The world of Disaster Preparedness and Survivalists is rather a tense environment. Some of what they do in the name of preparedness can sound downright crazy to the uniniated. Storing tanks of water in the basement, for instance, sounds more like the actions of paranoia than a sound practice for the average family. For me, it’s all about practical living with a mind toward independence and survival should any crisis arise.

Rather than keeping extra jugs of water in my basement, I keep them in my crafting closet right next to my iron. The tricky thing about storing water in jugs is it only keeps for a few months before you start to run into problems. Any bacteria or organisms that may have been in the jug or the water when you filled it eventually starts to grow, leading to a potentially poisonous or unhygenic situation. Any chemicals in the jug you’re using can infuse into the water, too. We’ve all tasted bottled water that’s stood too long or in a warm area and started to take on that plastic flavor, right? That bad flavor comes from the chemical structure of the plastic starting to break down and infuse into the water. Maybe the FDA say’s it’s okay, but to me it sounds unsafe. I’d rather find a practical solution to rotating my water storage so it feels a lot less like prepping and a lot more like sound, practical living.

Keeping jugs of water in the closet next to the iron doesn’t stop water from taking on the flavor of its container or prevent it from developing bacteria or organism infections directly. What it does is give me a reason to use it and replace it regularly for pure practicalicality. I fill my iron with distilled water, as recommended by the manufacturer in fact, mainly so I always have a gallon or so of water at hand should disaster make the city water supply unaccessible. I replace it regularly, so I know it’ll be safe to drink if need be, but I don’t have to keep a schedule, waste water I’ve stored, or take time to lug those big jugs of stored water out of my basement to replace them.

If yours is a family on the go, especially with athletic practices that make carrying jugs of water a true practicality, keeping bottled water in your pantry can be a highly practical preparedness choice, too. Much like the gallon of distilled water in my crafting closet, you’ll go through it frequently enough to know it’s safe to use in an emergency. And, you’ll know you always have an extra gallon or two at your disposal.

Water filtration is another practical preparedness skill that’s useful for daily life. If hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities are on your list of favorites, it makes a whole lot of sense to invest in a few personal water filtration bottles. They’re available at many retail stores that carry hiking and camping supplies and are relatively cheap. Buy ’em and use ’em regularly so you know what you’re doing should crisis arise and you actually have to rely on them.

Having a good water filtration system for household use makes a lot of sense, too. Take the time to do your homework and ensure that the filter for the system you choose filters out microscopic organisms as well as chemicals. If crisis arises and your fresh water supply is compromised, you want to know your filter will be enough to ensure your family safe drinking water. Plus, for daily use it’ll help you and yours stay healthier to boot.

Chlorine bleach is another water prep supply I always keep on hand. It takes as little as a few drops of bleach to purify a gallon of water, making it safe for consumption or first aid use. That bleach, however, has to be of the pure chlorine variety. The non-chlorine bleaches that preserve the colors of your laundry won’t kill the bacteria and germs chlorine bleach does. Purity is vital here, no perfumes, addatives, or extra stabilizers or chemicals should be listed on the ingredients list of the bleach you buy. You’ll also want to be sure it’s chlorine bleach as opposed to another type because the chemicals used in the other types are not safe for human consumption in any quantity while chlorine in small quantities is.

Just like with stored water, you’ll want to use and replace your bleach regularly. Over time, the chlorine bond breaks down, weakening the serilization power of the solution to the point where it becomes ineffective. In my household, we buy smaller jugs of bleach because we don’t use it often in our cleaning solutions and laundry; a half gallon lasts us six months or so, about the recommended time frame for replacing it anyway.

How Much Water Do You Really Need on Hand?

When thinking about how much water to keep on hand, advice varies wildly. Some preppers advise five gallons per family member while others say 270 gallons or more. A practical approach is to take a look at your monthly water bills. How much do you go through on average during the spring or fall, when you’re less ikely to be watering outdoor plants or filling the kiddie pool? If you’re disciplined enough, you can spend a week or two monitoring and recording your fluid consumption to get a good feel for your average intake, too. After you’ve got a good idea, compare your daily use figures to the general recommendations and adjust as makes sense for the number of days you’re prepared to be without city services in a catastrophic event.

In the past, agencies like FEMA have recommended you prepare for 72 hours without standard city services in the event of an emergency. In our CERT training class, they said that recommendation is changing. Based on studies of disasters here and abroad, the experts are rethinking how long most folk will need to sustain themselves in an emergency. Two weeks is probably closer to accurate than three days. The general rule of thumb is you’ll need a gallon of water per adult per day, and then a lot more for washing, cleaning, and non-consumption needs. Your pets will need water, too. Keep in mind pets like dogs and cats can digest water that’s less clean than we can, so you may not need store pure water or plan to filter water for them.

With all that in mind, let’s assume you’re preparing for up to 2 weeks or 14 days without city services. For a family of four with a large pet, that adds up to about 56 gallons for the humans plus more for washing, cleaning, and other non-drinking needs along with dog drinking water.

Practical Application: My Family’s Water Storage Plan

In our house, we have a 55 gallon hot water tank. That plus the gallon in my crafting closet and the couple of gallons of bottled water in the pantry make up enough to get us through two weeks for drinking at least. Rain casement and the five gallons in the toilet tank are my non-drinking water supply. Coupled with that chlorine bleach and the personal water filtration bottles and jugs I mentioned, they make a back-up water supply should we need to stick it out more than 14 days. While that may seem like a slim plan by professional prepper standards, it’s one fits comfortably and practically in my lifestyle.

Whether you’re preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse or not, it makes a lot of sense to include a few practical preparedness skills and practices in your daily life. Finding several good, easy ways to store and use a few gallons of clean water each month is exactly one of those kinds of practical prepper practices we can all use…and we don’t need to be worried about the end of the world to benefit from it because it’s just plain common sense.

For More Info… has a terrific article on Water Storage.

The Center for Disease Control has a good article on water for preppers.

The Art of Manliness’s article on water storage gets a little extreme but has some really good, practical information.