Preparedness blog

The Ultimate Water Storage Guide

By Ready Expert
More from this author

Water is one of the basic necessities of life yet in a recent survey, nearly 57 percent of Americans said they don’t have any drinking water supply in case of an emergency. You might be able to live a while without food or shelter, but you won’t be able to live long without water. You’ll need it to keep your body working properly, prepare your food, and even for hygiene. This article delves into the necessities of water, helping you understand the importance of water, tips on how much water to use for your food storage, and even a water storage calculator to help you figure out how much water you and your family will need in case of an emergency.

Benefits of water

Sixty percent of your body weight is made up of water - it’s an essential part of your body’s make-up. Every system in your body uses water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to needy parts of the body and creates a healthy environment for tissue. If your body hasn’t had water in a while, it could start to shut down. You’ll feel your mouth start to get dry, your urine will get darker and have a stronger odor. Your heartbeat will increase and, if you’re severely dehydrated, you could begin to vomit or have diarrhea.

Water Storage Calculator 

How much water does my body use a day?

We’ve all heard the recommendation that one should drink 8 glasses of water every day. However, the amount of water that you need every day might be different. Studies have produced a lot of different recommendations and in truth, the amount of water you need depends on your health and activity along with a lot of other factors. Every day you lose water through digestion, perspiration and even breathing. In order to keep your body functioning properly, you need to keep yourself hydrated. The Institute of Medicine has determined that an average male needs to drink about 13 cups (0.8 gal) while a female needs about 9 cups (0.5 gal) of water a day. However, remember that this is only for consumption. You’ll also need water for cooking and hygiene. Depending on how active you are throughout the day, you’ll need between ¼ and 1 gallon of water just for drinking.

How much water do I use in my food storage?

The other point that a lot of people don’t think about is the fact that they will be using water to cook. Whether you are boiling water or just adding it to freeze-dried just-add-water meals, you’ll need to plan on water to supplement your food storage. After looking at some of the cans in our warehouse, we figured out some averages of how much water you’d need to prepare a variety of freeze-dried foods.

Water per Serving: 3/4 - 1 cup
Avg Serving per Container: 20 servings
Water Req. per Can: 0.6 - 0.8 gal per can
Water per Serving: 1 cup
Avg Serving per Container: 24 servings
Water Req. per Can: 1.5 gal per can
Water per Serving: 2/3 - 1 cup
Avg Serving per Container: 24 servings
Water Req. per Can: 1 - 1.5 gal per can


So in other words, in order to prepare freeze-dried foods, you’ll probably need 1/2 - 1 1/2 gallons of water per can. Figuring that most 3-6 month food storage kits have dozens of cans in them, that would mean that you’d need somewhere between 70 to 100 gallons of water just to prepare your food. If you’re preparing food by cooking, you’re obviously going to need a lot more as you boil or mix the water with other cooking staples. It’s recommended that you have between ¼ and ½ gallon of water just for cooking.


You’ll need water for cooking and body regulation, but how much water do you need for hygiene? I guess that really depends on how clean you need/want to be. During an emergency, preventing illness and the spread of disease is a major concern. Usually, a disaster can decrease the water available and contaminate water supplies. Humans also tend to have less-than-desirable hygiene habits during a disaster. Even in an emergency situation, it’s important to have water to wash your hands, clean your dishes and treat wounds. Considering that you need to wash your hands, brush your teeth and wash different parts of your body, it’s recommended that you have about 3 cups (0.18 gal) - ¼ gallon for hygiene purposes.

What Do You Need?

So, now that we know that you’ll be using water in your food storage and to keep yourself healthy, how long do you want to plan for?

Add them up and what do you get?
10 years ago
Kevin Graham
10 years ago at 7:52 AM
While this calculator is great, could you maybe add options for Adults + Kids? Obviously, 2 adults + 2 kids uses less water than 4 full grown adults and the calc doesn't account for that. This is awesome though - thanks!
John Taylor
6 years ago at 12:53 AM
I'm thinking that kids being more active than most adults will need more water than adults
10 years ago at 10:15 AM
I have containers for water, what prep do you do for the water or just water?
10 years ago at 11:58 AM
Thanks for the great information. I am with Frank B. about anticipated water storage needs for animals. We have 2, 80 pound dogs and a small mouser cat.
10 years ago at 3:37 PM
This is for Frank B. We have been storing food and water for many years. Our "rule of thumb" is 2 gals of water per person per day. That's a little more than usually advised but you never know when more will be needed. We have several dogs and cats so we add 1 or 2 gals/week for them.
10 years ago at 3:44 PM
This is for Michael. Whenever you store drinking water you should treat it with something to keep bacteria, etc. from growing. There are products on the market you can purchase, but we just use household bleach. 6-8 drops per gallon. It's cheap and effective and if the taste is too strong leave the lid open for a while and the taste/smell will disapate. Your water containers should be clean, of course.
10 years ago at 4:20 PM
optimum water consumption is 1 oz of water for every kilo/or @2 pounds of body weight. whether that works for animals I know not but better more than less. So a 60 # dog would need about 30oz of water or approx. a quart (32oz.) A 160 # person would need 80 oz of water or approximately 10 8 oz glasses/cups of water. Seems you could ask your vet about animal needs for H2O
10 years ago at 9:06 PM
While in the army planning for desert or low water environments,they figured 10 gallons of water per day per man.. Cooking eating drinking brushing teeth and washing body.. I believe you are underestimating somewhat.. Minimum start with 5 gallons per person per day. some days more some less.. collect enough of less nice shower once per week..plan for worse,hope for best.
10 years ago at 9:35 PM
I have a Big Berkey and saltwater pool. Figure I can filter all I need in an emergency
7 years ago at 11:38 PM
Salt water has to be distilled. The Berkey won't desalinate.
10 years ago at 8:26 AM
Can I reuse some of the water after I've used it to cook? Specifically, when boiling pasta. I wonder if I can put a lid on the pot after the first batch, and then reboil the water again to make another batch the next day. I know it won't be pretty and might smell, but wouldn't the temperature kill harmful contaminates that may start to grow in the water?
10 years ago at 8:07 PM
I put in 6 because we have 2 adults 2 kids and a med 40lb dog not a pet it is a family member. It said 35 gals if renting or even owning how the heck you store all that.. And a way you can store water with very little warning is clean tubs out and plug fill. Don't forget that if you have no water and still in house you can use toilets by gravity pouring a cup of water and he high and pour. I figure where I live at the moment I would need about 3 days till they can get boats here to get us off our island. And remember the simples things like can opener.
John Taylor
6 years ago at 1:27 AM
Rubbing the top of a can on cement will wear the top edges away should you find yourself without a can opener
6 years ago at 1:15 PM
Thank GOD for the 'P38' the Army gave me a long time ago.
10 years ago at 9:14 AM
If I got some of those water storage containers could they be outside in the Phoenix AZ summer heat and be okay? No more room in my house. Thank you Robert
10 years ago at 5:49 PM
This is to answer Robert. We also live in AZ and the answer is yes. It is certainly not ideal, especially if not protected....but....we had some (a couple blue barrels and a couple white) in our back yard - no tree protection. The blue barrels only lasted about 3 years, but the white ones we've had about 10 years and are going good, though they are starting to show some wear. The sun will break them down over time, so try to find a spot where they are somewhat protected. We got the white barrels from a pepsi bottling place - just cleaned them and used bleach for storage as Mela mentioned above. We also have water bricks inside; love them. Hope this info helps.
10 years ago at 10:19 PM
We have a 650 gallon black water storage tank under shade. I have not maintained it religously but have added bleach several times over several years. I figure in an emergency I could boil and filter the water. Is this correct?
10 years ago at 10:24 PM
This is to One: Boiling and filtering sounds good to me!
East Tenn
10 years ago at 10:10 AM
I have a tarp over my wood pile that is probaly a 12ft by 20ft. Recently we had maybe a fifth of an inch of rain and the tarp had at least 2 gallons of water in where the tarp sank and allowed the water to collect. This is mostly rain water but you could have bird droppings and other stuff in it but it would probaly be cleaner and safer than getting water from most creeks, ponds, or rivers. I imagine that you could dig a good size hole in your yard and then cover the hole and the area around it with tarps or plastic and you could get several gallons of water from very little rain. Just a thought.
10 years ago at 10:55 AM
I was thinking of getting an above ground pool - about $200. This pool holds about 1500 gallons. What do you think about this for water storage?
10 years ago at 6:39 PM
We don't have a lot of space, but I keep stacks of square Crystal Geyser gallon jugs around the perimeter of one our closets. The shape makes it easy, and I try to rotate them. We have a little teeny backyard, but keep a couple of standard Garbage Cans full for emergency other than drinking water for at least a little while, mostly thinking about earthquakes.. Our main challenge is remembering to change and treat with purifier or chlorine. Thanks for the reminder.
10 years ago at 9:46 PM
2 Liter soda bottles are cheap and tough water storage. Wash out real good and you are good to go. Easy to move around, too!
Karen Rivers
6 years ago at 5:23 PM
I use washed out milk and soda bottles for water storage, I add a drop of bleach just in case their are any residual bacteria left. The only problem is they do eventually leak, and need to be replaced. If I could afford it I would buy a heavier grade of plastic container, but, this is a good inexpensive idea and it recycles milk and soda containers.
6 years ago at 5:37 PM
Karen Rivers - I have seen some concern about using milk jugs, so you might want to research what that is about. I saw a woman using empty laundry soap jugs for washing laundry, dishes, hands. She doesn't wash them out. She just fills them with water and that way it has a little soap already in the water. It's not for drinking. I have also seen someone make a comment about the soda jugs, but one person that I trust, somewhat, is using them and said the soda jugs are lasting a really long time. Hey, I'm with you. Do what you can with what you got. It may be better than nothing. If nothing else, I'm thinking you can use the water for your plants. Good Luck.
10 years ago at 10:46 PM
Can you help me locate a trailor load of 275 gallon cubic water containers with metal bars on outside for support Thx
9 years ago at 7:02 AM
This is to Julie. No, pasta water cannot be covered and reused next day. Reboiling will kill bacterial living in it, but won't remove any toxins they've made in the meantime. The only way to reuse cooking water is to treat it like food - cover, freeze, or at least refrigerate until needed and only for a short time.
9 years ago at 11:48 AM
One question I haven't seen addressed is how long can water that has been treated with bleach be stored? My wife and I, before she died, stored 84 2-liter bottles of water, 4 one-gallon bottles, and six 15-gallon containers of water at least 10 years ago. I did have to open a couple of the 2-liter bottles a year ago when the utility company turned off the water for maintenance back down the road and the water seemed fine, so I'm thinking it's probably still safe. At my age I don't think I could go to the trouble of draining all those containers and refilling with fresh water and more bleach!
george stanevich
9 years ago at 4:48 PM
great group of comments. looking forward to see the solutions for the many questions.found a few great ideas about how to store water and collect it.
9 years ago at 6:22 AM
I found used, food safe 55 gallon feed barrels at my local feed store for $25 each which have a lid with the same opening/hole as the thrive water containers. You can use the same bung wrench and pump as needed/provided for the thrive 55 gallon water barrels. I have been catching rain water with those. I one storm I caught 5 barrels full to the top! Cheap water storage for sure and they are meant to be stored outside. (used horse feed containers)
9 years ago at 9:47 AM
Can eating soup help supplement your water intake?
1 year ago at 10:00 PM
Prepared foods as Canned Soups and Dehydrated or Freeze Dried foods all tend to contain above average levels of Sodium (Salt) . This may increase your thirst and intake of water. Canned vegetables the type without added salt can be cooked and the water used for rice, beans, or pastas. Throw in a can of tuna, chicken breasts or roast beef and you have a filling meal. Expect the meat to also have Sodium in it also. Read those labels and store condiments like Pepper, Onion Powder, Salt, Garlic Powder, but be stringent with the Tabasco or other Chilis used for flavor enhancments.
9 years ago at 12:42 PM
`I just buy 5 gallons of water every time I go to the store. No major money pressure that way. I am to the point where I need to store in a non temperature controlled space, so I am freezing a gallon to make sure the container will take the stress. If it will, I will add another 100 gallons to my shed shelving unit. That said, my long term plan includes a "straw" type filter, Tablet treatment, hand pumped R.O., and a 5 gallon bucket style ceramic drip filter. The pool is a cute idea too, might try that.
9 years ago at 1:51 PM
So, I can get a hand pump and use my well when the electricity is out?
7 years ago at 5:56 AM
Kathy, Explore Amish stores online like lehmans and they have them
6 years ago at 1:14 PM
Look up Bison pumps online.