Long-Term Water Storage Blueprint (Step-by-Step Guide)

For the average citizen, fresh running water is not just a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity. Every bathroom has a faucet that pours water on command so we can wash our hands. Each kitchen conveniently produces drinkable water. We even have our shower-heads spraying clean, hot water to refresh us after a long day.

Yes, water is abundant when times are good, but what happens when you stop drinking water?

Most first-world countries take running water for granted, and have no idea what life would be like without it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 35% of the world’s population lacks access to improved sanitation. 780 million civilians simply do not have access to any type of improved water source.
FEMA Civilian Prepared Chart

Are You Ready?

Consider a scenario that would force you to live off-grid and leave your family with close to nothing. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes cause this to happen much more often than you think. Who cares about not having Netflix or Facebook, your new life now contains absolutely ZERO electricity and NO running water. It’s not far-fetched – our grid goes down, electricity goes kaput, and running water instantly becomes a thing of the past.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reported that 60% of Americans have not practiced what to do in a disaster.


Can you honestly say your family is prepared if that clean, steady water supply to your house stopped flowing today?

Well, we most definitely are ready, and we’d like to give you some insight on our family’s plan. Furthermore, this is why we wholeheartedly believe in the old saying:

“Water is the Source of Life.”

Remember the Rule of 3’s

A good rule of thumb to help understand how crucial water is when SHTF is the rule of 3’s. Under certain conditions, the human body can survive 3 weeks without food. However, without water, you’re looking at 3 days max! Since the clock is always against us, water storage should be one of a prepper’s top priorities.

Water Ration Blueprint

Water Ration Step-by-Step Guide

Most people haven’t really prepared for any sort of doomsday scenario, and I don’t blame them. The resources out there on the internet are complex, messy, and hard to follow. Well, here’s what I have for you – a helpful, step-by-step guide for getting your water storage up to par. Please take the time to follow these steps and feel free to comment below.

Step 1: Determine HOW MUCH water you need.

The CDC recommends to be prepared with at least 1 gallon of water per person each day, for 3 days. Keep in mind that an average adult needs at least a half-gallon of water each day to remain hydrated. The other half-gallon will be reserved for cooking and hygiene.

If you have pets, the recommendation is to add an additional gallon for every 3 day period.

This is a general rule to start off with, but water intake can increase depending on various factors including:

  • Pets in the family
  • A hot climate
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Injury sustained to a family member
As for long-term water storage, I always say, “The more – the merrier.” Just keep reminding yourself that the clock is always against you – 3 days without water and you’re a goner.
Sum It Up: The key here is to PLAN ACCORDINGLY with the 1 gallon per day rule in mind. If you have a family of 5, you’ll undoubtedly need more water than if it’s just you and your dog.

Step 2: Decide HOW LONG you want your water storage to last.

OK, so you’ve done the smart thing and you’ve begun the process of preparing for a water shortage. In this step, it’s time to think about how long you need your water supply to last.

The general consensus by FEMA and the CDC is at a minimum, you should stock 3 days of potable water. How much water you decide to store is completely up to you. Most families are restricted by the amount of actual storage space in their house, garage, or shed. Now that you know how much you need in 1 day, scale it up and custom-fit it into your life.

H2O Breakdown:

Here’s an example of how I broke it down for my situation. First off, my goal was to prep for enough water to live comfortably for 1-2 months:

  • Our family consists of 5 members (3 kids and 2 adults).
  • There are no pets at home.
  • We don’t live in a hot climate.
  • There’s no plan for my wife getting pregnant.
  • That rules out 3 of the 4 factors for increased water intake!
That’s outstanding news so far!

Based on a 1 gallon a day formula, in order to gather enough water for 1-2 months, I would need approximately 150 to 300 gallons of water storage.

5 family members @ 1 gallon a day = 5 gallons per day

5 gallons a day @ 30 days = 150 gallons per month

  • We’re equipped with 6 – 55 gallon barrels which comes out to around 330 gallons. The barrels don’t get filled to the top so I’ll estimate the capacity of each at ~50 gallons bringing our new total to ~300 gallons.
  • We have also purchased 2 – 100 gallon WaterBOB pouches which we’ll talk about in more detail in a bit.
To Sum It Up: Our normal, everyday supply of emergency water is approximately 300 gallons which conservatively takes us out 2 months. But, we also have quick-fill WaterBOB’s that take us to 500 gallons. So we can conservatively say that we have enough potable water to exceed a 3 month supply. That is awesome news and very reassuring!

Step 3: Figure out which type of long-term storage solution works best for your situation.

Once the supply mains go down, it simply depends on how many people and how long. If it’s just you and your husband or wife then maybe a few cases of store-bought bottled water will suffice. They’re easily tucked away in your attic, garage, or even in that cupboard under the bathroom sink you never use. Because store-bought water bottles come tightly sealed, it is considered the safest, most reliable healthy source of H2O.

Note: Always store plastic water containers in a cool, dark place and replace every 6 months.
My Set-up:

We store nearly 300 gallons of clean, potable water in our garage and in our storage shed. In an emergency situation, we are equipped to quickly expand that number to 500 gallons. We have 2 separate water storage depots in order to always maintain redundancy – a back-up to the back-up.

Storage Rack

55 Gallon BarrelThe drinking water is stored in 6 disinfected 55 gallon barrels that sit on a 2×4 wooden frame I made. Each storage container is a BPA-free water barrel made from food-grade polyethylene which meets strict EPA guidelines. I’ve had good luck with this one since it comes with everything I need to get the barrel operational.


WaterBOBIn order to obtain the extra 200 gallons, we’ve purchased 2 – 100 gallon expansion tanks. They’re called WaterBOB and these bladders are meant to fit directly into your bathtub. When not in use, they fold up into a tight space the size of a shoe box. After buying this, I’ve dubbed it my new favorite prepping item.

7 Gallon Transfer Container

7 Gallon Transfer ContainerConsidered a necessity, this is just as important as the last two. This 7 gallon container lets you conveniently transport your water from your barrels to the kitchen, dining room or wherever need be. It comes equipped with a vent plug and a throttle valve to control flow.

To Sum It Up: The key here is preparation before starting a project. If you remain organize, things will go smoothly and you won’t stress yourself out like I do sometimes. This may seem like a little overkill to you, but trust me, the last scenario I ever want is having to decide who gets a sip of the last cup of water.

Step 4: When do I replace and refill my long-term water solution?

This is a question that lots of people answer differently. Theoretically, you shouldn’t ever have to replace your water supply if it’s been stored in the right location, under the right temperatures, and is 100% safe from contamination. At the end of the day, fresh water doesn’t technically have an expiration date. However, it is recommended to change the water every 6 months in the event that bacteria has begun to grow.

My Set-up:

To maintain fresh water, each 55 gallon barrel is rotated then flushed every 6 months. What I mean by “rotated” is that we actually use this as our drinking water even in times when there is no emergency. In order for barrels to be changed regularly, each barrel is updated with the fill date.

Other Important Things to Consider. Whether there are several hundred gallons of water stored away, or a few cases of water bottles, it would be wise to consider a bug-out scenario. Your family might have to flee in a time of disaster, leaving that precious water storage depot behind. In this emergent scenario, I highly recommend checking out this article on “Bugging-Out Within Minutes.” It will discuss topics like the pros and cons of the Sawyer Filter vs. the LifeStraw.

Let’s sum up what you learned:

  • No doubt – you are a goner after 3 days without hydration.
  • Stock a minimum of 1 gallon per person, per day.
  • Hot weather, pregnancy, & injuries increase water intake.
  • Store water containers in cool, dark places.
  • Replace your long-term water storage every 6 months.

Now it’s always in my nature to recommend preparing for long-term rather than short-term “anything.”  And if you know me, it is my absolute firm belief that you definitely will reap what you sow. Keep this in mind throughout your entire prepping journey, and you’ll be just fine. Remember that the more effort you give – the more comfortable you and your family will become.

Please comment and share to help me keep writing free posts for y’all :o)
I wish you all the best on your prepping journey.
Stay safe and take care.
Very Respectfully,
Jimmy Rourke

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Click the link below to see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed, my friend.

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Jimmy Rourke

I’m on a mission to give you simplified and actionable Emergency Preparedness advice. My commitment is to making sure the lessons can be easily followed by regular people with busy lives.

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