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The Ultimate Water Storage Guide

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



= 90 Gallons

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 some averages of how much water you’d need to prepare a variety of freeze-dried foods.

Mountain House Meals
Water per Serving
3/4 cupAvg Serving per Container
11 servings

Water Req. per Can
0.3 - 0.5 gal per can

Saratoga Farms Meals
Water per Serving
3/4 - 1 cupAvg Serving per Container
20 servings

Water Req. per Can
0.6 - 0.8 gal per can

Saratoga Farms Fruits
Water per Serving
1 cupAvg Serving per Container
24 servings

Water Req. per Can
1.5 gal per can

Saratoga Farms Vegetables
Water per Serving
2/3 - 1 cupAvg 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?

44 thoughts on “The Ultimate Water Storage Guide”

  • Frank B.

    I maintan food stores for my pets and food and water for the family, but until I read this article, I never considered water storage for the animals. Any idea what the anticipated consumption would be for small (20#)and medium (60#)sized dogs, and my old mouser cat (12#). Thanks for more great information.

  • Kevin Graham

    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!

  • Michael

    I have continers for water, what prep do you do for the water or just water?

  • Cherie

    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.

  • Mizz Lizz

    Thanks for this ...!

  • Mela

    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.

  • Mela

    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.

  • NLJ

    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

  • Maggie

    The water containers are quite expensive for my family's budget, but we are still wanting to store emergency water. Would the empty plastic containers that white distilled vinegar come in be good for water storage if it is cleaned and sanitized well?

    Thank you for all the posts! My family & I have just started our preparedness and have learned quite a bit from the Ready Store, as well as the posts from others.

  • Jesse

    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.

  • Tim

    I have a Big Berkey and saltwater pool. Figure I can filter all I need in an emergency

  • Julie

    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?

  • Mariah

    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. 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 rember the simples things like can opener.

  • Robert

    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

  • Donna

    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.

  • one

    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?

  • Mela

    This is to One:
    Boiling and filtering sounds good to me!

  • East Tenn

    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.

  • Allen

    This is for Tim. It doesn't appear that anybody has answered your post, so I will. Your Berkley is GREAT for everything BUT salt water. To get the salt out of salt water you need a reverse-osmosis unit. ( BIG $$$ )

  • Norma

    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?

  • Name

    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.

  • Name

    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

      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.

  • PattyP

    Replying to Norma, YES! Above ground pools such as you mentioned are an excellent idea. I've lived with catchment water for over 40 years both in Hawaii & in Australia. Many people here use those little above ground pools. They last for years and cost a pittance.
    For a couple of years I lived with a just wire frame covered with heavy plastic sheeting for a tank. It was originally covered with shade cloth to keep stuff out. I found that the mosquitoes would lay their eggs in it. The mosquitoes were fierce! I wasn't able to get better quality covering at the time so I just took off the shade cloth. The mosquitoes disappeared! The dragonflies hadn't been able to lay their eggs in the pool because the shade cloth was too fine a weave. Once I took off the shade cloth the dragonfly larvae ate all the mosquito larvae. Don't worry about having mini eco-systems in your water supply: my dad used to say if the critters can live in it, it's probably OK. Just filter &/or boil.
    Occasionally over the years, to earn a crust, I've cleaned out catchment systems (gutters, downpipes, tanks, etc.) I've found some god-awful stuff in them that have probably been there for years. Nobody was getting sick from the water. :-)
    Whatever you do: have lots and lots of water storage. Doesn't matter if it's not perfect. You'll be glad you had it.
    All the years I've lived with catchment and I've always drank the water with NO filtration or treatment of any kind. It's never made me sick. But with all the weird stuff that's being put into the air I'm now putting together a simple filtration system.
    With the possibility of a fukushima-type catastrophe I'm also considering how to protect my water catchment and storage system from fall-out.
    Although I've never been in a survival situation, I have had my water stolen. Water security could become a big issue.

  • Den

    Can you help me locate a trailor load of 275 gallon cubic water containers with metal bars on outside for support

  • Ruth

    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.

  • Mitch

    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
    george stanevich February 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

    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.

  • Mountain Mama

    How do you black out the semi-transparent block water containers so they don't grow algae? It seems that black paint would chip leaving an area for the UV to get in. I though of having my local Rhino truck bed liner company spray them , but that seems expensive. Any paint or spray on that is not too expensive??

    • edna

      @Mountain Momma,
      If you go on youtube, LDSPrepper has a great method for covering those IBC containers with black plastic from a big box store as well as rain catch to go with them.

  • Sharon

    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)

  • Jason

    Can eating soup help supplement your water intake?

  • Toby

    `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.

  • REID

    the best storage is in mother earth. if you have a spring , or a well you are way ahead. In some areas you can drive a well with a sand spike and you can drill your own well , Deeprock ( dot) Com they sell DIY well drilling supplies, drill several on your property and you can go in with others to defray expenses . You can pump water with a hand pump or use a down hole solar powered pump.

  • Kathy

    So, I can get a hand pump and use my well when the electricity is out?

  • Charlene

    How do you keep these things from freezing when it gets so cold out. Maybe just don't have them completely full so the water can expand. I have some of those white 275 gal containers with the metal around them in my garage so those are safe but need to put some more outside but afraid of freezing & breaking. Also how about a spa (hot tub) that doesn't work. Would keeping water in that in the winter time break the pipes? Love your posts & save a lot of the info in folders on my computer that I burn to discs for future use with my solar generator to run a computer I have stored in my faraday cage. Thanks for all the info.

    • edna

      I empty mine to 3/4's full when there's going to be an extended freeze/cold-snap... so far I've had no problems :)
      When the weather warms up I just top them back off.

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