Safely Store Water + How Much is Enough?

We take so many things for granted, like running water in the home.

Wakening up to no water this morning (water main break in Ellicott City, Maryland) meant it was time to break out a gallon of stored water.

I noticed a "Use by" date near the bottom of the water jug. If you store water for such emergencies, it's a good idea to rotate the jugs out every year or so to help ensure the water is safe to drink.

How Much Water Should be Stored?

As with so many things in life, that depends. In checking with the CDC, they recommend storing 1-gallon per person per day, with a 3-day minimum. My practice is to store enough water to last for 2-weeks.

Here's the CDC's guidance from

Live Safe Today... and every day!

Steve Carter

May 17, 2017



If a disaster strikes your community, you might lose access to clean water. Take steps now to store emergency water supplies and learn other useful tips for getting water in an emergency, so you and your family have water with which to drink, cook, and wash.


Store enough bottled water for everyone in your household.

  • You need at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 days. A normally active person needs to drink at least one half gallon of water each day. You will also need water to clean yourself and to cook. (This means a family of four needs 12 gallons of water in their emergency supply.)
  • Keep in mind that the following groups may require more water:
    • Children
    • Pregnant women
    • People who are sick
    • People living in hot climates
  • Don't forget about pets!
    • Cats and dogs typically need 1 gallon for 3 days.


Pre-packaged bottled water is the safest option for your emergency water supply.

There are two ways to get your emergency water supply:

  • Buy pre-packaged bottled water (the safest, most reliable option).
    • Do not open the containers until you're ready to use them.
    • Check expiration dates on store-bought bottled water throughout the year. Replace as needed.
  • Fill your own containers of water.
    • Use food-grade water storage containers, like those found at surplus or camping supply stores. If you cannot buy this type of container, you can use 2-liter plastic soda bottles.
    • Always completely clean your containers before storing the water.
    • Do not use the following for water storage:
      • Containers that have ever held anything poisonous
      • Containers that can break easily, like those made of glass
      • Containers without a tight seal
      • Containers, like milk jugs, that can be hard to clean
      • Containers made of plastics that break down over time, like milk jugs
    • Store all water in a cool, dark place in your home, office, and car.
    • Replace water every 6 months.

How to clean containers for water storage:

  1. Wash containers with dishwashing soap.
  2. Rinse with water.
  3. Mix 1 teaspoon of household bleach with 1 quart (1/4 gallon) of water.
  4. Swish the solution around in the container. Make sure it touches all inside surfaces.
  5. Rinse again with clean water.


Stay Hydrated. In an emergency, drink at least 2 quarts (half of a gallon) of water each day. Children, pregnant women, people who are sick, and people living in hot climates should drink more —as much as a gallon.

Do Not Ration Water. Never risk dehydration. Dehydration can cause serious health problems. Even if water supplies are running low, drink the amount you need today and look for more tomorrow.

Only Drink Clean Water. If you run out of safe drinking water in an emergency, there are steps you can take to make contaminated water safe to use. Visit CDC's Healthy Water website for instructions on how to make water safe for drinking or cooking. Untreated water can make you very sick, because it often contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and germs. Never drink flood water.

Protect Your Home. Learn where the water shut-off valve to your home is. If you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines, shut off the water to your house in order to avoid letting unsafe water enter your home.