How to Store Water Long-Term as Safely as Possible

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Water is one of the most important necessities of life.

Not only does the human body need water to function, but you also need water to perform simple everyday tasks such as cooking and bathing.

This is why long-term water storage should be one of the first steps you take when preparing for any form of man-made or natural disaster. 

Failure to have access to safe drinking water will inevitably result in dehydration and eventually DEATH.

So let’s avoid the nasty side effects of dehydration by learning how to safely store water long-term.

How to Store Water Long-Term

If you’re unsure how to safely store water long-term then you’ve come to the right place!

However, before I teach you how to safely store water, let’s first learn how not to store water.

For starters, any type of plastic container that is NON-food grade should be avoided.

This includes any type of plastic that has a triangle with a #3 (PVC), #6 (PS), or #7 (Other) located somewhere on the container. These types of plastic will leach BPA into your water supply and are not safe for drinking.

Plastic Symbols
Look for one of the above symbols to determine the type of plastic

You also want to avoid using any type of container that was previously used to store a liquid that is considered toxic to humans. Even if there’s only 0.01% of the previous liquid left behind, it will ruin the water supply and make it unsafe to drink.

And yeah, yeah, I know… You can just clean it out and everything will be fine. Right?


It’s virtually impossible to completely clean a plastic container that previously carried a toxic liquid such as laundry detergent or shampoo. This is because the liquid will be permeated into the plastic itself and will leach into your water supply.

Milk Jugs should also be avoided as they’re biodegradable and will eventually fall apart and leak water all over your home or garage.

Best Containers for Long Term Water Storage

Now that you know which types of containers to not store water in, let’s learn which types of containers are the best for long-term water storage.

Plastic Containers

If you do plan on storing your water in a plastic container then make sure to only use a plastic that has either a #1(PETE), #2(HDPE), #4 (LDPE), or a #5 (PP) symbol listed somewhere on the container. These types of plastic are food grade and safe for storing water.

Now if you’re serious about your long-term water storage then you only want to use #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic containers.  The main benefit of using high-density polyethylene plastic is that it’s opaque in color. This helps to prevent sunlight from penetrating through the plastic and forming algae and bacteria in the water.

Most high-density polyethylene plastic containers are also blue in color to signify that they’re designed for long-term water storage. 

Some of the different forms of plastic containers that are available for long-term water storage are water jugs and barrel drums. The average size water jug is around 5-7 gallons and the average-sized barrel drum is typically around 55 gallons.

Glass Containers

Glass is and always will be one of the best ways to store food and water.

It can be easily cleaned and unlike some forms of plastic, you will never have to worry about anything leaching into your water.

The only three downsides to using glass for long-term water storage are that it’s heavy, breakable, and clear in color. This means that the light will be able to easily penetrate through the glass and speed up the aging process of the water. 

Stainless Steel Containers

Stainless steel is another great open for long-term water storage.

With stainless steel, you never have to worry about sunlight seeping through and slowly degrading your water. You also never have to worry about anything leaching into your water either.

The only two things you do have to worry about when using stainless steel for long-term water storage is that it’s heavy and that it will erode on the inside and cause corrosion if there’s chlorine in the water. This means no tap water can be used since there will be chlorine left behind from the treatment plant.

Bathtub (WaterBOB)

While it’s common knowledge amongst preppers to fill your bathtub whenever SHTF, there is one slight problem with this method of storing water.

It’s not sanitary! 

To fix this problem, all you need to do is invest in an affordable product known as the WaterBOB.

The WaterBOB is essentially a giant refillable bag that you place in a bathtub (or shower) and then fill it with water.

The refillable bag can easily hold up to 100 gallons of water, which is more than will be needed for most man-made or natural disasters.

Water Tanks

If you’re dedicated to prepping then you’ll want to invest in the best long-term water storage tool — the water tank. With a water tank, you can have a large amount of drinking water that’s safe and ready to go at all times.

Water tanks come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes too, so there’s bound to be at least one that fits your desired size and budget. 

Just make sure to invest in a water tank that is food grade and safe for storing drinking water. 

Canned Water

The best form of long-term water storage is canned water.

With an average shelf life of around 30-50 years, canned water is the perfect option for those who want to make sure they have access to safe drinking water for the long term future

Canned water was even used by the United States Civil Defense Program in World War 2, which is pretty cool if you ask me.


While it’s true that a well may not be considered a form of long-term water storage, a well is one of the best ways to obtain safe drinking water in times of need. 

However, if you plan on using a well in a grid-down scenario then you need to make sure you can access your water without having to use an electric pump.

A good alternative would be either a hand pump or a solar pump. 

Plastic Water Bottles

While plastic water bottles may not be the best for long-term water storage, they still can be a part of your water supply if used correctly. 

The advantage of having store-bought plastic water bottles in your water supply is that you will have access to portable drinking water at all times. This is perfect if you ever find yourself in a bug-out situation. 

The downside of using plastic water bottles is that they could leach BPA into your water if stored incorrectly or for too long a period of time. For this reason, only use plastic water bottles in your short-term water storage and constantly rotate through your supply. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know the best types of containers for long-term water storage, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how to store water long term. 

How Much Water Do You Need?

The average amount of water that a person needs a day is around 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women.

Depending on your daily activity level, you’ll typically ingest around a half-gallon of drinking water a day. The other half-gallon or so of water a day that you’ll need every day will be used for other necessities such as cooking and hygiene. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to use your drinking water for hygiene purposes as long as you have another source of water supply. Collected rainwater or water from a swimming pool will work perfectly fine.

What Is the Expiration Date on Water?

While water may not have an actual expiration date, it can go bad over time if not stored correctly. 

Water will also go stale in taste so it’s important to rotate your water supply every so often.

Stored tap water should be rotated around every 6 months in order to keep your water supply fresh and safe to drink.

Why Does Stored Water Taste Funny?

Stored water tastes funny because over time all of the oxygen in the water becomes depleted and causes the water to go stale or “flat”.

This is why you typically want to rotate your water supply every 6 months.

Should I Treat My Water With Chlorine?

As long as you rotate your water supply around every 6 months or so you shouldn’t have to worry about treating your water with chlorine.

However, if you do want to treat your water for safety reasons then it’s probably a good idea to wait until after you open your water container. 

Where Should I Store My Water?

Knowing where to store your water is extremely important if you want to make the water last as long as possible. Follow these guidelines below to ensure the longevity of your water supply.

  • Store out of direct sunlight
  • Store where the temperature is cool
  • Don’t store directly on concrete 
  • Store away from chemicals and gasoline

Can You Drink Water From a Swimming Pool?

While I would never recommend to anyone that they should drink water from a swimming pool, it may not be the worst idea if it’s your last option. 

Just make sure that the swimming pool uses chlorine instead of salt and that the chlorine level is under 4 ppm (parts per million). If it’s over 4 ppm, then the water isn’t safe for ingesting and should be filtered and purified before drinking.

Just be aware, in a grid-down scenario the water in your swimming pool is going to go bad relatively quickly.

Should I Boil Water Before Drinking?

If you believe your water is contaminated then it might be a good idea to boil your water before drinking. However, if the water seems perfectly fine then I wouldn’t waste the fuel to boil your water.

What to Do When You Run Out of Safe Drinking Water?

If you run out of safe drinking water then you need to make sure you have a backup plan ready in case you need to filter and purify water for drinking.

For me personally, I always make sure to have a portable water filtration system (Katadyn Hiker Pro for example), a few water purification tablets, and a pot for boiling water on me at all times.

This way I can always make sure that I have access to safe drinking water, even if I run out of drinking water.