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By: Victor Barnette on August 7th, 2020

How to Create an Emergency Water Supply

When facing an emergency, the last thing you and your family should be concerned about is the availability of clean water. If disaster strikes, days can turn into weeks, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may not be ready and available to jump in and help. 

Water is used for many things other than drinking throughout the day, such as brushing teeth, washing hands, and showering. By properly preparing, you and your family will be able to breathe easier knowing that at least one item is checked off the emergency list!

Exell has been servicing Mississippi for more than 80 years, providing our clients with clean, quality-tasting spring water. One of the questions we often receive is how to create and store an emergency water supply.

In this article, we’ll explain how to: 

  • Determine how much water you should be storing in the case of emergency
  • Properly store the water you’ll need
  • Prepare a safety checklist to keep your family safe

How Much Water Should I Store in Case of Emergency?

The CDC recommends having a minimum of one gallon of water per day for at least three days, for each person in your home, including pets. This is for personal hygiene and consumption. 

For example, for a family of four, you’ll need to store at least 12 gallons of water.

Another consideration when deciding on how much of a water supply is needed is whether you have any pets. The same one gallon-per-day rule applies for each pet in the home. 

Because each emergency is different and the duration varies, the CDC recommends building up to a two-week supply and tailoring it to specific needs, such as warmer climates, pregnancy, and illness.

Now, I know what you are thinking. That’s a lot of water! Where am I going to store the recommended 56 gallons? See some options below:

Different Storage Options

There are two options for creating an emergency supply: store-bought water or preparing tap water for long-term storage. Both are valid options that each have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at each option. 

Bottled Water Emergency Supply

Commercially bottled water is the safest route for your emergency supply because of the rigorous standards and regulations that do not apply to homemade products. This can come in a variety of different packages, allowing you to easily tailor it to your family’s size and circumstance. 

Depending on the nature of the emergency, you have the option to mix and match packages in a way that works best for your family’s needs. 

Maybe for drinking water you store some .5-liter bottles or a 3-gallon jug for your water cooler, and then 5-gallon jugs for personal hygiene. 

Another convenience of bottled water is that the expiration date is written on the bottle, and it is guaranteed to be fresh until that date. Anything homemade runs the risk of manufacturer error, which can ruin the integrity of the product. 

Commercially bottled water is already clean and sealed when acquired, so there is the convenience factor. 

The disadvantage of buying single-serve bottled water for your emergency kit is the cost: it is significantly more expensive. 

Prepared Tap Water in an Emergency

If you decide to go the other route, the CDC has guidelines that teach you how to safely make and bottle it at home. It is important that these guidelines are followed to ensure the safety of you and your family. 

The type of container you are using is perhaps the most important decision in this process. You must choose one that will not transfer toxins into the water as it sits in storage. There are three acceptable options for storing tap water:

Food-Grade Plastic (best option)

Food-grade plastic containers can be found at surplus or camping supply stores. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to ensure the container is food-grade. 

The container should have a top that can be tightly seated, preferably with a narrow neck to help with pouring the water out.

Stainless Steel

The benefit of stainless steel is that it protects water from direct sunlight. Another benefit is that, unlike certain plastics, the chemicals will not discharge into the water supply over time. 

Price is a deterring factor, because stainless steel is far more expensive than both glass and plastic. However, it might be worth the investment for long-term storage.

Another concern is how your water has been treated. If it has been treated with harsh chemicals, such as chlorine, it will corrode the stainless steel, poisoning your water. This could make you and your family extremely sick when consumed. 


Glass containers are a much easier option because they are incredibly easy to sterilize due to their extremely high melting point. If using glass, be sure that it was not previously used for storage because it is hard to deem how safe it actually is. 

One setback is that glass is easily breakable, and when filled it can be quite heavy. This may cause some problems when storing.

How to Store?

If water is bought through a store or home-delivery service, you should always observe the expiration date listed on the package. If it was packaged at home, it should be properly dated and labeled, but also be sure you are replacing it every 6 months. 

Water should always be kept in a cool place, between 50°-70°, away from direct sunlight and any toxic substances.

Other Quick Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Each year, more than 200 million people are affected by some form of natural disaster. Each state has risks of natural disaster, yet less than half of American adults are actually prepared should one occur. 

FEMA suggests taking the following measures:

Preparing Your Own Emergency Water Supply

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere, and they often come without warning. When disaster is imminent, what is the first thing gone at the grocery stores? Water. 

It is important for your family to have a sufficient emergency water supply ready to use at a moment’s notice. By starting with a three-day supply and building that supply up to two weeks, you can sleep well knowing that when clean water is unavailable, your family is covered! 

This is where Exell comes in. We deliver a variety of different packages of bottled water. Whether you need 5-gallon jugs for daily bathing, 1 gallon jugs, or 24-pack cases of single-serve water, we’ve got you covered!