How Much Does a 55 Gallon Drum of Water Weigh?


As you probably know, water is very heavy. It doesn’t take long for it to add up to something that is extremely hard to move around. This is especially true for large drums of water.

A 55-gallon drum of water weighs about 458.7 lbs or 208.06 kg. To figure this out, you multiply the weight of one US liquid gallon (8.34 pounds or 3.78 kilograms) with the capacity of the drum (55 gallons.)

Do note, however, that the answers may vary according to several factors. I’ll cover all the bases by discussing the differences below.

What Factors Affect the Weight of a 55-Gallon Drum of Water?

The gallon measurement, water type, and water temperature affect the weight of a 55-gallon drum of water. The drum material will also have an impact on the overall weight (e.g., plastic weighs less than steel).

Technically, gravity plays a role in the calculations too. The weight of a 55-gallon drum of water will be different on earth compared to the moon or the planet Jupiter!

Gallon Measurements

The example above uses a US liquid gallon (US gal), which is often used in weighing the water and other liquids. 

That said, the answer above is applicable if you live in the Americas. But if you live in other countries, you may come up with another solution. That’s because other nations use other gallon measurements, such as the imperial gallon. 

US Liquid Gallon

As mentioned, the US gal is what’s used to measure liquids in the Americas. The US adopted this measurement from the old wine/Queen Anne gallon, following its independence from Great Britain. 

For each US gal, you get 231 cubic inches or 3.78 liters of liquids. Given these numbers, the US liquid gallon is 16.6% lighter than the imperial gallon. 

US Dry Gallon

A dry gallon is equal to ⅛ of the dry measure of the US Winchester bushel. This bushel measures 2150.42 cubic inches or 35.23 liters. 

Therefore, a US dry gallon measures 268.80 cubic inches or 4.40 liters.

As with the liquid gallon, the UK gallon is the US adaptation of an old UK measurement (Winchester or corn gallon.) 

True to its name, the dry gallon is used to measure ‘dry’ products such as berries, apples, or grapes. 

Imperial Gallon

In the UK and most Commonwealth countries, the imperial gallon (imp gal) measurement is used. It has a volume of 277.5 cubic inches or 4.54 liters.

Before the advent of the imperial gallon, the UK used various gallon measurements. 

One example is the ale gallon, which weighed 4.62 liters or 282 cubic inches. As the name suggests, it was used to measure beer during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. 

The Winchester or corn gallon, on the other hand, weighed 268 cubic inches or 4.40 liters. This type of measurement was used in the late 15th century under the reign of King Henry VII. 

The Queen Anne or wine gallon is smaller, measuring only 231 cubic inches or 3.78 liters. Its use started way back in the 14th century. However, Queen Anne made it a statute in 1707 – hence the name. 

Type of Water

You could put various types of water in your drum, including freshwater and saltwater. 

Freshwater

A type of water with low salt content – less than 1% concentration. It comes from the water vapor precipitation (rain, snow, or mist.) 

This liquid is often found in ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers, representing less than 0.01% of the water on the earth’s surface. Most freshwater – 1.75 to 2% – is locked in ice, snow, or glaciers. About 0.5 to 0.75% is retained in soil moisture. 

Saltwater

Saltwater is created when freshwater moves inside the land. The flow erodes the rocks and their minerals, which are then channeled to the oceans and estuaries.  

Despite its name, saltwater content is not limited to sodium chloride (table salt.) It also contains other salts and minerals, particles that make saltwater denser/heavier than freshwater. Saltwater constitutes most of the water on the earth at 97%. 

How Much Does 1 Gallon of Water Weigh?

At the temperature of 62 °F or 17 °C, the weight of one US gallon of fresh water is 8.34 lbs or 3.78 kg. This weight may change according to temperature. Hotter water will be lighter, and colder liquids will be heavier. 

How Much Does Saltwater Weigh per Gallon?

Each gallon of saltwater weighs about 8.5 lbs or 3.85 kg, compared to freshwater, which is only 8.34 lbs or 3.78 kg. This is because saltwater is denser, which makes it heavier than freshwater.

Considering these measurements, a 55-gallon drum of saltwater will be heavier at 467.5 lb or 211.75 kg.

The added weight is attributed to the salt and minerals, which take 3.6% of the water’s weight. For every gallon of saltwater, you’ll get about 0.28 lb or 0.13 kg of salt and other particles. 

Next, we will talk about how temperature affects water. 

Temperature

When you heat water, you boost its energy. The molecules end up colliding, producing more space between each other. This results in decreased water density.

Cold water, on the other hand, is denser due to the process of hydrogen bonding.

In simpler terms, hot water is lighter than cold water. This is why when you swim in a pool or the ocean, the hotter water is near the surface, while the colder water is deeper. 

In one article,  the author did a little experiment by comparing the weight of hot water and cold water. 

The results show what scientists expect: a pint of hot water only weighed 1.16 lbs or 0.53 kg. A pint of cold water, on the other hand, was heavier at 1.23 lbs or 0.56 kg. 

That’s why when you boil a gallon of water to 200 °F (or 93.33 °C), it will only weigh 8.04 lbs or 3.64 kg.

Ice: Less Dense Than Water

As mentioned, temperature affects the weight of water. Cold water is ‘heavier’ than hot water, so the former remains at the bottom of the latter.

Despite this setup, water that approaches freezing temperature – aka ice – is ALWAYS less dense than hot or cold water. The best example of this is the iceberg you see floating on the water. When water freezes, its density decreases by 9% because it undergoes structural changes. 

In liquids, molecules are spread out far. But in ice, the molecules arrange in a lattice formation, thus making the material less dense. 

Taking this formation into account, a gallon of ice would only weigh 7.59 lb or 3.44 kg. That said, a 55-gallon drum of ice would be lighter at only 417.45 lb or 189.2 kg. 

‘Heavy’ Water

So about the ice that sinks on the bottom of your water glass?

According to the US Geological Survey, it’s something that speaks for itself: heavy ice. It’s made with heavy water, which is 10.6% denser than the common freshwater. 

Heavy water or D2O forms when hydrogen atoms are replaced with deuterium, a hydrogen isotope that contains only one neutron and one proton. 

Heavy water is often used as a neutron moderator in power plants. In laboratories, it is used as an isotopic tracer. 

As the name alludes, heavy water is, of course, heavier than freshwater. Each gallon weighs about 9.22 lb or 4.18 kg, so a 55-gallon of heavy water weighs about 507.1 lb or 229.9 kg. 

Gravity

Weight is the force exerted by gravity on an object’s mass. In other words, it corresponds to the strength of gravitational pull on the object. 

Gravities vary according to planets. The earth has a gravity of 9.8 m/s2. The moon’s gravity is only 1.62 m/s2, while Jupiter has a whopping gravity of 24.79 m/s2.  

Because of these variations, a 55-gallon drum of water will be lighter on the moon. And, as expected, it will be heavier on Jupiter. 

According to the Exploratorium website, the following are the measurements of a 55 US gal of fresh water—on other planets:

  • Moon: Based on the moon’s gravity (as mentioned above,) the weight of a 55-US gal of freshwater here is 76.1 lb or 34.51 kg.
  • Mercury: The gravity of the first planet is 3.7 m/s2, thus making the 55-gallon water weigh 173.3 lb or 78.60 kg.
  • Venus: The water here weighs 416 lb or 188.69 kg. since the gravity on this planet is only 8.87 m/s2.
  • Mars: Although Mars is somehow the earth’s twin, the gravity here is only 3.71 m/s2. This makes for a 55-gallon water weight of 172.9 lb or 78.42 kg.
  • Jupiter: On the biggest planet in the solar system, a 55-gallon of water will weigh 1159.5 lb or 525.94 kg.
  • Saturn: The ringed planet has a gravity of 10.44 m/s2. As such, a 55-gallon drum of water here weighs 488 lb or 221.35 kg.
  • Uranus: The planet’s gravity is slightly weaker compared to that of the earth at only 8.69 m/s2. As a result, a 55-gallon of water here will weigh only 407.7 lb or 184.92 kg.
  • Neptune: Gravity in Neptune is more robust at 11.15 m/s2. Thus, water weighs heavier here at 516 lb or 234.05 kg.
  • Pluto: As the furthest planet, Pluto only has a gravity of 0.62 m/s2. Here, water is the lightest at only 30.7 lb or 13.92 kg. 

While you may not be measuring water on another planet soon, it’s helpful to know how gravity affects weight measurements. 

Type of Drum

Drum on Top of a Scale

Although the weight of water is the primary concern here, many people tend to forget about the weight of the drum itself. 

A steel drum will weigh 48 lbs or 22 kg. A plastic one weighs lighter at 25 lb or 11 kg. 

Considering this, a steel drum containing 55 gallons of water will weigh 506.7 lbs or 230 kg. 

As for 55 gallons of water in a plastic drum, the weight will be 483.7 lbs or 219 kg. 

Steel and plastic are only two of the many materials used to make 55-gallon drums. Other types include:

  • Fiber drum. This drum, which is made of fiberboard, has a removable plastic or steel cover. It weighs approximately 17 lbs or 7.7 kg.
  • Red plastic drum (open or closed). The color red is molded onto the plastic itself so it won’t rust or peel. This type of drum weighs about 22 lbs or 10 kg.
  • Nestable plastic drum. This comes with tapered walls to help reduce the space it occupies. Nestable drums weigh about 24 lbs or 10.8 kg.
  • Lined steel drum, open top. The lining prevents contamination, so you don’t have to disinfect the drum after use. Since it’s lined with steel, it can get as heavy as 45 lbs or 20 kg.
  • Stainless steel drum, open top. This type of drum is known for its tensile strength and resistance to corrosion. It is the heaviest drum available since it weighs 50 lbs or 23 kg. 

Similar to what was done above, all you need to do is add the drum’s weight to the weight of 55 gallons of water (458.7 lbs or 208.06 kg). By doing so, you will get the total weight of the water – and the drum you’re using. 

Final Thoughts

A 55-US gal drum of freshwater weighs 458.7 lbs or 208.06 kg. This is not a fixed measurement, though, since several factors can affect the weight. They include the unit of measure, type of water, and temperature. 

The weight may also vary according to the type of drum (e.g., steel vs. plastic.)

That said, it’s essential to consider all these factors to get an accurate measurement of a 55-gallon drum of water.

Thanks for reading! For more, check out What Is the Cheapest Way to Store Water? | A Quick Guide.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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