Backup Water Supply - Why you need one, and how to store water

Backup Water Supply – The Basics

Backup water supply
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Having a backup water supply is critical if you live in an area prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, or even just bad pipes. Water is the most important resources in a survival situation. It’s one of the items on the store shelf that’s emptied first during the threat of a natural disaster.

Using a Backup Water Supply For Babies and Baby Formula

The CDC says that bottled water is the only form of water that should be used with formula. However, in a disaster, this isn’t always possible!

So the CDC says in this case, boil water for 1 minute, allow it to cool before mixing with formula. Water that’s been treated with chemicals should be used as a last resort.

Bad Pipes

Years ago, before we moved to our homestead, we lived in the suburbs for 5 or 6 years. During that time, we went without modern plumbing multiple times due to the pipes breaking.

They broke in almost the same places each year over and over. Before we moved they broke three times back to back. When I spoke to one of the construction workers he said that the company has finally broken down to replace the entire line of pipes.

Every time a pipe bursts they have to shut off the water to fix it. You end up being without water for 3 or more days at a time sometimes longer.

Going through this ordeal I learned some tricks to get through living without modern plumbing! I’ll be sharing those tricks throughout this post.

Hurricanes And Other Natural Disasters

We live in Florida. We’ve encountered hurricanes from categories 1-5. Even category 1 can knock out water and power for weeks and even months at a time.

Especially, if you live in a town where these storms don’t usually come your way. They’re usually not prepared like experienced cities and towns are.

That’s what happened in our town. Thankfully, we already had food and water stored for emergencies!

Hand Washing Station

I reuse large detergent bottles with a spout. When they’re empty I fill them with water, and they become an emergency sink.

I like to store at least one of these under each sink in the house.

When you fill one with water, make sure you mark it as water or H20 so that you won’t mistake it for detergent.

These can ONLY be used for washing hands, dishes, etc…

This water should not be consumed.

Do not use water that has known contaminants in it such as sewage, poison, chemical pollutants, oils, or any other contaminant. Do not use water that has a dark color, an odor or any solid items.

What To Store Your Backup Water Supply In

The CDC says that it’s best to use a food-grade water storage container.

They also say not to use a container that previously was used to hold liquids. I use detergent bottles (not for drinking water/washing only), and juice bottles to store drinking water in. I guess I’m not completely following the guidelines.

Don’t Use

  • Milk Jugs – They’re too thin, and tend to leak after a while.
  • Breakable containers such as glass
  • A container that previously held something toxic like bleach or pesticides.

Do Use

  • Containers with reliable, and good sealing lids
  • Food-safe containers
  • Durable materials, or unbreakable materials

Other Water Storage Options

7 Gallon Aqua-tainer – These are a good size, and the price isn’t too bad.
Water bricks These are pricey, but I love that they’re stackable.
The Reservoir, 100 Gallons – This contraption goes in your bathtub. This might be useful for preparing for a hurricane. Since we do usually get some advanced notice that it’s coming.
Rain Barrels – Rain barrels are a fairly popular source of backup water systems.

Clean and Sanitize Water Storage Container

Make sure you thoroughly clean any container you plan to use as a backup water supply. If not cleaned properly, you’ll most likely end up with mold.

Never reuse a container that had toxic chemicals in them. I do like to reuse old detergent bottles and soap bottles, but they are only good for washing hands, cleaning, and washing things.

The detergents and such are so strong that the containers are not okay for consumption for drinking water, cooking or brushing teeth!

Before storing water, you’ll want to use cleaned and sanitized containers.

Instructions | Cleaning and Sanitizing Water Containers

  1. Wash with warm soapy water, and rinse well.
  2. Make a sanitizing solution with 1 QT water, and 1 tsp of unscented household chlorine bleach.
  3. Place the lid on the container tightly, and shake. Make sure to get the sanitizing solution on all surfaces inside the container.
  4. Let it sit for 30 seconds, and then pour out the solutions
  5. Rinse the container well, and allow to dry.
  6. Your containers are now clean and sanitized.

Backup Water Supply For Flushing Toilets

We have a barrel outside that we fill with water when expecting a hurricane. We use this water to flush toilets, and even giving water to our livestock.

Eventually, we’d love to have a rain barrel system. We could use it for toilets, gardening, livestock, drinking water, and much more.

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How Much Water to Keep for Emergencies?

You’ll need 1 gallon per day and per person. It may seem like a lot, but with cooking, showering, brushing teeth, and drinking, it’s not really.

The CDC says that you should keep enough water for at least 3 days.

  • Only use a trusted source of water to fill your containers.
  • Use only regular unscented, no additives or dyes – household BLEACH to your water.
  • Label and date the container. Secure lid very tightly.
  • Store in a cool, dark area of your home.
  • Replace water every six months.

Filtering Cloudy Water

Filtering cloudy water is easy. You can use a clean cloth, coffee filter, or paper towel, or allow to settle to filter water.**

Boiling Water – From The Backup Water Supply

WARNING: Boiling water does not kill all disease-causing bacteria and it cannot remove chemicals that pollute the water source. Find a different water source if your water has fuel or other toxic chemicals.

The CDC says that bottled water would be the safest form of emergency water. However, boiling water is the next best thing. They say is the surest method of killing disease-causing organisms like viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

Instructions for Boiling Water

  1. Filter water if cloudy, using a paper towel, clean cloth, paper towel, or allow to settle.
  2. Draw off the clear water.
  3. Add the water to a saucepan or stockpot.
  4. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute or 3 minutes for elevations above 6500 feet.
  5. Allow the water to cool.
  6. Store the water in clean containers.

Remember that chemicals that have polluted the water source will not be removed by boiling.

Out of all the things that we have, plumbing is probably the one I would miss most if we didn’t have it anymore.

Could you live without plumbing?

Using Bleach In Your Backup Water Supply

WARNING: Bleach is not capable of killing all disease-causing bacteria and it cannot remove chemicals that pollute the water source. Find a different water source if your water has fuel or other toxic chemicals.

Disinfectants such as bleach can kill many harmful bacteria and disease-causing viruses. However, it’s not as effective in taking care of more resistant organisms like parasites such as Giardia.**

Don’t use bleach with scents, additives or dyes. Use only regular household bleach. Make sure to read the label!

The label may also include instruction for disinfecting water and you can follow those instructions, instead of using this table.

Instructions for Disinfecting Water With Bleach

  1. Filter water if cloudy, using a paper towel, clean cloth, paper towel, or allow to settle.
  2. Draw out the clear water.
  3. Either follow the instructions on the bleach bottle or use the table below to determine how much bleach to use.
  4. Stir the water really well.
  5. Allow to stand for 30 minutes before using.
  6. Store in clean containers.
Would you like to know the basics of having a backup water supply? Why do you need one? How do you store water? Here are some tips for storing water. | | Homestead Wishing, Author Kristi Wheeler

Visit the CDC for printable flyers on backup water supplies that you can keep in your disaster kit.

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Backup water supply


Department of Health -Water purification, fact sheet

8 thoughts on “Backup Water Supply – The Basics”

  1. Another tool to consider is a Berkey water filter. It is one of the best values for potable water. Extends your ability to have drinking water into weeks/months if you have any water source nearby.

    Don’t forget if you have a water heater that is 40-80 gallons of clean water unless there is a boil order. The supply tank on your toilet (no, not in the bowl!) is clean water unless you put those cleaning tablets in there (bad idea). Finally, there are several gallons in your pipes. Place a collection container beneath the lowest faucet. Open that faucet. Go to the highest faucet and open that. Your pipes will drain into your catch vessel.

  2. We actually have three cases of water and one barrel drum full in our storage closet. Only because it is mandated since we live in an area where volcano eruptions, earthquakes and typhoons happen all the time.

    It’s nice to know other people do it just because! Save that water!

    1. Homestead Wishing

      Oh wow! I did not know that they mandate it in high disaster areas. That is great though! It seems like a lot of people do not know how or why they should keep water. The tornado alley has moved and increased in size in the last couple of years. Tornadoes were very rare around here but in the last couple of years they have started showing up more often. We just had a tornado hit a mile from our house. It was going in the other direction though. Thankfully, where there are not many houses! Thank you for stopping by and sharing that info Trisha! I learn something new everyday!

  3. What an awesome article and I had no idea you can add bleach to purify the water after a period of time! I bet this would be a big hit amongst the doomsday preppers lol, but seriously great for anyone!

    1. Homestead Wishing

      Thank you so much! I think it is already a pretty known trick in the prepper world. For good reason too right? I am happy that you learned a little about water storage today! That was my goal to spread a little knowledge with this article. Thanks for stopping by Amanda!

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