Potable water means it’s safe to drink, and all living things need water to survive. Each person should consume  about one half-gallon/two quarts of clean water daily.


Normally water is immediately available from the tap, refrigerator or bottles, and we buzz through our busy days dispensing it to cook, clean, bathe, brush our teeth, water the animals and more.


Ancient-Greek scientists named water as one of the four elements of life that make up all matter, including us humans. These and many other facts make it feasible to consider emergency water supplies, especially when many of us feel uncertain about resources and fear any number of crises, like natural disasters, hitting our household, neighborhood, city, state, etc.


Water’s Importance on Survival

So how important is water? The human body is 75% water, which says a lot about why we need so much of it to stay hydrated and function efficiently. Humans can do without food much longer than they can survive without water, though the scientific opinions vary on the specific amounts of time. Survival without water depends a lot upon the individual characteristics of a person such as weight and health, as well as the climate in which they live.



Generally, someone might survive for 100 hours without water in average temperatures and at a low activity level. That amount of time might be much more if it’s cold and the person is relatively still, but it also could be much less time if it’s searing hot and the person is active — like walking, for example. Stories of amazing survival abound, but it helps to be conscious of the possibilities and think ahead regarding need, usage and how you would find drinking water for emergencies.


Food on the other hand, is important but not as vital. The good news for anyone who is overweight and facing possible starvation is that our extra pounds are like calories in the bank for use. The more we have, the better off we’ll be. A person of average weight and in reasonably good health has been known to survive for a month without food.


Ironically, our bodies tell us about hunger in a more obvious and persistent way than about thirst. When we need food, our stomachs growl. Our blood sugar may also drop, and our hands might shake a little.


We tend not to notice as much when we’re thirsty, especially if we’re not exerting ourselves. However, though exercise and hot temperatures produce an even greater need for water, people of all ages, activity levels and environments need enough of it every day.


Disaster Prep and Drinking Water

Anyone who has been camping or has had the water cut off for any reason at home or work knows a lack of water can become a big problem fast. The importance of water can hardly be overstated because access to water is a matter of life and death, not of convenience or comfort.


We use and lose water routinely each day when we breathe, urinate, sweat or excrete waste, and that fluid must be replenished or we’ll begin to function at less than 100%. Without water, the body undergoes various stages of dehydration and eventually dies.


Many people have directly or indirectly experienced the possible effects dehydration, such as:


  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Weakness
  • No energy
  • Muscle cramps
  • No sweat
  • Loss of consciousness


Water can quickly become the number-one concern in any kind of water shortage whether it is quick and temporary or long and extended. This list of “what can happen” to interrupt water supply contains many kinds of unexpected catastrophes and crises, including:


  • Earthquake
  • Hurricane
  • Mudslide
  • Fire
  • Tornado
  • Blizzard
  • Burst/broken pipe
  • Explosion
  • Flood
  • Sinkhole
  • Terrorism
  • System malfunction
  • Contamination


Everybody worries about something different and probably for good reason. From “doomsday” events and government failures to tornadoes and other bad storms, nobody wants to be caught without the essentials.


How Much Emergency Drinking Water Is Enough?

The American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other experts recommend storing a bare minimum of three days’ worth of water but encourage having enough water to last your family two weeks. In addition to the daily drinking-water needs (1/2 gallon/2 quarts), you’ll need about one gallon per person per day for other uses such as cooking, tooth brushing, hand washing and other basic hygiene.


Don’t forget to add in enough for pets or domestic animals, too. Dogs, for example, need an average of one ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. You might already have a sense for how much water your pet drinks and/or you can check with your veterinarian to gauge your animal’s average needs.


According to these recommendations, you would allot1.5 gallons of water per person, per day for basic needs. From there, you can calculate the bare minimum and work up to the number you want. For example, based on the gallons above, a hypothetical family of four with no pets would use about 18 gallons in three days’ time and need around 84 gallons to last two weeks.


There are several cases where more than the 1.5 gallons may be needed as well, such as with nursing mothers and small children, or where the weather is hot or people are sick. Some experts say to prepare for the absolute worst-case scenario for your own family, plus consider that if an emergency happens, you may have extended family and neighbors in need, too.


How many or how few disaster-prep water supplies each family should have on hand is a personal decision. It’s a matter of household needs, available storage space and how prepared you want to be.


Climate comes into consideration again as well because the amount of water you need also depends on where you live and how hard or easy it would be to get water from a natural source. If you live in an arid place like the desert or you’re in the mountains, it would probably be harder to find a spring, river, stream or reservoir than if you were in a water-rich place. Your location and access to water in an emergency might impact your decision of how much potable water to store.


Use Best Practices for Emergency and Disaster Prep


When catastrophe strikes, you’ll first seek safety and then water and food. If you don’t have any stored water or maybe can’t get to your supply, you might have to turn to a natural source. In nature, remember that running water is always better than sitting water.


You can use household bleach to kill microorganisms in any water, which is not that different than how water departments use chlorine to treat our drinking water. Be sure to use bleach that does not have any scent, boosters or other additives. Keep an empty eye dropper on hand to dispense the bleach, as those are about the size of drops you’d want to use.


Generally, if you treat the water with bleach and it still has an odor that’s not from the bleach, you can add a drop or two more until the smell is gone. It is normal for the water to smell slightly like chlorine.


You can also use a manual aeration process of pouring a supply of stored, potable water back and forth between two containers. This action oxygenates the water and may improve its taste.


If you need to treat water and make it safe to drink, there are many ways to do it:


  1. Bring water to a rolling boil for 5-10 minutes and let cool. Be aware this method loses some of the water through steam.
  2. Add eight drops of plain, household bleach for each gallon of water, stir and let sit 30 minutes before drinking.
  3. Put three drops of 2% iodine for each quart of water, so 12 drops per gallon if the water looks clear and twice that amount if the water looks cloudy. Let the water sit and be sure no pregnant women drink the iodine-treated water.
  4. Shine a UV light onto the water supply to kill the microorganisms with radiation, but know that most of the lights run on electricity and would not work in a power outage.
  5. Purchase an outdoors-wilderness-type of filter for a price range of about $60 to $200.
  6. Filter out large particles with a coffee filter, paper towel or kitchen strainer and smaller particles with ceramic, glass fiber or compressed surgical paper (like a surgical mask).


If you decide to prepare ahead and store water in your own containers, steer clear of milk and juice containers since the sugars and fat in them get old and give bacteria an ideal place to thrive.


Big soda bottles make a good water-storage container, but anything you use should be washed, sanitized and completely dried before you fill it with water. Bacteria, mainly in the form of pathogens, parasites and pollutants, are the enemy in water.


Clean any self-storage containers with soapy water and then disinfect them — add a teaspoon of plain bleach per quart of water, swish the mixture around vigorously, or put the lid on to shake it, and then rinse well and thoroughly. Be sure to treat the cap the same as the bottle.

Tank Storage Makes It Easy

You can avoid washing bottles and worrying about how your homemade-storage items will fare by investing in a potable-water tank for emergency-water storage. Plastic milk jugs don’t last, and cardboard breaks down. Additionally, any water supply must be rotated so it doesn’t sit too long and become foul.


Hydroflex Systems, Inc. has 30 years of specializing in the manufacturing of storage tanks for potable water. Each tank has a certified potable-water liner ready to receive and store the water supply safely, and there are many options for tank sizes.


Hydroflex tanks feature intuitive designs that fold for shipping and can go anywhere in the United States at a crated measurement of 19 or 24 inches wide. Before setup, the tanks will fit through a standard 36-inch doorway and stairwell, as well as into various storage spaces. You can add chlorine tabs or stabilized oxygen to treat stored water.


The tough outer shell of the tank is embossed aluminum, and it’s durable, and long lasting. And, most people say for the price, it beats the process of cleaning, sterilizing and rotating smaller containers.


We offer a variety of sizes to suit a comprehensive range of needs and spaces. They range from 100 gallons to 5,000 gallons and include custom sizes and accessories. The most common three sizes of potable water tanks are:


  • 250 gallons: 48-inch diameter and height, weighs 155 pounds
  • 500 gallons: 64-inch diameter and 48-inch height, weighs 206 pounds
  • 950 gallons: 86-inch diameter and 48-inch height, weighs 303 pounds.


Six months is the approximate, safe shelf life for self-stored water, and most people will rotate or change the supply periodically. Whatever emergency-water storage option you choose, it helps to write the packaging date onto the containers or somehow record the date you filled them so you’ll know when they’re approaching the end of practical life and safe usage.



Tips to Survive and Thrive

You no doubt comprehend the crucial importance of water, so once you have that mastered, you can plan for other issues that arise in times of crises. For example:


  • Learn where the main water valve is in your home and know how to turn that off to keep contaminated water from entering your pipes.
  • You can gather water from the hot-water heater and toilet tanks (not the bowl).
  • Use swimming pool water if it’s been constantly treated, and then boil the water or treat it with additional bleach.
  • If taps are running, fill sinks and bathtubs with water and other receptacles before the water stops running.
  • Keep portable food stocked — soups, raisins, crackers, granola bars, high-protein goods and other non-perishable items or food that won’t spoil quickly. You’ll also want to have a manual can opener for opening canned goods.
  • Pack a supply of crucial grab-and-run items such as:
    • Prescriptions
    • Baby formula
    • Cash
    • Blankets and sleeping bags
    • Bleach
    • Eye dropper
    • Clothes
    • Matches
    • Waterproof container
    • Mess kits and utensils
    • Napkins
    • Garbage bags
    • A multi-tool such as a Swiss Army knife
    • Other small items that could be helpful
  • Keep a battery-powered or crank weather radio on hand with a few sets of fresh batteries.
  • Stock a box with a few flashlights and basic tools such as wrenches.
  • Prepare a first-aid kit that includes dust masks, bandages, peroxide, antibiotic salve, aspirin and other basics.
  • Stuff a bag with hygiene items such as feminine supplies, toothpaste and brushes, floss, deodorant, combs or brushes, hand sanitizer and packaged wipes.


People who have a good jump on water and food supply can move along to the more advanced survival steps such as keeping things ready to go in backpacks or other containers that are easy to carry. Many families also form a specific plan of where to meet if they get separated and/or who grabs what when it’s time to act.


While no one can stop natural disasters or catastrophes, there is much we can do to prepare for interruptions to our supply of essential water and food. A quantity of stored, potable water is a solid step toward preparedness that not only brings us peace of mind, but that also means we’ll be better able to survive, thrive and possibly help others in the event of a disaster.