How to prepare your family to survive and thrive in todays uncertain world

Answering Your Questions On Water Storage

Recently I’ve had a number of specific reader questions about water storage.  While many of them were answered directly, I thought I’d take some time and clean them up and post the answers for everyone else to take advantage of as well.

Where Can I Find 55 Gallon Drums?

Well, there’s quite a few ways you can go here.  The first decision you need to make is new or used.  If you want to go with new drums, you can get them from a bunch of places online.  Just do a google search and you’ll find a few places.  I don’t really have anyone specific to recommend in this case.  For a new drum you’re looking at about $60 or so, plus shipping costs in most cases.

If you go used, you can save a ton of money, first off.  I buy my used drums for $15 – $20 locally.  What I recommend is that you take two approaches.

First, keep an eye on Craigslist.  You can usually find drums there. Beware of the ones that have just been sitting around outside.  Probably not what you’re looking for.

The second thing is to look around for local food service companies like bakeries and restaurants.  Call them up, tell them what you’re looking for, and see if they have any that they’d be willing to sell.  This is what I did, and I now have a regular source for once-used drums from a local bakery.

WARNING:  If you buy a used drum, make sure you know what was in it.  Don’t risk drums that were used for any sort of chemical, including soaps and detergents.  I would also suggest avoiding anything that’s particularly strong tasting, such as soy sauce or even worse … pickles!  In any case, you should sanitize your water barrels like I describe in this post.

Do I Need To Treat My Water Before I Store It?

The short version is … if you’re on a municipal supply that is generally safe to drink, no.  If you’re on a well, then yes, you should.

Be sure that the water you are treating is drinking-quality water to begin with. To treat water for storage, use liquid household chlorine bleach (it should contain 5.25% sodium hypochlorite).

Do not use bleach with soaps or scents added!

Add the bleach according to these measurements, using a clean, uncontaminated medicine dropper.

1 Quart = 4 drops
2 Quarts / 0.5 Gallon = 8 drops = 1/8 teaspoon
1 Gallon = 16 drops = 1/4 teaspoon
2 Gallons = 32 drops = ½ teaspoon
4 Gallons = 64 drops = 1 teaspoon
12 Gallons = 192 drops = 1 Tablespoon
24 Gallons = 384 drops = 1/8 cup which is 2 Tablespoons
55 Gallons = 880 drops = 5 Tablespoons which is 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon (approximately!)

Stir the water and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. Chlorine should be detectable by odor after the 30 minute waiting period. If the water does not smell like chlorine at that point, repeat the dose and let it stand another 15 minutes and check the smell again.

How Much Does The Environment Matter When Storing Water?

Honestly, temperature doesn’t matter much, other than the fact that it’s hard to use water when it’s frozen.  This does tend to be less of a problem when you’re storing larger containers.  The thermal mass of 55 gallons of water is much higher than a gallon jug, so it’s much less likely to freeze.

I personally store all of our water in the garage.  I have yet to have any major freezing issues.  And the heat just doesn’t phase the water at all.

Now sunlight is another story.  Sunlight will make your water grow algae and it’ll turn green.  Not very appetizing! If this happens, you need to toss the water and re-sanitize the container.  This is one reason why I like the garage and the dark blue plastic barrels.  Sunlight isn’t much of an issue!

Where Do I get Water For Storage?

The tap.  Really.  For bulk storage, there’s not really much better.  Even if you have to filter it, it’s still much cheaper than most of the alternatives.  Now that said, I always store 500ml bottles of water for easy use.  We go through them pretty quickly, so they rotate and are never stored all that long.  It’s great for shorter term preps, that’s for sure.

Please don’t go buy expensive water for storage.  You’re just wasting your money.

Wrapping up

Be sure to check out my other water posts for more details!  And if you have any questions about anything, please let me know!

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10 Responses to Answering Your Questions On Water Storage

  1. Rudy: Regarding water storage, all of your ideas and info are really good.I came by another solution, which I think works great: When my wife is done with bleach bottles, regular and not scented, I fill them with water without rinsing or doing anything else.I then store them in a dark area.I have had some for over 15 years, they were filled from a well at a former house, and for grins, I opened and checked one.No algae or other growths, smelled good, no discoloration.The water tasted flat but after “aerating”it was good. This water has been through hot/cold/freezing cycles, the containers are still soft and flexible. For info, I also have filters, bleach and tablets, but this seems to be a simple and inexpensive solution.


    • Yup, those containers are great as well.

      With as much water as we have to store, I often feel like even 55 gallon drums are too small. But smaller families can easily get by with containers like you mention.

  2. Great info, Rudy; Thanks! One kind of container I use a lot around here is kitty litter jugs. Yes, I clean them thoroughly first! They hold about 2-1/2 gallons, which is not too heavy, and they have a molded handle. I use one every day to refill the chickens’ water fount, and they’re great for bringing water up from the 55-gal barrels in the cellar. Also, they’re very easy to handle/pour from — just pour them sideways, and you eliminate the “glug” almost immediately.

    Jack, Maine

    • not sure I could convince people about using kitty litter jugs 😉

      But in all seriousness, as long as the jug is made from food safe material, you can usually use it just fine … I’d avoid anything with liquid chemicals in it though, since they can leech into the plastic.

  3. Fixin to test that freezing theory! I filled a 65gl with 55gl and it is gonna hit single digits and stay below freezing for a while.

  4. I have two used 55 gal drums that had chemicals (nothing to harm your skin, etc.) in them. Since I couldn’t pass up anything free, I have filled them with water for non-potable uses like washing clothes and flushing toilets, etc. We have already used them when our water was shut off for 24 hrs due to a broken water line. Would hate to waste good drinking water on flushing a toilet in an emergency situation. That shut-off was a wake up call. It is amazing how much water we used in one day. I went out and bought a 250 gal in addition to what I already had. I also fill up empty bleach and 2 liter bottles.

  5. I have been treating my water per your instructions in 2litre pop bottles & storing in my cool, dark basement. How long is the water good for before I need to change the water in the bottles? Love your site, I really appreciate the information!

    • Check them every six months, but if they’re stored in the cool and dark, you’re probably good for a year or so. I wouldn’t want to go much longer than that since water is cheap.

      What you’re looking for is green algae type slime to start growing. Bad stuff!

  6. Can I fill my 55 gallon water barrels with water that goes through a water softener? I only have one hose spigot outside that is not softened water and don’t know if it would be better to fill using this or my inside sink faucet that is softened water. Does softened water store okay? Also, what are your opinions of using stabilized oxygen drops when storing water.