Best Emergency Water Storage Solutions (& mistakes to avoid)…

By Will Brendza | Updated: 10/30/2023

Water Storage - a stack of water containers in a pantryToday I have something incredibly important to share…

A Complete Guide On Building A Water Storage System For Emergencies

Because most people incorrectly assume emergency water storage is simple.

Sure, it’s NOT rocket science…

But if you overlook the BEST solutions (and mistakes to avoid), it can ruin your entire supply…

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
Last Resort Water eBook Cover - a faucet dripping

Want a free last resort water checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist. No purchase necessary.

Survival Water Storaged

How NOT To Store Water…

Water is one prep item that’s often overlooked.

How do I know this?

Because a poll of U.S. adults found that 53% don’t have at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water in their homes…

Yes, 53%!

Food Stockpile Statistic

In a widespread panic, water and power will be the first two resources to shut down.

And while humans can survive quite long without electricity.

We cannot survive long without water.

That’s why it’s the most important survival resource.

But you can’t just put some tap water into old milk jugs.

It won’t be safe to drink exactly when you need it most.

It can (and will) become toxic.

So let’s get some misconceptions out of the way:

  1. First, just because water is clear doesn’t mean it’s safe. Contaminants are often colorless, and no one likes drinking poison (or parasites).
  2. Two, water DOES NOT have a expiration date. But that doesn’t mean you can rely on the water in the same container forever.
  3. And three, yes, you can die if you do this wrong. Storing water long term IS simple, but you can still do it wrong. And if you do, you’re putting your life on the line.

At the very least, you’ll get sick.

And getting sick or injured sucks (especially in a survival situation).

Before we get to how you should store water, I will explain how you should NOT:

→ DO NOT store water in anything besides food-grade water containers.

I will repeat that throughout this article often; it will hurt your head.


  • I know those Home Depot buckets are cheap.
  • They are also damn near indestructible.
  • You can buy lids for them
  • And they’re an awesome bright orange color.

But you shouldn’t store water in them.

You should never store water in anything not made for holding food/water.

You can tell if a container is food-grade in several ways:

  1. Plastics #1, 2, 4, and 7 are used for food-grade containers. You can find this number in the little triangular recycle symbol on the bottom.Recycle Symbols
  2. Also, on the bottom, a symbol will indicate the container safe to freeze or store in a pantry.
  3. The container often says on the package when you buy it, “Freezer, Refrigerator, Pantry Safe.” Or something like that indicates that you can put food and water there.

→ DO NOT store water in food-grade containers that have previously stored other items.

I’m talking about milk jugs, soda bottles, beer kegs, or anything used to hold another food or drink (oils, chemicals, etc.).

Even if you’ve washed it out a thousand times!

It’s extremely difficult (maybe even impossible) to rinse all the sugars and bacteria left over.

And even trace amounts of sugar or bacteria will taint your water.

→ DO NOT store water in cardboard containers.

That sounds obvious – but I’ve seen boxed water before, and that cardboard crap won’t last.

Don’t rely on it for long-term H2O storage.

→ DO NOT store water in metallic containers that aren’t stainless steel.

If it’s not stainless steel, it will corrode, and your water will go bad.

Rusty water is gross and not what you want.

→ DO NOT try to store water in something that cannot be sealed.

With only a few rare exceptions, storing open water is bad because it’s susceptible to contamination.

Particles from the air, animals, and insects can fall into your water. 

Bird poop in your water is no good.

→ DO NOT store it in anything that can become contaminated.

If you doubt the history container, don’t store water in it.

Find something else.

→ DO NOT store water in direct sunlight or heat.

You want a shaded, temperature-controlled room.

Basements, windowless pantries, temperature-controlled garages, or underground cellars are smart locations.

Sunlight, heat, and temperature changes are hard on everything.

These are the enemies of long term water storage and will contribute to spoilage.

UV rays and heat are hard on plastics.

Sometimes, even glass can leach chemicals.

Last Resort Water eBook Cover - a faucet dripping

Want a free last resort water checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist. No purchase necessary.

The Right Way To Do Long-Term Water Storage

First, the container needs to be sterile and food safe.

But even within those parameters, there are lots choices.

So, let’s delve into what materials you CAN use for storing water long-term.

Commercially, there are many water container options on the market.

And they come in different shapes and sizes.

Which material you use and what size you get depends on the following:

  • How much storage space do you have?
  • What’s your budget?
  • How many people do you plan to sustaining with your water supply?
  • How long do you think you’ll need the water?
  • Does your geography include any backup natural water sources

With THAT said, here’s a variety of the best water storage containers on the market today:

Best Water Storage Containers

1. Food Grade Plastic Containers

The advantages of plastic are plentiful.

It’s lightweight, durable, cheap, easy to come by, and replaceable.

Plastic is the preferred storage method for many.

Unfortunately, plastic also has some serious disadvantages.

For one, food scientists have a growing fear that plastic can leach chemicals into water.

This is especially true in direct light or heat.

But, if stored properly, there’s less risk of these problems.

Just make sure you occasionally replace your water – we’ll hit details on this later.

1 Our Top Recommendation
5 Gallon Legacy Premium Water Storage System

By far my favorite plastic container (and favorite containers overall) is The 5 Gallon Legacy Premium Water Storage System.

Here are a few highlights of these 5-Gallon Water Containers:

  • Holds 5 Gallons of Water, Dry Foods, or Ammo
  • Stack-able to Maximize Storage Capacity
  • Easy-Grip Design Makes it Easy to Carry
  • Virtually Indestructible!

They are a solid investment and one of the best long-term survival storage solutions.

Plus, if you get the 30-gallon package (6 containers) you will also get the following bonus features:

  • A handy cap wrench (to ensure you completely lock and seal these containers)
  • 2 spigots (this allows you to tap into two of the jugs at the same time). This is a nice option if you'd prefer to keep sanitation jugs and consumption jugs separate.
  • Water Purification Drop Treatment Solution (the perfect amount for 30 gallons).

NOTE: These are the containers I choose for my own emergency water stockpile – click here to read a detailed review and short “How To” for these containers.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

2. Plastic Bladders For Your Bathtub

Some folks plan to fill bathtubs and sink basins with water as soon as SHTF.

This will create a solid amount of water in a pinch.

In theory, this is a very smart, functional idea.

But upon closer scrutiny, it falls apart.

Mainly because bathtubs and sinks aren’t sterile containers, nor can they be sealed off.

But a Bathtub Water bladder is a simple solution to this problem.

You can put a refillable bag in your tub a nd fill it with water without contamination.

The bags hold as much as 100 gallons and can be emptied and packed for transportation.

These are some of the best water containers on the market.

I highly recommend investing in a few.

Not only is it a great tool – but it’s cheap too!

Our Pick
WaterBOB Bathtub Emergency Drinking Water Container

The waterBOB is a water containment system that holds up to 100 gallons of fresh drinking water.

It's designed to fit in any standard bathtub.

This means you'll never have to wait in line to buy expensive bottled water or worry about keeping large barrels or tanks.

Instead, collect water in the large container that you already have—your bathtub!

Simply lay the liner in any standard bathtub, attach the fill sock to the faucet, and fill the bladder to capacity, which takes approximately 20 minutes.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

3. 55 Gallon Plastic Drums

They take up a lot of space and are very heavy when full.

A single gallon of water weighs 8.35 lbs.!

But these plastic barrels are one of the most reliable ways to store water for a long time.

Traditionally plastic water barrels are blue for easy identification.

Our Pick
Augason Farms Water Storage Barrel 55-Gallon Drum

There's not much to say about these simple containers:

  • They store up to 55 gallons
  • They're BPA-free
  • Made with food-grade polyethylene
  • Measures 22.95" diam. x 35.13"h
  • Weighs 18.2 lb.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

4. Glass Containers

Some people think you can always trust glass.

The FDA classifies glass as “GRAS,” which stands for “Generally Regarded As Safe,”…

But take that with a grain of salt.

If it was used to store anything else in a previous life, find a different container.

The big disadvantages to glass are it’s heavy and breaks easily.

On the flip side, it can last forever, is dishwasher friendly, easy to come by, and easy to sterilize.

You can reduce the chance of breakage by wrapping it with newspaper and cardboard.

Our Pick
Pratico Kitchen 18 oz.Leak-Proof Clear Glass Bottles

Comes with 6 Clean & Clear Glass bottles so you can safely store up to 18 oz. of water.

Each BPA-free, lead-free clear glass water bottle is made with premium soda-lime glass, high-quality 304 stainless steel, & food-grade silicone gasket

Includes a leak-resistant cap that prevents messy spills

Clear glass drinking bottles are dishwasher-safe!

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

5. Food Grade Stainless Steel Drums

This is possibly the safest bet when it comes to storing water long-term.

There are no chemicals that can leach into the water.

It protects contents from sunlight, and it’s durable.

Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive option.

Stainless steel containers tend to be heavy.

You also must be careful what you put inside them.

Storing tap water treated with chlorine will erode the protective surface of the stainless steel.

That’s called corrosion, and corrosion is always bad.

That’s how your water gets poisoned.

Make sure your heavy-duty stainless-steel container is FOOD GRADE or FOOD SAFE!

Our Pick
SKOLNIK Stainless Steel Drum, 55 gallons

This stainless steel drum comes with a tight-head drum to be used to store and transport hazardous liquids.

It comes with 2" and 3/4" NPT bung openings and plugs on top can be used for filling and venting.

Stainless steel is more resistant to rust and corrosion than carbon steel

It has a synthetic rubber gasket that helps prevent leaks.

It weighs 48 lb empty and measures approximately 33" high and 22-1/2" in diameter.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

6. Large Containers (i.e., Water Tanks)

They are big, they are expensive.

And they’re hard to move once in place!

But if you have a large water tank you will be set for a long time.

The larger water tanks can hold up to tens of thousands of gallons.

This is pretty much the ultimate long-term water storage tool.

Nasty Backyard Pool Water

7. Your Backyard Pool


Okay, let’s clear this up once and for all…

Yes, you can drink pool water if it’s treated properly.

As long as it’s under 4 ppm, it isn’t poisonous to ingest.

Kids inadvertently drink gulps of pool water all the time and don’


t die, right?

When all other clean water is gone in a serious emergency, start using what you’ve stockpiled.

After THAT…

Stick your head in the pool and start drinking the wet goodness.

But there are some things to keep in mind:

First, you can’t seal backyard pools.

Making them susceptible to contamination from bacteria and insects.

So make sure to purify and filter become consumption.

Also, your pool filtration system won’t work if the electricity is down.

So, the movement of water will subside, leaving it open to serious contamination.

If will turn into a swamp pretty quickly.

If you want to use your pool water for survival, you must do so long before it gets to that stage.

Always boil or chemically treat pool water before you using it, just in case.

Last Resort Water eBook Cover - a faucet dripping

Want a free last resort water checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist. No purchase necessary.

8. Water Wells

I suppose this is more of a water generation system than “storage,”.

But I’m adding this anyway because it’s relevant.

Wells store and produce water.

So, if you can build one, you’ll have a resilient source of drinking water for emergencies.

But this depends on how much of your well is mechanized.

If you have a well, purchase a hand well pump kit in case the power goes out!

Someone with a working water well will survive a disaster far easier than the rest.

9. Plastic Water Bottles

Well, can’t I just buy some twenty packs of bottled water?

Water has no expiration date.

But those cheap plastic bottles will, over time, leach BPA and other nasty chemicals.

Plastic water bottles are only suitable for storing water on a very short-term basis. 

But this option is acceptable if you have a diligent water rotation plan.

Our Pick
Nestle Waters North America

Ok, don't overthink here, look for a bundle deal that gives you the most oz. for your money.

At the time of publishing, this was the best deal.

But it may no longer be true when you're reading this...

So do some comparison shopping.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Prepper Checklist eBook Cover - with gas mask on a SHTF scenery background

Want a free 78 item prepper checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Best Emergency Water Storage Tips & Tricks

How do you decide on how much water you’ll need in an emergency?

That’s a question with a lot of variables!

The rule is as follows:

Humans need about a gallon of water per person per day.

Half of it is for drinking, the other half for bathing and other purposes.

That is an easy enough calculation…

But you must also take into account the following:

  • How much physical activity you’ll be doing?
  • How many people you’re providing for?
  • What’s the weather where you live?
  • Do you have local access to water?
  • How long you’ll need to have water for?

These are the questions every survivalist must answer for themselves.

FEMA recommends keeping about three days of water on hand in an emergency.

But as a survivalist, that number sounds drastically short sited.

I recommend keeping at least a week’s worth of water in storage, ready for use.

Preferably closer to two or three weeks, as I discuss at the 4:09 mark of this video on how to get prepared.

Ideally, if you’re serious about getting prepared, you should be thinking months (or even years).

I will say this:

In a long-term emergency, you can never have too much water on hand.

Rotating Your Water Supply

I’ve mentioned this a few times because it’s critical.

Water, left in perfect storage containers, even in ideal conditions, won’t last forever.

Microscopic bugs are impossible to keep out.

And thus, water must be replaced.

This is just a fact of emergency water.

I know it’s a pain in the ass – but it’s necessary.

As a rule, you should rotate your stockpile with fresh water at least once a year.

I’m not saying you’ll contract illness from ingesting water stored longer.

But it’s a matter of being safe and avoiding illness at all costs.

In an emergency, you want to be sure your supply of water is drinkable.

Not only to survive, but you can’t afford to get sick during an emergency.

That’s a recipe for disaster!

But don’t just throw out that water you rotate out…

That water doesn’t need to be wasted, you can (and should) repurpose it.

It can still be used for bathing, washing dishes or other things, watering plants, etc.

Just don’t drink it.

Keeping Water Filtration/Purification Methods on Hand

Even if your basement is stocked full of stored water, you need a method for purifying it.

Whether it’s a pump filter, a gravity filter, iodine tablets, a stove for boiling, or purification packets…

Make sure you have something!

Collecting and filtering good, drinkable water, even in an emergency, is essential.

Every survivalist needs to have fuel and purification tools/chemicals.

Without them, you’re at a severe disadvantage.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

I highly recommend you get a couple of Sawyer mini water filters.

Wait? Mini? A mini water filter?

Yes, it’s mini in size but not in volume.

It can filter 100,000 gallons of water!

Sawyer Mini Inline Water Filter 1

Sawyer Mini Added Inline To A Pack

This little water filter is ideal for travel AND building a large-volume gravity filter at home.

Perfect for your long-term H20 storage plan.

What makes the Sawyer Mini so powerful is its inline design capabilities.

You can use a simple rubber hose to add a Sawyer Mini between your drinking containers and create a large, completely passive gravity filter with a single Sawyer Mini.

Saving you hundreds of dollars vs. traditional gravity water filters!

Here’s my review video of the Sawyer Mini:

↓ Sawyer Mini Water Filter Review


Stored Water Tastes Funny

Stored water “goes flat” (loses the oxygen within it), and may taste strange.

Don’t worry too much about this.

This is typical.

It can be remedied by swishing the water in your cup or shaking it up in a bottle.

Of course, if there’s a putrid, acrid, swampy smell to your water, and it tastes terrible, DON’T SWALLOW IT.

Last Resort Water eBook Cover - a faucet dripping

Want a free last resort water checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist. No purchase necessary.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to overlook the obvious and get your priorities mixed up.

But human beings can only survive without water for three days.

Then we shrivel up like raisins and die.

There aren’t any survival resources more important than water.

This is why any survivalist not storing water is making a huge mistake.

And in locations with hot climates, water is quickly becoming a scare resource.

But if you store water correctly, you’ll stay hydrated and ready for almost anything.

Why Trust Skilled Survival...

Go here now to review a full breakdown of:

  • Who We Are
  • Our Credentials
  • Our Mission
  • & Product Recommendations...

Here are a few highlights of our teams credentials & certifications:

  • Certified Member of a Mountain Search & Rescue Organization
  • Plant Emergency & Safety Leader for a Major Food Manufacturer
  • Member of the 10TH Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR, CPR
  • Official Gear Tester for Numerous Outdoor Gear Companies
  • Countless Multiday Backpacking trips into Remote Wilderness
  • Bachelor's Degree In Mechanical Engineering 
  • Bachelor's Degree In Civil Engineering
  • Bachelor's Degree In Biomedical Engineering

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." - Warren Buffett

We're fully aware that trust is NOT something you GET but is EARNED.

And we'll continue to earn YOUR trust through our forthright and honest approach with each new Blog Post, Guide & Product we create...

Will Brendza

Will Brendza

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Member of The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR (expired), CPR (expired)
  • 8+ Years Researching, Writing, About Survival and Preparedness
  • Awards from Society of Professional Journalists
  • Winner of Camp Cold’s “Happy Camper” award in 2020
  • P.s. Do You Live In A 'Danger Zone' County?

    Find out now using my Danger Zone County List & Special Report it’s absolutely FREE.

    In minutes you’ll know EXACTLY where you stand and if you should be worried or not..

    Cooking over a rocket stove
    Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
    Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).