Water is essential to life. So essential, that you can’t live without it for very long. As a general rule-of-thumb, you will only survive three (maybe four) days without water. All the while, you’ll be miserable as your body slowly starts shutting down. What would you do if your access to water was suddenly cut off? Join us as we explore ways to prepare for this possibility.

Water Mania

When it comes to water storage, you have several options. There’s no right or wrong answer here. In fact, it comes down to what your needs are. Let’s explore some of the most common choices:

Bottle Bonanza

Why go through all the hassle to disinfect and store water, when you can literally buy it off the shelf? Honestly, you could… and probably should. But, this is a very short-term storage solution, so you’ll need to rotate your supply more frequently. Bottled water is cheap and convenient, but there are a few drawbacks, which prevent it from being a true long-term storage strategy.

The plastic used to manufactured bottles for water, is very thin and highly prone to UV damage — which means they’ll start to break down. You’ll also need to keep your bottles stored at a reasonably stable temperature, as they don’t tolerate pressure changes very well. Not only will they eventually rupture, crack, or leak, it’s been proven that chemicals from the plastic will start to leach into the water over a relatively short period of time.

Think of bottle water as a stop gap measure, and stock a small supply for easy transport and low-level or very short-term emergency situations.

Pouch for Pouch

We’re pretty sure you’ve seen water sealed in packets or pouches, and labeled “Emergency Drinking Water”. You’ve also probably wondered why they’re packaged that way, why they’re more expensive than bottled water, and maybe even what advantage they might have.

Pouches take up less space than bottles, are easier to ration, and highly portable. They’re considered a long-term storage option, for short-term emergencies, making them a perfect fit for bug out bags, travel kits, and generalized preparedness packs.

What makes them really shine though, is their durability and shelf life. Because they’re required to be U.S. Coast Guard approved, they can easily last for 5 years or more, and withstand extreme temperature fluctuations without bursting.

These can be a valuable part of a larger storage plan, but probably shouldn’t be the bulk of your emergency water supply. Think of these as a kind of insurance policy (store it, and forget it), a supplement to your water plan, or for specific uses such as for use in go bags, prep packs, or on hiking trips.

Ready, Set, Go

Water filtration bottles are a popular choice for instant hydration. They can also be shockingly pricey. It’s not the plastic container you’re paying for, it’s the guts inside that have value. High-quality filter bottles are capable of removing odors, toxins, sediment, and even many microbes (such as parasites, bacteria, protozoa and viruses).

Since these small marvels can provide hundreds if not thousands of gallons of safe, clean, drinking water, they can be considered a solution for both long and short-term situations.

Not all are created equal though, so you should always carefully read their disclaimers and familiarize yourself with their specifications. And in case you’re wondering, filtration bottles don’t magically make water out of thin air — you must still have access to a water source.

Aside from that, they’ll obviously work well in most disaster situations. Just don’t be surprised if you discover that they’re most frequently used by hikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts though. It’s the freedom from additional weight and baggage that they seek.

Consider this a flexible, portable, lightweight option. It’s also an excellent choice if you think you’ll have an abundant source of natural water, and want to save space in your emergency kit.

Small Wonders

Although water purification tablets sound like the way to go, they may not be a good fit for you. They’re inexpensive, readily available, and take up practically no space at all. So what’s the catch?

No, it’s not their effectiveness. They’re perfectly capable of sanitizing your water. Of course they won’t remove impurities or toxins, but they will destroy harmful parasites and microbes, making your water safe to drink. You won’t have to fear cholera, dysentery, typhoid or other water-borne diseases.

Here’s the downside: Some water purification tablets contain a form of stable iodine. Studies have shown that these can mildly impair the function of your thyroid if used excessively. The good news is, there are many tablets out there, which don’t use iodine as an active ingredient (such as the Aquatabs shown above). If you already have thyroid problems, stay clear of products containing ingredients such as tetraglycine hydroperiodide — they really shouldn’t be used by people with thyroid problems, unless there are no other water alternatives.

Water tabs are best reserved as an additional layer of protection. Keep these on hand for scenarios where stored water resources are limited, the weight of your emergency kit is a factor, or for when you won’t be able to transport large quantities of water.

Secret No More

Did you know you have a couple of hidden water reserves, that can be easily tapped in an emergency? It’s true. Your water heater and toilet tanks might be life savers if you failed to plan ahead. The water stored in your water heater is perfectly safe to drink, while the water inside your toilet tanks can be boiled and used for laundry and cleaning purposes.

Tapping the Tank

To use water from your hot water heater, first make sure you manually turn it off. You should also turn off the inlet valve, so contaminated water doesn’t enter the tank if water is suddenly restored. When you’re ready for water, open up a hot water faucet to allow air to enter the tank, and then open the drain valve at the bottom of your tank. You can attach a short garden hose to make accessing it more convenient, or filling your water container more easier.

Since the water will be coming from the bottom of the water tank, there will probably be mineral sediment, or a jelly-like substance from corrosion. This won’t harm you, but you might consider allowing the water to stand for a bit, so the sediment can settle in your pan or cobtainer.

Pro Tip: You can make simple but effective strainer to filter the sediment drained from a water heater. Find a 2 liter soda bottle, cut it in half, and stuff cotton balls into the opening of it. Pour water into the cut side, and let it drain out through the neck, which will trap the sediment.

Doing the Unthinkable

As unpleasant as it sounds, water from the toilet tank can be used as a last resort. You should always boil or sanitize it before consuming it as drinking water though. Water purification tablets, unscented bleach, or chlorine can make it safe to drink within about 30 minutes.

Going Old School

Last but not least, you could always prepare and store your own water. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be able to scale your supply to cover your needs during even the longest periods of a major water shortage.

Lost Bath or Last Bastion?

If you can predict an immediate need for drinking water, such as when a hurricane warning is issued, you can use your bathtub to store water if you are totally unprepared. Most bathtubs hold 65 gallons of water or more, and will provide an ample supply of water that can be used for flushing toilets, washing, and cleaning.

In a pinch, it can be relatively safe to drink and use for cooking without treatment. It’s simple enough (and recommended) to boil or sanitize the water just to make sure. Your biggest enemy in this situation, is leftover chemical residue from cleaning products. You should always scrub and rinse your tub before using it as an emergency water source.

Tomorrow is Yesterday

The ultimate goal is to prepare today, so that you’re ready for tomorrow. Filling a bathtub up with water, will only get you so far. What you really need, is a solution that ensures that you’ll always be ready for when the unexpected happens. For this, you’ll have to bottle and store your own long-term water reserve.

This isn’t difficult to do, but if you don’t do it properly though, there’s the potential to cause more harm than good — and that would defeat your preparedness plan entirely. If you want to learn more about how to safely store water, check out our article: Emergency Water – Becoming the Master of Storage.

Ready & Waiting

Now that you know what your options are, you’re ready to take the next step. And, if you’re ready to start building up your water reserves right now, why not think about adding these to your emergency kit:

Emergency Drinking Water

6 Emergency Drinking Water Pouches

$6.99 USD

Emergency Drinking Water

Collapsible Water Carrier

$8.99 USD

Emergency Drinking Water

Water Filtration Bottle

$29.99 USD

Emergency Drinking Water

Aquatabs Water Purification Strip

$2.49 USD