How Much Water Should I Store?

Water In The Desert Water In The Desert by Ken Kistler

Water is one of those basic 3’s of survival. If you don’t know what those are, they are generalizations that are good rules to keep in mind in any survival situation. They state that you can survive:

3 minutes without air

3 hours without shelter (in poor environmental conditions)

3 days without water

3 weeks without food

Water, you see, is a big deal…a…VERY…BIG…DEAL. Without it, you will not survive. This should be obvious to all those who would be reading this blog.

The body is made up of about 60% water. It needs water to keep all of its systems functioning properly. Your body loses some of its water every day, so it must be replenished somehow or otherwise it will cease to work. We MUST have water to survive. However, as it turns out, there are many potential events which can negatively affect one’s water supply. If you regularly watch the news, you can see that this happens quite often. Rivers can become contaminated, sewage can back up into a city’s water supply, wells can run dry, power outages can affect the water utilities, etc. In order to be prepared for such emergencies, it is wise to have some water stored for you and your loved ones.

The question then becomes: How much water should I store?

It should come as no surprise that water is one of the highest priorities when it comes to preparedness. So I recommend it should be one of your first preps made. There are many options on how to store water. However, your personal circumstances may limit how much you may be able to store. In any case, I recommend that you follow the recommendations of the Red Cross to store at least two weeks’ worth of water for you and your household. More would be better if that’s possible, but a two-week supply would be a good start. Why two weeks? Some emergency agencies, such as FEMA, recommend a three-day supply as a start, but it is not uncommon for water constraints to last longer than that.  For some examples, the New Orleans water supply was contaminated for more than a week after Hurricane Katrina, and the Tokyo water supply had unsafe levels of radioactivity up to 2 weeks after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. If it were me, I would rather have more than enough water than to have not enough.

OK…so two weeks’ worth of water…so how much is that?

That depends on you, your household, and how much water you would be likely to use.

First of all, you need water to drink. After all, this is why it is so crucial. As for the amount one needs to drink daily to stay healthy, the website for the Harvard School of Public Health has this to say:

There is no one estimate for how much water the average American needs each day. Instead, the Institute of Medicine has set an adequate intake of 125 ounces (about 15 cups) for men and 91 ounces (about 11 cups) for women. …Note that this is not a daily target, but a general guide. In most people, about 80% of this water volume comes from beverages; the rest comes from food.

The study which the Harvard School of Public Health references is titled Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate , which was published in 2005 by the Institute of Medicine. This in-depth study researched what would be considered “adequate intake” levels of water for different demographics of the population. Their findings of what they recommend for one’s daily total water intake (which include all water, beverages, and food consumed) are summarized below:

Water Intake Table

In addition, those who are sick, or those who are more active than average, will need to drink more than the amounts listed above. Climate also is something to consider. Not only do warmer and more humid climates require higher intakes, but any locations at higher altitudes do so as well. Also, those who may be suffering from the stress of an emergency could also benefit from higher water consumption.   To cover different scenarios, a good rule of thumb is to store one gallon (or about 4 liters) of water per person per day. That would be 14 gallons (or 56 liters) per person for an adequate two-week drinking water supply. If you have special considerations, you may desire to store more.

What about other needs?

Besides drinking, one will also require water for cooking, cleaning, and sanitation. There may be other uses to keep in mind as well. Water for pets, livestock, survival gardens, religious purposes, etc. should all be considered. In calculating the water required for you and your household, reflect upon which of these needs would truly be necessary during a water emergency. Think about if you would wish to have water for baths/showers, for flushing toilets, for washing dishes, for laundry, etc. One serious condition to consider is if you have an infant or a young child in diapers. (What would be your plan in that scenario?   Would you need extra water for washing diapers, or do you plan to use disposables?) Obviously, the amount of water needed to store for needs other than drinking will vary from household to household. Only you and your family will be able to come up with the right answer. However, if you are looking for a guide, a group of relief agencies published a document in 2004 titled Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. In this guide, it recommends about 2-6 liters/day (0.5-1.5 gallons/day) for basic hygiene requirements, and approximately 3-6 liters/day (0.75-1.5 gallons/day) for basic cooking needs during an emergency. All would be contingent on one’s cultural expectations and practices. Of course, as suggested above, if you have pets or other animals, or if you have other concerns, you would have to add to these amounts.

So, in summary, based on the guidelines above, you should store:

1 gallon (4 liters) per person x 14 days = 14 gallons (56 liters) for drinking

0.5-1.5 gallons (2-6 liters) per person x 14 days = 7-21 gallons (28-84 liters) for hygiene

0.75-1.5 gallons (3-6 liters) per person x 14 days = 10.5-21 gallons (42-84 liters) for cooking

Total Storage: 2.25-4 gallons (9-16 liters) x 14 days = 31.5-56 gallons (126-224 liters) per person

Again, your personal needs will ultimately determine how much you would need to store, and as mentioned above, you may have other considerations that may require for you to store more water than was recommended above. In any case, the need to store water should be clear. You do not want to ever find yourself without it, so it should be one of your first priorities to make sure you have it.

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