How to Store Fresh Drinking Water

Last Updated on May 3, 2021 by cmoarz

How to Store Fresh Drinking Water 1

Even though it is not something you think about every day, fresh drinking water can be a scarce commodity in emergency situations. There are many ways to store fresh drinking water for long periods of time depending on the conditions that you will find yourself in. If there is no power in the grid or if there is an emergency situation such as a natural disaster, this article discusses how to store your freshwater safely and what containers work best based on circumstances.

Storing water isn’t just for emergencies either, it’s a great way to maintain the quality of your water and make sure you’re not drinking some of the nasty city water that comes through your pipes.

Sure, it might be fine now, but what if you miss the next boil order?

First things first, we have a great resource we can pick through when it comes to guidelines for storing water.

The CDC has some solid tips for this subject, let’s get into them real quick:

  • You should store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day every day for at least 3 days.
  • Store more if you have space, especially in hotter climates or if you might be in a position where you have more people with you than expected.
  • Cycle out your stored water every 6 months. (I’ll explain how to do this further on)
  • The container should have an air-tight cap that can be securely closed.
  • Since you’re prepping in advance, you should use proper water-holding containers. Not something that leeches plastic.
  • Never use containers that had other chemicals in them.

Great, now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive in.

How to Store Fresh Drinking Water

The container

First, you need to choose what kind of container you are going to use.

Some considerations are size, availability of space, ease of use and cost, and long-term water compatibility, you really don’t want nasty plastics leeching into your fresh drinking water, especially when you need it the most.

You also want to avoid using a container that has had chemicals in it previously. This will leech into the water and contaminate your fresh drinking water supply.

We already briefly stated this just above with the CDC guidelines but I really want to make sure it’s hammered in. DO NOT USE OLD CONTAINERS THAT HAD ANY CHEMICALS IN THEM!

For these reasons, we recommend bottled containers like those made with polyethylene terephthalate (for temporary storage) or other UV-resistant Food-safe containers for long-term storage.

You’ve seen these before, they are dark blue containers. Usually, they are BPA-free and have a #1 recycling mark on them.

Some examples:

Last update on 2024-06-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Containers you should avoid

Leftover bottles like milk jugs, pop bottles, Gatorade bottles, etc are not adequate storage containers.

They aren’t meant for any sort of long-term storage and can eventually start to leech into the liquids inside them.

They are usually using clear plastic which doesn’t block out any UV light which will increase the rate of bacteria growth inside your fresh drinking water, making it not so fresh.

They will absorb whatever flavor you put them in too, so if you’re storing water in a Gatorade bottle it might make your water taste funny.

They are also built to start biodegrading after a certain period of time! That means they will start falling apart (into your drinking water too!) which will cause the bottles to leak or leech.

Temporarily speaking, if you’re in a pinch and you just have to grab some water and run, these are fine as long as you avoid chemical bottles at all cost, just remember to replace them soon with something more sturdy and lasting.

Storing water while it’s still in a plastic bottle

If you’re storing water in a plastic bottle, it’s best to store them upright and loosely packed if possible. Plastic bottles will also start biodegrading after some time as well. They are not UV proof and may degrade if in the sun. So put a blanket over them.

Plastic bottles were not meant to be stored for long periods of time. If you intend on storing them for an emergency, You should rotate them out as you use them. Rotating out just means using your survival stash as you go and replacing what you use with fresher replacement. That way you’re never relying on expired goods.

Speaking of expiring, It’s a common myth that water can expire. This isn’t true, water can NOT expire or “go bad”. But it can become stale or contaminated. As long as your rotating your supply properly it shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Note that also means water cannot get moldy, at least not on its own. It is possible for water to be contaminated with mold, however.

Do note that you can drink stale water, it won’t hurt you or make you sick. Avoid obviously contaminated water as that will make you sick.

Storing the actual water

Now that you’ve settled on your container of choice, it’s time to give it a good wash and then fill it up. Once again the CDC gives us some strong pointers for doing this safely and successfully.

  • Label the container with the words “drinking water” and include the date you filled it, as well as the date it needs to be cycled by.
  • Replace stored drinking water every six months, or sooner if it tastes stale.
  • Keep stored water in a cool place (50–70°F).
  • Keep water containers out of direct sunlight to keep them from leaching chemicals.
  • Never store containers of drinking water near toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides.

Is it safe to put bleach in drinking water?

You might be wondering if you can just take any old water and toss some bleach into it in order to make it drinkable. The answer to that is yes and no. First of all, You need to filter any water you get to remove large particles. This can be accomplished with many types of filters on the market.

Once it’s been filtered you will be left with cloudy or brown dirty water. Let it sit for several hours so the sediment sinks to the bottom then remove the clear water from the top.

This is when you add 8 drops of bleach for every 1 gallon of clear water, be very careful not to use too much. The bleach you use should be unscented and contain 5.25-8.25% chlorine, no higher. Use only 5-6 drops for 8.25%. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before consumption, 24 hours is preferred when possible.

So while you can use bleach, it’s tricky because if you use too much, your water will taste pretty awful, much like pool water. To remedy this you can use water purification tablets instead.

Last update on 2024-06-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Water purification tablets work by releasing chlorine dioxide which is a stable compound and won’t react with anything in the water.

These are far more effective and easy to manage than a large bottle of bleach. It’s effective against bacteria, viruses, cysts, and cryptosporidium. (Assuming the tablets are chloride dioxide). Just follow the instructions on the types of tablets you get.

How long does it take for water to become stagnant?

Water can become “stagnant” and stale as quickly as 24 hours. It’s easy to reverse the effects of stale water just by shaking vigorously. This causes air to dissolve back into the water, making stale water tastes fresh again.

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