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What Is the Cheapest Way to Store Water? | A Quick Guide

Access to potable water is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st Century. Although water covers almost three-quarters of the planet, only a tiny portion of it is fresh and available for humans. How to store it at home in the most cost-effective manner is a common concern among people building their emergency stores. So what is the cheapest way to store water?

Using plastic containers is the cheapest and most popular method of storing water.  However, saving water isn’t just a matter of economics. It is equally important to familiarize yourself with proper storage methods, containers, and water’s expected shelf life.

The rest of this article will briefly discuss factors impacting the availability of water, how much water to store, how long you can save it, and the cheapest way to store water.

Row of large bottles of drinking water in a garage

The Cheapest Ways to Store Water

There are three ways to store water: using stainless steel, glass, or plastic. Each method has its pros and cons. For example, stainless steel doesn’t leach chemicals into the water when exposed to heat and sun. However, stainless steel is expensive due to manufacturing and material costs.

Similarly, glass doesn’t leech chemicals into the water. For that reason, water tastes better when stored in glass. However, glass is fragile and not recommended for long-term storage. And glass is the most expensive way to store water.

Plastic is the most popular method of storing water and the cheapest. Plastic does leach chemicals into water over time and needs to be monitored for any water quality changes.

Additionally, there are a couple of ways of storing large amounts of water for emergencies:

  1. Emergency bathtub containers: These containers are water containment systems that hold up to 100 gallons of water in standard bathtubs in the event of an emergency. Although they safely store water for up to 16 weeks, they aren’t convenient as individuals must forfeit the use of a bathtub to use this product. WaterBOB manufactures a popular system that is BPA-free and made using FDA-approved materials.
  2. Storage tanks: 55-gallon emergency water barrels made with FDA-compliant materials are perhaps better for long-term water storage. Likewise, 5-gallon storage tanks are a great selection. Both of these options are stackable and BPA-free. Water Prepared makes a 55-gallon barrel, and Legacy Premium 5-gallon tanks are available for purchase individually or in sets of 2 to 6 tanks.

How Much Water Should You Store?

Unless something significant changes in the world in the next few years, the demand for potable water will exceed available supplies. Additionally, clean drinking water may not be readily available following a natural disaster. Preparing yourself by storing water ahead of time is essential to your family’s health and safety.

Government agencies like the CDC, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security recommend storing water for three days to two weeks at the rate of one gallon per person in your household.

For example, two people times three days (gallons) equals 6 gallons, and two people times 14 days (gallons) equals 28 gallons.

Number of people in the householdAmount of water required for 3 daysAmount of water needed for 14 days

However, that’s not the end of the story. Although the average person requires about three-quarters of a gallon of water daily, there are various circumstances to consider:

  • Sick people, nursing mothers, and children may need additional water.
  • More water may be necessary for warmer temperatures, and during the summer months, water needs can double.
  • Certain medical emergencies might necessitate the need for extra water per person.

Related How Much Emergency Water Should I Stockpile and Store Per Person?

What Are the Safest Containers for Storing Water?

The Centers for Disease Control and Treatment recommend using commercially packaged water in an emergency or shortage. For example, you can purchase a water package containing a three-day supply of water for one person online.

Individuals storing water should always use food-grade storage containers, so they don’t leech toxic substances into the water they are saving. FDA-approved water storage containers are available for purchase online.

For example, this set of emergency water and food storage containers is FDA-approved and BPA-free. (BPA, or bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical used on the production of plastic that is linked to possible health issues with children and increased blood pressure in adults.)

If you cannot purchase an FDA-approved water container for some reason, be sure you select one that has a cap that can close securely and is durable and not made of anything fragile like glass.

Additionally, do not reuse any containers previously used for the storage of toxic chemicals like insecticides, paints, or bleach.

Making Water Safe Before Storing It

Individual bottling water must disinfect and purify it before storing or using it. Water is made safe by adding disinfectants, boiling, distilling, or filtering it.

  • Disinfecting: Chemical disinfectants can be used to make water safer to drink. Be sure to look for water purifiers that are certified as USDA food-grade quality and National Sanitation Foundation approved like this water sanitizer kit by Well Safe.
  • Boiling: Boiling water is the best method of killing organisms that cause diseases like bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
  • Distilling: You can make water safe by distilling it, the process of boiling it, and collecting the steam in a clean container. (Click here for additional information about distilling water from the American Red Cross.)
  • Filtering: A variety of water filters are available online, including reverse osmosis filters, faucet mount systems, and filtered water pitchers.

How Long Can You Safely Store Water?

The amount of time you can safely store water depends on whether you purchased commercially packaged water or prepared and bottled the water yourself.

Commercially produced water does include a “best-by” date. However, the FDA sent a letter to Newark, New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka in 2019 that advised that there is no limit to the shelf life of water as long as it was “properly produced” and remained “unopened.”

On the flip-side, experts advise that if you bottle water, you should empty the containers and refill them with fresh water every six months.

Related Does Distilled Water Need To Be Refrigerated Once Opened?

Why Store Water?

Water scarcity is increasingly problematic. With water covering roughly 70 percent of the planet, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it will always be available. However, only about 2.5 percent of the world’s water is freshwater. Additionally, most of the world’s freshwater isn’t readily available to humans as it is stored in glaciers, ice caps, snow, and deep underground.

As a result, more than a billion people globally lack access to freshwater, and nearly three billion experience a scarcity of water at least one month of the year. Moreover, scientists expect about two-thirds of the world’s population to experience a shortage of water by 2025.

In short, as the world’s population grows, the demand for freshwater exponentially increases. The effects of climate change, land-use decisions, and the impact of industrial water use will exacerbate anticipated water shortages.

Likewise, natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes can create water shortages. For example, the three hurricanes that hit the United States in 2017, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria had a significant impact on water supplies as they:

  • Contaminated existing water supply systems,
  • Caused spikes in demand for bottled waters,
  • Halted or reduced operations at factories and retail stores due to damage and power outages,
  • Interfered with point-of-sale communication systems, and
  • Disrupted supply chains.

Additionally, other emergencies like dangerous lead contamination levels in the municipal water supply in Flint, Michigan, can create water shortages.

Understanding the need for adequate water storage methods by individuals at home is evident in light of this information.

The Wrap Up

We hope you enjoyed this article discussing the ins and outs of storing water for a shortage or emergency. Plastic containers are clear winners when it comes to cost. However, which system you choose will depend on the features desired.

If you found this article useful, you might consider bookmarking it for future reference.

For more, check out How Long Can You Keep Bottled Water in Your Car? (FDA Plan).