Water Module (Part 2)
If you had little choice, water can be very temporarily stored in any cup, bowl, or glass from the kitchen. If you expect a potential water service disruption–such as from a looming hurricane–then by all means fill ‘er up! You could also utilize non-traditional containers such as empty drawers lined with clean trash bags or even a cardboard box lined with trash bags. The same could be done with trash bins and even a kiddie pool. The sky’s the limit so-to-speak when you’re desperate. Of course, this isn’t very sanitary and could wind up causing you or a family member to get sick, so if you’re going to do this then understand this risks and/or don’t use this water for consumption but, rather, as a non-potable water source.
2-Liter Soda Bottles
A better option than utter desperation would be to begin storing cases of bottled water and rotating them, but even this won’t get you very far. Instead, consider storing water in 2-liter bottles and place them in your freezer. It’s a great way to (1) store water for drinking, (2) provide large blocks of ice for emergency use, and (3) after being consumed provide bottles to use for SODIS treatment, which is discussed later. It’s a win-win if you can manage the loss of freezer space… sounds like a good reason to buy a deep freezer to me. Regardless, clean out the 2-liter bottles with a little soapy water first and they should be fine to use thereafter. Even if you don’t store them in your freezer they are still great–and free–containers for water storage if you have space for them. In fact, they are quite durable.
A point of concern: please don’t use containers such as milk jugs–juice containers could be ok–to store water even temporarily because they (1) have a tendency to allow for bacterial growth regardless of how well you think you cleaned them and (2) aren’t very durable or leak-resistant. Soda bottles are perfect and rinsed out bleach bottles are probably ok to use as well. All other containers should be highly suspect and probably not used. Remember that it’s always better to always be safe than sorry with your water at all times.
Small Container Storage
Other options for temporary storage include any FDA-approved container such as the following AquaTainer jug (shown on the left below). I like to use them for our vehicles but realize that if you choose to do so and there’s any possibility of the water freezing then be sure to ONLY fill the jugs to no more than 90% full because water expands as it freezes and WILL burst anything in it’s way.
Another possible option could be the Waterbrick (shown in the middle below) as they are far more sturdy, can be stacked, and are light enough to move by hand, but you’ll pay for the convenience. A final idea could be the Hopkins FloTool containers (shown on the right below) but they look very similar to gasoline cans and may be confusing–especially if someone is color blind–but otherwise fine for water storage:
Another idea that might be feasible is to use the 5-6 gallon free-standing water dispensing units for your drinking water and then choose to store a few extra bottles of water. You’ll be paying more for the convenience and the bottles don’t stack but at least you’re forcing yourself to have extra water on hand.
This is as good a time as any to point out that a large funnel will come in handy for ensuring you do not waste any of your now precious resource. In fact, I would buy a few and label them clearly with permanent marker (e.g., water, gasoline, food, etc) and obviously keep them separated from one another to avoid cross-contamination:
WaterBOB (bathtub storage)
A step up for emergency water storage could be the WaterBOB, which holds up to 65 gallons of water in your bathtub. A major drawback is that it is something to be filled at the last minute and, therefore, should not be counted on as stored water until it’s filled up but if you’re tight on space then the WaterBOB does have it’s place. Keep it near the bathtub you expect to use for easy deployment if able:
Alternatively, it is possible to simply stop-up your bathtub and fill it but (1) realize that your bathtub isn’t very clean and (2) the water will leak out over time. You can minimize lost water by utilizing a drain stopper or even placing a bit of saran wrap over the drain before filling with water. I would be willing to use this water for consumption if run through a quality gravity filter first but otherwise assume it’s best used for non-potable reasons.
What about showers?
Well, in most cases the WaterBOB could fit but you might, instead, utilize a few Rubbermaid bins and store water that way. Just don’t get crazy with it and as with any other unsanitary containers, it must be treated properly and/or only used for non-potable activities.
Now we’re talking about supplies that can and should be relied upon for long term use and not out of desperation or a lack of space. Consider these suggestions very strongly.
A longer-term option that many people utilize, me included, are the larger 55-gallon barrels. While you can buy them online, you’re going to pay a pretty price for shipping. I suggest you look locally as you can often find much better prices and don’t have to pay shipping; places like garden nurseries, soda bottlers, distilleries, or any place that works with consumable liquids may be a great source.
A HUGE WORD OF WARNING: Do not buy barrels from anyone whom YOU cannot verify where the container originated from. There are often many sellers on places like Craigslist.org that have these barrels for sale at great prices. Since there are many, many potential chemicals that are stored in barrels just like these, you could well end up with one that once contained very DEADLY chemicals. Sadly, no matter how well they’re cleaned many of these chemicals CANNOT be completely removed and could very well KILL you, even in trace amounts. In other words, don’t mess with your life to save a few dollars… and don’t take the seller at their word… verify 100% or don’t buy from them!
Following is what the typical 55-gallon blue barrels look like (shown far left below). Note that the white/clear bottles are fine to use as well so long as they are FDA-approved. Wherever you get your barrels from be sure to get a bung wrench (shown middle left below) too as you’ll need it to open the barrels. Likewise, a sturdy hand pump is in order too (shown middle right below). You can purchase less expensive ones but they’re a pain to use, trust me… or if you prefer to make your own hand pump, you can do that too.
If you’re short on space, I would NOT suggest stacking barrels directly one atop the other as a single filled 55-gallon barrel will weight in excess of 400 pounds [a single gallon of water weights 8.3 pounds]. Rather, build a water barrel stand instead.
Last, you’ll probably want to treat the water you store, especially if you intend to leave it untouched for years on end. You could choose to dose the water yourself using bleach or get something designed for a 55-gallon drum like this Aquamira water treatment (shown far right below) which I’ve used in the past without trouble:
To be honest, I’ve used many different water treatment options and have even stored water untreated as well. After all, it’s not like water “goes bad” but it is possible that microscopic contaminants may cause problems, so it’s probably best to treat all stored water just to be safe. I should mention that it’s also possible to treat water with too much of any particular chemical–even bleach–so it’s not always the case the “more is better” either.
Another option for water storage are the International Beverage Containers (IBC) totes–usually around 275 gallons and larger–that commonly hold things like syrups for use in sodas and even very deadly to ingest stuff like brake fluid. You can see what they look like below but I wouldn’t suggest buying online as you’re going to pay through the nose. Instead, look locally and even Craigslist.org but, like I said before, be very wary of whom you buy from as the last thing you want are totes that may have been permanently contaminated with something you never want to ingest! Lots of cleaning and plenty of bleach still won’t do the job. Re-read the aforementioned “word of caution” a few paragraphs back to refresh your memory of the inherent risks. Here’s what they look like:
Note: Remember to watch the video series referenced in the Water Procurement section on using an IBC tote to collect rainwater if you’ll be using IBC totes as it’s a very good primer on the subject.
Last, I want to reiterate that if these totes or 55-gallon drums–just as with the smaller containers–are going to be subject to freezing temperatures for prolonged periods of time then it is quite possible for the containers to rupture if they’re filled to capacity. Consider either keeping the containers indoors–like in your garage–and above freezing temperatures and/or removing water from the containers so that when the water expands upon freezing it has room to do so. If you live in Arizona or Florida then you probably have nothing to worry about.
When we think of austere storage methods, we need to travel back to times where we used containers that were NOT made of plastic… yes, plastic did not exist once upon a time. Start with reading a good book about long term water storage, which discusses about everything you can think of regarding water storage, from clay pots to goat bladders and cisterns to aquifers:
But, seeing as though plastic is so darn useful…
500 Gallon and Up Options
For serious off-grid water storage, consider 500 gallon and up storage options, such as these by SureWater:
There are other manufacturers of larger capacity cisterns as well. I merely reference the above video to give you an idea of what’s out there. Anyway, I would suggest you call around and look for a local supplier as shipping a larger container alone can be cost-prohibitive.
If you want to be creative, maybe some landscaping water tanks are in order? Or, why not build with water using a Rainwater HOG? I’m not sure if either option would be right for my situation but they are a possibility and very interesting water storage options for those who want to practice their OPSEC or just need options.
As yet another option, this 7000 gallon barn tank would definitely come in handy but likely not fit in most backyards. The idea, however, is still a valid one. To be honest, the largest container most suburbanites can get away with are IBC totes… so get one or two if you can afford to do so. Otherwise, go with 55-gallon barrels.
Homeowner’s Associations are a last–yet unfortunate–consideration. As I would suspect that most HOA groups would frown upon most everything mentioned here, you need to take steps to either pleasantly “hide” these containers or seek permission before doing so… or move. The point is to think about how you’re going to handle the situation before sinking hundreds or thousands of dollars into an idea only to have it denied.