Guest Post: Adventures in Survival #2: Water Storage

We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post, NoSox’s contribution about getting started in food procurement. Today’s post he goes over how he gets his family set up for water storage. Lots of good ideas here, but mainly it’s about just getting off your hindquarters and doing it. He shares how much he spends, which makes it really easy to see where we might prioritize for our own preps. Enjoy!




Adventures in Survival: #2 Water Storage

When it comes to survival and a shtf situation you can never have enough water. More than likely the power will be off and when the power stops so does the city water plant. This means we need to have an alternate water source. If it was possible we would all have a 200ft well with a solar powered pump [hand pump back-up] to fill a 1,000 gallon tank that gravity fed through a series of filters into our homes. Unfortunately I don’t have the land and this type of set-up [yet] so I have to store water through more conventional means.

We started off buying the 24-pack of water from my grocery store then went to buying 6-gallon boxed cases of water for $6 from the dollar store. After filling a corner of our basement and only have 40 gallons of water[$1/gallon] to show for it I decided to do some upgrading. I got on Craigslist and found a container dealer in my area that sells 55-gallon food grade water barrels for $20 each. In a previous life these barrels were filled with pineapple, coconut, or other fruit juices. He gave me the hand pump and bung wrench free so after $40, a little cleaning, rolling, and rinsing I had another 110 gallons of water[$.36/gallon].

We have a family of 4 with 2 dogs so roughly we’re looking at 10 gallons of water usage per day. These calculations are for each person to have: 1 gallon for drinking[4], 1 gallon for hygiene[4], 1 gallon for family cooking[1], and 1 gallon for the dogs[1]. With our current stash of 150 barrels that equals only 15 days of water. We could ration and make it last longer but that’s the base number. 15 days of water isn’t enough for my comfort level as the provider for my family. With that being said, the container dealer I bought the barrels from also has 275-gallon food grade IBC totes that are steam cleaned and ready for service at $100/each. My plans are to substitute 2 weeks of this month’s $50/week food storage budget and buy a tote then repeat again next month. For $200 this adds another 550 gallons of water storage[$.18/gallon]. The totes are 130-lbs empty and can be stacked 2 high when full of water.

The two stacked totes & two barrels will fit easily in our garage and give us 700 total gallons of water for the household including the bottles and cases we started with. I also plan on buying one of those WaterBob Bathtub Bags that holds 100 gallons for 4 weeks. The idea behind these is that as soon as trouble starts you put it in your bathtub and it fills from the faucet. It seals up and keeps the water clean for access with a hand pump. They are sold on Amazon for $19[$.19/gallon].

This brings our grand total to 800 gallons of water for approx. $300:

-[550] 2×275-Gallon IBC Water Totes: $2000

-[110] 2×55-Gallon Barrels: $40

-[110] 1×100-Gallon WaterBob Bathtub Bag: $19

-[40] 40×1-Gallon Jugs: $40

That supply will last a minimum of 80 days and we didn’t need a huge tank in the backyard compromising my family’s OPSEC. 80 days is plenty of time to lay low and let Mother Nature run her course with those who aren’t prepared. A human body can only last 3 days without water so things won’t be pretty for those who don’t have any. But what happens when our 800 gallons runs out?

Water Procurement & Filtration

Knowing one’s area is vital to survival in any shtf type of situation. My area has a lake and few ponds within a reasonable distance that can be quickly reached with a mountain bike. Going outside in this environment is not desirable but if there is no water it must be done. My plan is to start making trips at night once our water levels get to the 200-150 gallon range. With a few simple additions to a bicycle it can be made to carry 10 gallons of water, maybe more, without losing too much in maneuverability.

Assuming you make it back safely with the water you can’t drink it straight from the source unless you want some serious issues with diarrhea and other sicknesses. That’s means you have to filter it to have clean water for use. Everyone has their personal pick when it comes to filtration systems and the like but as far as my family we like to keep things simple and efficient. We have purchased a variety of filters to get us through any situation we may be in.

-Sawyer Mini: We bought a 4-pack[$73] and use these for hiking/camping our Camelbaks. It’s an inline filter that connects to your pack’s drinking tube. We bought them on Amazon and they’re good for 100,000 gallons.

-Just Water Ceramic Filter: These are used to make the popular bucket filters. We bought 3 kits[3- years’ worth] on Amazon at $40 each. They are good for 2,500 gallons each.

-Water Purification Tablets: 50 Iodine tablets for $5 a bottle. 2 tablets will purify a quart of water.

When it comes to water nothing is better than having your own plentiful source to pull from, unfortunately most urban & suburban city dwellers don’t have that option. The methods listed above give a good idea of things that can be done to store water for a rainy day[haha!].

No method is the best method so the question is how do you store water? Do you have enough? What are your plans? Thanks for reading!


31 comments… add one
  • kevin April 1, 2014, 8:03 am

    question would the 5 gallon plastic bottles that CAT LITTER comes in be all right for water storage AFTER they are rinsed out?

    • ThatGuyinCa April 1, 2014, 9:38 am

      Many people will tell you, “No” and they wouldn’t be wrong. But that is a personal decision. If it’s all you got, then sure, you could use it. Any chemicals that leach into the water won’t kill you outright but over time with continued consumption could lead to your demise (cancer, liver/kidney failure, or whatever). When faced with death by dehydration, even that water is welcome. I use cleaned out gallon juice (apple) containers. It’s best to use food grade containers (whatever containers you have left over). Check around with local restaurants (including chains) to see if they have any empties or just dumpster dive, even go through your neighbors recycle bins. If it stored anything for human consumption (cooking oil, juice, food), it’s good for water storage just make sure to give it a good solid cleaning. Personally, I would not use kitty litter buckets for water storage but if it was all I had to work wtih, I just might. Better slightly tainted water than no water. However, I don’t think that would be all I had to work with, so many alternatives out there that don’t cost anything.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 9:40 am

      Kevin, I wouldn’t use those. For water storage aim for containers that previously had some type of consumable food in them. The plastics typically used for those don’t contain harmful toxins that would release and contaminate your water. Worse case scenario start using your empty milk jugs.

      The 55-gallon juice/syrup barrels are easy to come by though. Think of it this way: On average you can find them for $15-$25 each. If you save $1/day but not getting a Snickers or getting a small combo instead of large combo by the end of the month you’ll have enough to get your first barrel and it won’t poison your family.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 1, 2014, 8:23 am

    I’m so far behind on water storage, it isn’t even funny. 4 – 5 gallon water containers for 2 adults – 2 teens – not even close! I have 4 55 gallon syrup barrels that are already cleaned out, but are empty. I have several water filters and quite a few (empty) canteens as well.

    My biggest problem – a source of water not connected to grid – if it goes down, I have some serious scrounging problems.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 9:47 am

      J.R. i was in your exact situation when the ‘American Blackout’ show came on NatGeo. As soon as the show went off my wife and I went into the basement and filled our barrels and made plans for more water.

      Being in the city makes it hard regardless if you don’t have a well. In my old neighborhood there were tons of empty university housing that all had individual wells. That made me feel good if i ever ran out but now in this new neighborhood there are only ponds, a creek, and a lake.

  • MarkH April 1, 2014, 8:35 am

    Great series from NoSox so far. Living off grid for some years now has given us a new perspective on what the long-term water requirements. Much like trying to go from our old 35 kilowatt hour per day home down to our new 5 kWh/day one, going from our old 150 gallon/day household water usage to our new 40 gallon/day one wasn’t easy. Kudos for more than doubling the FEMA recommendations, but they’re assuming 3 days, not 3 months. This is still little more than subsistence level only and the stress of trying to maintain it long term, on top of all the other SHTF stresses, isn’t realistic IMO. You’d laugh if you heard some of the arguments about water me and the wife have today. My side usually goes something like, “Honey! What the hell were you thinking?!? You know you can’t flush the toilet at 7am when it was cloudy all day yesterday! The pump’s running now and draining the batteries too much, which means I have to start the generator. I fill those 5-gallon buckets so we don’t have to flush and drain the pressure tank, is it too much to ask that you grab a frickin’ bucket from downstairs to flush with when the sun’s not up yet?”.

    Try living on 2.5 gallons per person per day for just a couple days and let us know how it goes. :) You’re going to need more, LOTS more, long term.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 1:31 pm

      I can imagine how crazy that gets. What kind of set-up do you have water wise?

      In 5-6 years i’m looking to have a well with an independent solar pump with a hand/propane back up pump filling a 2500 gallon tank that gravity feeds into our future home. A friend of mine out in the country has a system like this and it works pretty nicely for him.

      • MarkH April 1, 2014, 1:59 pm

        80′ well, Grundfos 5 gallon per min submersible pump. Pressure tank with a 22 gallon drawdown (before the pressure switch fires up the pump to refill it). Low flow toilets and front loading clothes washer. I’ll fill 5 gallon buckets (which double as dog water dishes) when we have an abundance of battery power, or worse case then fill the buckets from the rain barrels (but not an option in the Winter). The “if it’s yellow” policy is in effect 24X7. It’s shocking how much more water we use when we have company that aren’t accustomed to limiting their water use, like 1 extra person doubling or even tripling our normal usage. For backup we have a handpump on a separate well, but it’s about 250 yards away from the house, and a creek on public land that’s about the same distance.

  • ThatGuyinCa April 1, 2014, 9:47 am

    I love how you talk about how the human body can survive only 3 days without water and your 80 days should be enough to let nature take it’s course. Then the next paragraph mention that water is procurable when you run out. So you think everyone else is going to just sit around and die of dehydration when there is a water source nearby. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking your water stash. It’s very impressive and good for you. However, I wouldn’t use it until the procurable water is no longer procurable. THEN let nature take it’s course. Your stored water should be the only option left available before you start using it.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 9:59 am

      i fully expect people in the suburbs and the ones like it to dip from the ponds and do what they must. Hopefully they have filters and whats needed to use them since we have deer and wildlife like cars out here BUT the majority of the people in this metroplex live in the city and there are NO water sources easily for 25+ miles going from downtown.

      I’d much rather wait 80 days then go outside when i know for sure there will be less people[due to water & food starvation], less ammo[due to the shootings], and less fuel. All of these should make my night runs a little safer than when things first go nuts. I am NOT trying to be outside when all that happens.

      If i get extra fidgety i could buy 2 extra IBC totes and keep them in my shed for an extra 550 gallons for a total 1350 gallons to last 135 days.

  • Novice April 1, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I bought a Step 2 child trailer for my bike. It’s nice because it folds down into basically a flat bed. I can throw a piece of plywood on top and be able to carry about 15 gallons behind me with no maneuverability issues (assuming I could pull that much weight).

  • irishdutchuncle April 1, 2014, 1:40 pm

    maybe it’s going to be in the series tomorrow: a method for boiling the water?
    the iodine based tablets are said to have a short shelf life, and a worser taste than “too much” chlorine.
    depending on the emergency, we might want to saturate our thyroids with a non radioactive version of iodine, but we need to know if anyone is allergic to it beforehand. you may also wish to provide yourself with enough powdered drink mix to mask the taste.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Yessir! We have PLENTY of water flavoring to mix with the water. We like the ones you shake up in a bottle of water. They are 8 for $1 so we buy bunches of those with our regular grocery list.

      As a super basic method i have stockpiled tons of coffee filters so we could filter as much as possible out of water before boiling as a last resort.

      Truthfully i think the Sawyer Mini filters are the best option available for the money. 100,000 gallons that attaches to a Camelbak, water bottle, pouch is hard to beat for $20/each. They also have the kits that you can use the Sawyer filters in a bucket set-up.

      • irishdutchuncle April 1, 2014, 2:17 pm

        … that reminds me, I need a new bladder for my Camelbak. been leaning toward the Sawyer as opposed to the Lifestraw. I’d like to get down to REI or Cabelas and compare them in my hands, instead of on the web.

        • NoSox April 1, 2014, 2:39 pm

          I can tell you first hand the Sawyer is better and has more applications. When you buy it on Amazon the kits comes with the in-line filter, a straw to drink right out of the stream, a pouch to fill and drink through, and a cleaning flush.

          Sawyer is good for 100,000 gallons @ .1 microns filtration compared to 264 gallons @ .2 microns for the LifeStraw and they both are $20.

  • Pineslayer April 1, 2014, 2:00 pm

    I am not advocating breaking the law, but could city dwellers start digging their own wells in the backyard? There are some small well drillers out there. Put up a big tent for screening, blast some tunes to cover up the noise, use the dirt to “landscape”.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 2:24 pm

      I feel ya!

      There are tons of homes in my old neighborhood that have wells. I just looked it up online and a person just has to apply for a permit and once approved you’re good for household use which means no lawn watering, irrigation or livestock taps.

      I know every state isn’t like mine which allows private wells but in America people love to report things just because you’re doing something they don’t have the courage to do.

      Take a look at the link it may help feed your imagination:

  • smokechecktim April 1, 2014, 2:28 pm

    I have a well with submersible pump that fills a 5000 gallons tank(required by the Fire dept in our mountains). A second pump maintains house pressure with a 20-30 gallons tank. The only problem is that the way its wired I would have to hook the generator to the sub pump to fill the large tank, then attach the generator to the pressure pump to fill the small tank. Not much of a problem compared to others.

    • NoSox April 1, 2014, 2:47 pm

      That’s alot of water! How long does it take the pump to fill the big tank from empty?

  • Jacob @ April 1, 2014, 8:50 pm

    Another good article in this series. To me worries about water almost seem to trump those about food. Water is heavier and more critical to survival and takes up more space. Nice planning you have going here!

    • NoSox April 2, 2014, 9:53 am

      Thanks! Yes water i feel is more critical than food when you look at the big picture because its harder to come by depending on your location. Having the right skill set can put food on your table but not having either will put you in a bad spot though.

    • NoSox April 2, 2014, 10:08 am

      Rob & Chuck,

      Its a blessing to be near a source of water. I have a cousin that lives in Arizona and it’s night and day from other parts of the country. They have lakes as well but no where near like we do so I agree that water procurement is much higher on the list for someone like him than someone like us.

      I think the key is to remain well rounded and then focus on aspects that are particular to your location.

      Thanks for commenting! You guys are teaching me alot.

    • NoSox April 2, 2014, 10:08 am

      Rob & Chuck,

      Its a blessing to be near a source of water. I have a cousin that lives in Arizona and it’s night and day from other parts of the country. They have lakes as well but no where near like we do so I agree that water procurement is much higher on the list for someone like him than someone like us.

      I think the key is to remain well rounded and then focus on aspects that are particular to your location.

      Thanks for commenting! You guys are teaching me alot.

    • lateToTheParty April 3, 2014, 12:57 pm

      They should. :) You can go between 3 weeks and 2 months without food. 3 days without water of any kind. Rule of 3s
      Air: 3 minutes
      Shelter: 3 Hours
      Water: 3 days
      Food: 3 weeks
      Medical attention can trump all these but it’s so random I can’t assign it a 3. 3 minutes? 3 hours? 3 years?

      • irishdutchuncle April 4, 2014, 3:58 am

        hi, late To The Party.
        it’s about 3 seconds of carelessness/inattention.
        if you foul up badly enough, you may be beyond medical attention. someone can bleed to death in less time than suffocating…
        otherwise they often refer to the “golden hour” when dealing with trauma cases. keeping the victim from going into “shock”
        is key.

    • lateToTheParty April 3, 2014, 2:48 pm

      We live in the mid-south so we get a pretty good amount of rainfall. I have (2) 55 gallon rain barrels (full) plus about 100 gallons of ‘gray’ water and 80 gallons of potable water. The gray is in the ‘kitty litter’ containers from earlier – they got washed and sterilized and then flushed, then filled with bleached water. I figure with a filter and the CA(ClO)2 – Shock, Calcium Hypoclorite, just about anything can be made potable as needed.

      I plan on adding 2 more barrels and 40 more gallons of potable (in food grade containers) and maybe 100 more gallons of gray water. I’ve calculated that with our rainfall, our backup will last a good bit more than the average rain (every 2 weeks.) Also, if needed, we have at least 20 gallons of dishes to catch rain. There is a river nearby and I’ve thought of using the bike to transport also – just need cover.

      For filter I’ve got a Katadyn for camping, a couple of lifestraws for dire times, and plan on getting a Big Berkley or 2 when I can. Boiling water does very well at reducing critters etc in water, we’ve heard that 1 minute boiling is all that is need or 10+ is needed; I plan on 5 minutes.

      I’ve also worked on making a distilled water setup – NOTE from what I have read, distilled water is NOT for long term drinking. We live with all sorts of necessary and unnecessary minerals/metals in drinking water that we don’t get elsewhere. Although the “bad” minerals/metals are gone, so are needed ones. I plan on the distilling only as a last resort.

      Does anyone know if the trick with the bag over the tree limb causes damage to the tree if done often enough?

  • Rob April 1, 2014, 9:49 pm

    I live in Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes) and am only a couple miles from Lake Superior. Water procurement won’t be a problem. If need be, I could pull the motorhome up to the lake shore. Right now I use the 3 liter soda bottles from the dollar store for storing water, and cases of water from Sam’s (40 in a case).

  • Chuck Findlay April 1, 2014, 10:18 pm

    I don’t store much water, maybe 40-gallons. But being from Ohio it rains a LOT. Also there is a small stream within a few hundred yards, a large river within 2-miles and the biggest fresh water lake system on the planet within 5-miles. I have numerous water filters, the best one being the Katadyn Pocket Filter. Water is just not an issue here like it is other places.

  • John December 14, 2017, 1:16 am

    Very informative article, I love to read this content, Great work keep it up :)

  • Austin April 7, 2019, 1:02 pm

    We keep a good supply of the 5 gallon jugs (The kind you refill at Walmart or Lowes). We continually go through them, to make sure the water doesn’t go bad, and just refill 1 or 2 every week when we are getting groceries. To make sure they are water tight, we buy the snap on (one time use only) caps from Amazon:

  • Moon August 13, 2019, 2:51 pm

    We’re using best osmosis water filters to purify water.


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