I have spoken a couple times about using 55-gallon drums for long-term drinking-water storage but I do have a couple of tips that I have not shared yet to make storing and getting access to that water more convenient and safer.
There are two ways that you can store water barrels, standing up, and on their sides in a rack. Standing up is what most people chose, however this is not the method that I prefer, and not the method that I recommend.
If you will be standing the barrels up do not sit the barrel directly on concrete. Acids and other chemicals from the concrete may leach into the barrel over time and possibly contaminate your water supply. If you are going to stand the barrels up to store them, before you fill them with water sit the barrel on a wooden pallet to elevate it off of the concrete.
The benefit of storing the barrels upright is that they can be filled all the way up to the top, which can not be done if they are stored on their sides as you can only fill the barrel up to the level of the top bunghole. This means you will only be able to store about 50-gallons of water in a 55-gallon barrel. But there are also drawback to storing the barrel upright.
The main drawback to storing the barrel upright is accessing the water. To access the water with the barrel standing upright you have to siphon the water out of the barrel, which means that you have to put a pipe or hose down into the water to draw it out with. By placing anything at all into the water you risk contamination. If there is the slightest bit of bacteria, algae, or even dust on or in the pipe or hose that you place down into the water, you have just contaminated your whole water supply.
Another drawback is the time that it takes to siphon water from the tank. If you are siphoning water into a 5-gallon bucket, and then carrying the bucket outside to empty, it will take you 11 trips back and forth and almost an hour of time to empty one 55-gallon barrel of water.
What if you have 4 or 6 barrels that you have to empty and refill. I can sure think of better ways to spend a day than spending it carrying buckets of water back and forth to empty them.
A safer and easier method of storing the barrels with no risk of contamination when accessing the water is by storing them on their sides and using gravity to access the water with the simple turn of a valve.
By using this method you can also link multiple barrels together like I do using a system of valves and connecting hoses. This makes filling and recycling the water a lot faster and much easier. You only have to connect the drinking-water-safe hose to the outlet faucet of the barrel on the bottom of the stack, and then open the vent on the top barrel to allow air to escape as water goes into the barrels.
When you turn on the water the barrels will fill from the bottom up through the connecting hose, until water starts to come out of the vent at the top barrel. Then simply turn the water off and close both valves before removing the hose.
This method can be used wether you are filling the barrels with pre-treated water from a city water supply, or your are filling them with untreated water in which you will be adding treatment chemicals.
Remember, If you are treating the water with chemicals, the water must be drained and replaced once per year. If using pre-treated city water, there is no need to recycle the water as long as it is stored in a way that protects it from light, heat, and contamination.
Each 55-gallon plastic barrel of water weighs aproximately 485 pounds. Keep this in mind when considering where and how you will store them. Make sure that both the storage rack, and the floor under it will support the weight before filling the barrels as you will not be able to move the barrels by hand once they have been filled.
I am switching my water storage in my garage from the wooden racks over to steel racks like the one shown above. I am also building a wooden enclosure around the racks to further protect them from light and keep them out of sight from nosy neighbors.
Once you have your drinking water safely stored in the barrels you can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that if anything happens your family will have a safe source of fresh drinking water to rely on.
Until Next Time
Aloha & 73