How to Go About Stocking Up on Water and the Mistakes We Must Avoid

Water Cisterns

Water is vital to our existence and our survival, no matter what you are facing.

Unfortunately, it is also overlooked by many survivalists or their needs is vastly under estimated; here are some tips to make sure that does not happen to you!

How NOT to Store Water

Let’s get some misconceptions out of the way.

First, just because the water is clear doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. Contaminants are often colorless, and no one likes drinking poison (or parasites).

Two, water DOES NOT have a real expiration date. But that doesn’t mean that you can rely on the same water stored in the same container forever – even if stored in perfect conditions.

And three, yes, you can die if you do this wrong. It’s simple to store water safely for the long term, but if you do it wrong, 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).

For that exact reason, before we get into how you should store water I’m going to explain how you should NOT.

DO NOT store water in anything besides food grade containers.

I am going to repeat that throughout this article so many times it is going to make your head hurt. ONLY FOOD GRADE CONTAINERS!

I know, those Home Depot buckets are cheap. They 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 if food grade several ways:

1. Plastics #’s 1, 2, 4, 7 are the plastics used for food grade containers. You can find this number in the little triangular recycle symbol on the bottom.

2. Also on the bottom, there’ll be a symbol indicating 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 to indicate that you can put food and water in there.

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

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

Even if you’ve washed it out a thousand times! It’s extremely difficult (maybe even impossible) to rinse out all the sugars and bacteria left over.

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

DO NOT store water in cardboard containers. I know that sounds obvious – but I’ve seen boxed water before, and that cardboard crap won’t last very long. Don’t rely on it for long-term water storage.

DO NOT store water in metallic containers that aren’t stainless steel. If it isn’t stainless steel, it will corrode, and your water goes bad, fast. Rusty water is gross and not what you want here.

DO NOT try to store water in something that cannot be sealed. With only a few rare exceptions, storing open water is a bad idea because it’s open to contamination. Particles from the air, animals, and insects can fall into your water. Bird poop in your survival water is no good.

DO NOT store it in anything that has the chance of becoming contaminated. If you have any doubt the container could become compromised, don’t store water in that container. 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 enemy of water storage and will contribute to faster spoilage. UV rays and heat is hard on plastic, and sometimes even glass can leach chemicals.

The Right Way To Do Water Storage

Now that you know what you shouldn’t do, and what rules to follow, this part will be simple.

The first things to discuss are containers. You already know the container needs to be sterile and food safe. But even within those parameters, there are a lot of choices. So, let’s delve into what materials you CAN use for storing water long-term.

Commercially, there are a lot of water storage containers options on the market. And they come in all different shapes and sizes.

What material you use, and what size you get is all dependent on:

• How much storage space you have

• What your budget is

• How many people you plan on sustaining with your water supply

• How long you’ll need water for

• Where you live and your geographic relativity to freshwater sources

So, here’s a variety of water containers available on the market for long-term water storage:

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 because it’s the most obvious choice.

Unfortunately, plastic also has some serious disadvantages too.

For one, there’s a growing fear among food scientists that plastic leaches chemicals into water over time. This is especially true if introduced to direct light or heat.

But, if stored properly there’s less risk of these problems (so long as you occasionally replace your water) – we’ll hit details on this later.

Glass Containers

You can always trust glass, just sanitize it before putting your purified water into it.

Glass is classified by the FDA as “GRAS” which stands for “Generally Regarded As Safe”… so take that with a grain of salt.

If you’re hoping to repurpose an old glass container, but it was used to store anything else in a previous life, it’s best to find a different container.

The big disadvantages to glass are it’s heavy and breaks easily. But it can last forever, is dishwasher friendly, easy to come by, easy to sterilize.

You can reduce the chance of breakages by wrapping your stored glass containers with newspaper and cardboard.

Stainless Steel Containers

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 also tend to be heavy.

You also must be careful what you put inside them. If you store tap water that’s been treated with chlorine, it 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 that your stainless-steel container is FOOD GRADE or FOOD SAFE!

Large Water Cisterns

They are big, they are expensive, and they never move once in place! But if you have a water cistern hooked up you’re going to be set on drinkable, usable water for a very long time.

Cisterns can hold anywhere from 1,500 gallons of water to tens of thousands of gallons.

This is pretty much the ultimate water storage tool.

Store Bought Plastic Water Bottles

Store-bought plastic water bottles are suitable for storing water on a short-term basis only. But this is an acceptable option if you have a diligent water rotation plan in place.

In a survival situation, you have about three days that you can go without water; you will start to degrade much earlier, but generally, three days is the limit your body can survive.

That means you have to store water, store enough water and store it properly or you will be facing a situation where you do not have it, do not have enough or it is not safe to drink!

To learn more about water storage, check out Skilled Survival.


  1. John Alexander Stanford said:

    Any advice for an apartment dweller with a non climate controlled storage unit living outside of houston tx? With the goal of prepping for food/water storage for four people and for 90 days.