 years untouched. Neither of them ever get "rotated" with fresh water. The barrels were filled and sealed and have not been touched since they were put in their storage racks and covered with tarps to protect them from light.
I have an additional 55 gallon barrel that every 6 months I draw water from to do bacterial and quality testing on. If I were to ever discover a problem with the water in that barrel, I would clean and refill all of them. But so far in 10 years, there has been zero problems at all with my water storage. No microbial growth, and my water is still safe and perfectly drinkable.
But the chemistry of the water can change over time. When water is exposed to air, it absorbs CO2. A small portion of that (a little more than 0.1 percent) is converted into carbonic acid.
Some of the carbonic acid will form bicarbonate and carbonate, lowering the pH level of the water. As a result, the water will become slightly acidic, which explains why water you leave out on your nightstand can taste different in the morning.
However, this doesn’t make your water unsafe for drinking. What can make it a problem is exposure to bacteria. When you leave a glass of water out for hours (like most of us do overnight), there’s a chance bacteria can invade it.
So before you drink it, just aerate it by pouring it from one glass into another a couple times. It will then taste just like it did when you first stored it in the barrel.
Yes, I know what you are going to say, "but bottled water has an expiration date on it."
You don’t have to stress about the expiration date on your bottle. It’s a holdover from an old archaic law that has since been repealed due to lack of scientific evidence.
Rotating out water because it could go bad is one of the old wives tales that we are trying to debunk. As long as you used potable water, it did not get contaminated when it was stored, and it was stored correctly, it can be stored and safely usable as drinking water indefinitely.
So stop stressing over your water expiring and focus on more important issues like where you are going to store more water.
Please remember that plastic containers are permeable, so do not store pesticides, gasoline, or anything toxic like that anywhere near where you store your water or it is possible that the fumes could leech through the container and contaminate your water supply and you would never know it until it was too late.
In the next episode we will take a look at a couple different scenarios to get you thinking about "What's Your Mindset".
In upcoming episodes we will also take a look at "Water Purification & Sanitization" as well as "How To Get Started", "Vacuum Sealed vs. Mylar Bagged Food Storage". We will also take a look at the shelf-life of "Home Canned Foods" and the viability of using them in our emergency supplies.
Also we will have an episode on the need for a Wilderness First Aid training even if you live in a city. We will also take a look at the need for "Sanitation After A Disaster".