Feb 19

Water Storage Calculations

The rule of three: 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 hours without sheltersand 3 minutes without air.  If someone manages to meet any one of those criteria unfortunately that means they will probably be passing into the next life to meet their maker.  In most SHTF situations air will still be abundant but water might not be, and since you can only survive 3 days without fresh drinking water that puts it near the top of the “must have” items on any survival inventory sheet.

Quite often we overlook water storage considerations because unlike food (which we have to go out and obtain) water is almost always available.  It comes out of the tap with the turn of a knob, we use gallons of it to water our lawns and wash our cars without giving it a second thought.  Water is everywhere and abundant and so we take it for granted.  Yet if any number of very plausible SHTF events occur, from natural disasters to a grid down scenarios, potable water will instantly become a highly prized possession.  Remember when the grid goes down the pumps stop working (the water stops flowing) and that is bad news for the family with a few bottles of sports drinks and half gallon of milk in the fridge.

So how much water should you have on hand?  I’ve read estimates that state for every person you should plan on 1 to 4 gallons per day of consumption (drinking, cooking, sanitation etc).  For the sake of this exercise let’s call it 2 gallons per person, per day and let’s assume you have a family of 3 and a pet dog.  You’ve been pretty religious in your preps and have the following on hand when considering water storage:

– Twenty 1 Gallon Water Jugs.
– Four packs of water bottles (3 gallons each).
– Two 55 gallon barrels of treated water (5 year shelf life).
– One Water Bob which you can put in the bathtub, 60 gallons of storage space.

Total: 202 Gallons of Water for your family of 3 (and a pet).

The S Hit’s The Fan next week and you have to start digging into your stash.  When you conducted your last inventory of your supplies you felt pretty confident about your water storage solution but now it’s time to start using what you have on hand (thankfully you were able to fill up the water bob before the taps ran dry) and it’s going much faster than you anticipated.  It’s simple math really.  3 people X 2 gallons per person, per day = 6 gallons used per day.  202 gallons on hand divided by 6 = 33 days of water on hand.  Factor in what your pet consumes and let’s round that down to 30 days of drinkable water on hand after SHTF.  Seems pretty inadequate doesn’t it?  After all if you only had 30 days of food storage on hand you would call that irresponsible, but somehow you overlooked the fact that you only had 30 days of water storage on hand.

While you might have several hundred dollars invested in water filtration/purification devices those have to be filled up from a local source, which means you have to hump down to the lake or stream and physically bring back the water in order to use it.  Hauling water every day could get old very quickly, not to mention there would be hazards associated with going out to obtain water should T-SHTF.

Here’s the deal: Make sure you have enough water on hand!  Do no underestimate the importance of having plenty of water stored in or near your home so that you will be able to access it if T-SHTF.  I understand it is very inconvenient to store water as it is heavy and takes up quite a bit of space.  Yet I would think that it would be even more inconvenient to realize that you underestimated your water consumption rate during a time when your family needed it to survive.


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    • Ditch Doctor on February 19, 2013 at 8:01 PM
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    I like your rule of 3’s and agree with everything you state, but can you ever have enough water stored.
    We store food to supply us for 6 months but how can you store 6 months of water for a family of four?
    I’m not talking about the guy on Doomsday Preppers with the missle silo, I’m referring to an average family in suburbia USA.
    After 5 weeks, I’m high and dry.
    I have reconned my neighborhood and found 2 nice ponds nearby so I plan to use my 3 water filters after my water supply runs out.
    What else would you suggest?
    Thank you and God bless.

      • PJ on February 19, 2013 at 10:26 PM
      • Reply


      There really is no perfect solution unless you have unlimited storage space and funding. I think that adding more 55 gallon containers (at around $100 ea) is a good way to slowly build capacity, but they are heavy and moving them would be almost impossible. At the end of the day no matter how much you store it is bound to run out which is why it is important to do what you have done, recon sources of water local to your area.

      I think more than anything this post was meant to be a pseudo wake up call, to help people understand that we might not have as much water as on hand as we would like to believe.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Lux on February 21, 2013 at 10:09 AM
    • Reply

    I am not planning on moving my 55 gallon barrels. I have plenty of ¼ “ Polyethylene
    Tubing on hand to siphon out water as needed into a smaller container. Plus you can buy hand pumps designed for use with 55 gallon barrels. The tubing is good stuff to have around. From time to time I need to siphon some gas out of my car for the lawn mower. The ¼” tubing is small enough to bet down in the tank. I have used this on several cars over the years and ¼”has been small enough to work on all of them. I use the translucent white tube so I can see where the gasoline is in the tube.

      • PJ on February 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM
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      Most kits come with the hand pumps (I know mine did) which makes it easy to access the water. I think each barrel (when full) weighs in excess of 375lbs which makes moving it (during a Bugout) pretty impractical, but for basement storage they are great.

    • Lewis Smith on August 12, 2014 at 9:34 PM
    • Reply

    Emergency Essentials has very nice 25 and 100 gallon water storage boxes..VERY neat…………5 gallons per box………….easy to store and easy to move around…

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