Each gallon of water weighs just under 8.5 pounds. A five gallon camp jug weighs about 50 pounds. Now if you are just moving water once and awhile that is no big deal for most people. But if you have a family of four and moving, heating or cooling that much water a couple of times a day for cooking, drinking, washing and keeping clean. It becomes a lot of work and that does not count you hauling water to your animals or garden. That’s if you have water on hand that is safe to use for cooking and drinking.
I know a lot of people store cases of water bottles because they think buying a water barrel is to expensive. If you figure a case of twenty four 16 oz. water bottles will hold about 3.25 gallons of water at a cost of about $3.00 per case. It will cost over $60.00 for 60 gallons of water. Let’s say you go for bigger bottles or jugs. It will still cost you about $1.00 per gallon to buy water from the store. Now I got my 60 gallon water barrels at the local farm store for about $30.00-$40.00 per barrel and filled them with tap water for a couple of pennies per gallon. Sure, I get the recycled food safe barrels, but after a good cleaning and rinse with a bit of lemon juice you can’t tell the difference once they are filled with water. For the big barrels or even tanks for storing water as long as you pay less than a dollar to store a gallon of water you are doing good.
For smaller barrels or or camp jugs you are no longer buying in “bulk” so to speak and you will pay a higher price. But smaller and lighter water containers might be all you can store in your home. For this I recommend the 15 gallon water barrel or “Water Bricks” both can fit great in a closet. Water Bricks are bit more expensive, hold 3-5 gallons of water each but are made to stack. The 15 gallon water barrel weighs about 120 pounds but can be moved, wheeled around on a small dolly or even lifted into a mini-van or truck by some strong healthy folks. If you have the floor space for camp jugs you can get a 5 gallon jug under $10.00 but they don’t stack very well and take up a lot more room than the water bricks or even the 15 gallon barrel. I got my 15 gallon barrels from my “Beer Lady” at Nampa brewers for $20-$25.00 each. Yep, the barrels are clean and recycled after holding LME (Liquid Malt Extract) that she buys in bulk. But they are great for water storage and food safe.
Now for storing hot water is where your 5 gallon Igloo containers come in to play. Having a bit of hot or even warm water to shave, wash your hands and face was a big deal when I was in the Army field training. I was a bit slow to make the cooks heat water for the hand washing station and they fought me a bit at first but once the soldiers had warm water for cleaning up they kept a lot cleaner from the basics of washing hands to personal hygiene. Plus the troops loved the cooks for that warm water for cleaning up. You can cleanup with cold water, some people claim to love using cold water but I ain’t one of them! That is when the Igloo jug comes into play for storing the water you have heated the night before and use as a small hot water tank through the next day. Just prime the Igloo with about a half gallon of hot water for 15-20 minutes (just like a thermos) dump the water in a sink or wash tub and then fill the Igloo with hot water. It will stay hot for 12-24 hours, so when you wake up the next day you will have hot water “on tap” to clean up yourself and dishes and other stuff you need hot water for daily. You could heat water via solar oven or solar shower and “store” that warm/hot water for the next morning.
I got my Zodi portable propane hot water shower. It came in a bag about the size of a 12 can cooler and has a small battery powered pump and uses the small 1 pound propane tanks for heating water. I need to test it out and if it works as advertised this will be nice addition to the water plan. I’m most excited about the small battery powered pump as it should be a lot of help moving water around.
For basic water preps I would store at least 3 gallons – 5 gallons per person per day and consider that a min. for least 3 weeks. I know most people won’t do that so what I think most people could do is store in each closet of your home is at least 15 gallons in a whatever container you decide is right for you and a 5 gallon Igloo drink jug as your hot/cold water storage. That would give you about 20 gallons or 1-3 weeks of water for every family member depending on your water use. Get a couple 1/2 gallon pitchers from local dollar store. (one for drinking and cooking water, one for unsanitized water for plants or flushing the toilet) These pitchers are small enough for almost anyone to lift.
If you can, add some rain barrels under your gutters or if you live in a crazy place that outlaw rain barrels you might get a few some of those 18 gallon “Party Buckets” add a spigot an inch above the bottom then move them to the porch, patio or deck after the rain. Just tell the “Water Patrol” you use them for BBQs on the weekend if they ask any questions. You could also use the party buckets for any “gray water” storage and dump the water in the toilet if your water system stops but the sewage system still works.
If your water system goes down for any length of time you need to be proactive and don’t be afraid to get creative gathering water. With rain you need something with a big surface area like a tarp to funnel all that water into a container that holds several gallons. A couple of Bungee cords or rope would make the tarp easy to attach to a fence or some thing about 3-5 feet high, add a weight (small rock) where tarp meets the bucket so the water funnels into the bucket. It should be a lot safer to gather rain water on your own property rather than heading to a local creek, river or lake that might be over run by the people who did not prepare.
Everyone that prepares should already have a good water filter, some water sanitizer such as bleach or iodine along with at least a couple of weeks of water per person. This post is to help you take the next step beyond the basics and get you and your family ready in case things last longer than a week or two. As we have seen in a lot of disasters, things are not fixed in just a couple of weeks and the rebuilding can last months.