Water is by far the most important resources you’ll want to plan for. Whether you’re buying and storing or planning to collect water on the fly — make sure you have a plan well before the power goes out.

In the past, I’ve relied on what I’ve had on hand or filled a bathtub to collect water on a larger scale. The problem, I’ve been burned a number of times. For example, we have a jacuzzi bathtub in our bathroom, which holds roughly 80 gallons of water.

I filled the tub before a storm and realized the next morning our drain had a leak. By then, the tub had lost 3/4 of the water and the snow storm was just getting started. The second time, I was prepared and used duct tape to cover the drain, which worked much better; however, I still lost 1/4 of the water overnight through small leaks in the duct tape. In both instances, we lost power and I had less water than what I started with.

I needed a better solution so I started to research alternatives.

Rule of Thumb

Emergency officials (FEMA) suggests a gallon of water per day for each person in the house. I like to prepare for my dog as well, so I count her as one more person 🙂

Here is a sample table with the water needed for various sized groups for various durations. As you can see, with larger groups it doesn’t take long for the number to grow quickly.

# of DaysWater Needed
1 person11-gallon
1 person33-gallons
3 people13-gallons
3 people39-gallons
6 people16-gallons
6 people318-gallons
6 people742-gallons


My first line of defense, like most people, is bottled water. We usually get a case or two at the grocery store, BJ’s, or Walmart. Aside from drinking water, the bottles can be packed in the freezer and make great ice packs. When we lose power, I have two cases of frozen water that extends the life of our freezer. Not long, but I’ll take the advantage by having bottled ice. Better yet, when it melts, we have drinking water.

I don’t have a water delivery service but have purchased the large 5-gallon bottles for extra water. This handy stand and spout are perfect for dispensing water from 5-gallon bottles (55mm mouth) without any sanitation concerns. I like this option because the system is gravity fed and the spout is easily cleaned.


My second option is filling the bathtub, but instead of filling directly in the tub there is a liner that ensures your water is clean and doesn’t leak. The WaterBOB Bathtub Emergency Water Storage Container provides an amazing solution for drinking, cooking, washing, and flushing in a BPA-Free liner that holds 100-gallons of water.

Why I like it:

  • It can fit any standard bathtub
  • It includes a pump to dispense the water
  • It’s made from heavy duty food grade plastic (FDA approved)
  • Water can be stored for up to 16 weeks
  • Stored water is kept from dirt and debris that collects in exposed tubs
  • 20-minute fill time
  • Recyclable. This product is designed for one-time use
  • 100-gallon capacity

For my family of six 100-gallons will provide water for 16 1/2 days. So, I can’t think of a more efficient way to collect water and keep it in a central location. Well worth the investment.

55-Gallon Barrels
(storage or rain collection)

My third option is to either fill and store a barrel inside my home or collect water in a barrel outside my home. The barrels are of equal size so let’s look at what you get with each option:


Augason Farms Emergency Water Storage Supply Kit is a great option to fill and store a barrel of water.

  • The barrel is made from food-grade polyethylene, is BPA-Free, and meets EPA guidelines
  • Includes: (2) 2″ barrel plug fittings, 6′ siphon hose with a hand pump, Aquamira water-treatment bottles, and a barrel opener
  • Once treated, the water has up to a 4-year shelf life
  • Barrel holds 55-Gallons

Things to consider: This closed container requires treatment so read the instructions on how to ensure the longevity of your water. Additionally, water is siphoned out so keeping the included hand pump, barrel opener, and other necessary items close by is recommended. You don’t want to be searching for these items in the dark.

Advantage: I live in the northeast so colder temperatures make rain collection challenging. Not impossible, but challenging. Keeping water inside is a better alternative for anyone concerned about outside temperatures.

Rain Collection

There are plenty of options online; however, I’d check a couple of local places first. My town works with a vendor each year and provides discounted rain barrels. It might be worth a call to see if your city or town offers something similar. After that, price check on Amazon or Walmart to see who has the best deal. Walmart has some nice variations to the traditional blue barrel like this Algreen Barcelona 100 gallon barrel pictured below.

Algreen Barcelona 100 Gallon Barrel

Things to consider: As previously stated, with extreme winter temperatures in some areas you may need a separate option for the winter months to ensure you don’t damage your rain barrel.

WARNING: You must treat rainwater before consuming as it can be very dangerous.

Check with your state’s Rainwater Harvesting regulations. Collecting rainwater is one thing, but it isn’t safe to drink straight from your roof. Reference state provided resources or your local health department on what’s needed to treat rainwater to make it safe to drink. Most states will likely mirror the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act in an effort to reduce human exposure to contaminants, protozoans, viruses, and bacteria.

Advantage: If there is too much concern over safety, and I agree, this can still be a good option for flushing toilets. Still, be aware of the contaminants because they can get on your skin and cross-contaminate other water supplies.

Water Filtration

I’ve been on camping trips where collecting water from rivers and streams were the only option. While purification tabs are an option, I’m not a fan because of the taste. In an emergency, I’d deal with it, but I have some alternatives I’d choose first.

WARNING: Consider water sources. Don’t use any water you suspect is compromised by any chemicals, toxins, animal or human waste or other contaminants.

Remember, clear water doesn’t mean safe water.

My first choice would be the same UV filtration I used on my 7-day backpacking trip in New Mexico, which was the SteriPen Adventurer. I like this pen for these reasons:

  • It’s quick. 2-liter filtration in less than two minutes.
  • It’s very small, compact, and portable
  • It’s chemical free and doesn’t alter the taste
  • It’s reusable for up to 8,000 liters (approximately 2100 gallons)
  • It can filter 150 liters (approximately 13 gallons) on a set of CR123 batteries
  • It destroys 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, viruses, including giardia
  • The water sensor doubles as an LED flashlight
  • Comes with a neoprene case
  • Status light when the water is ready to drink

My second choice would be the second purifier used on our camping trip — The SteriPen Classic 3 Water Purifier with Pre-Filter. I’d choose this pen for similar reasons:

  • It’s quick. 2-liter filtration in less than two minutes.
  • It is compact and portable (small, but slightly larger than the Adventurer model). Size matters when dealing with narrow-mouthed containers
  • It’s chemical free and doesn’t alter the taste
  • It’s reusable for up to 8,000 liters (approximately 2100 gallons)
  • It can filter 150 liters (approximately 13 gallons) on a set of AA batteries
  • It destroys 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, viruses, including giardia and cryptosporidium.
  • It’s certified for purification by the Water Quality Association
  • Status light when the water is ready to drink

My third choice is the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. I like this option because it doesn’t require batteries, which may be in limited supply during an outage and because:

  • It is compact and portable
  • It’s chemical free and doesn’t alter the taste
  • It’s reusable for up to 4,000 liters (approximately 1056 gallons)
  • The microfiltration membrane destroys 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria including salmonella and E. coli, and 99.999% of waterborne parasites including cryptosporidium and giardia
  • It’s certified for purification by the Water Quality Association
  • It also removes the smallest microplastics (down to 1 micron) and reduces turbidity down to 0.2 microns
  • All claims are verified using standard testing protocols set by the US EPA, NSF, ASTM for water purifiers
  • Give Back: For every LifeStraw product purchased, a school child in need receives safe drinking water for an entire school year.

This option requires using the device like a straw. So, drinking on-demand versus treating an amount of water like the previous two options.

Water Sanitation

You may have heard that bleach can be used to disinfect water. This is correct. Try to use bottled water first, then boiling the water as a second option, then move to bleach if you don’t have the other alternatives.

According to the US EPA, you should use unscented chlorine bleach for disinfection and sanitization (check small bottle price on Amazon). Do not use scented bleach (i.e. lemon, colored, or any other additives). As long as the label says 6-8.25% sodium hypochlorite — use the table below to guide you in using bleach.

WATERif using
6% bleach, add
if using
8.25% bleach, add
1 quart2 drops2 drops
1 gallon8 drops6 drops
2 gallons1/4 tsp1/8 tsp
4 gallons1/3 tsp1/4 tsp
8 gallons2/3 tsp1/2 tsp

The table above was adapted from EPA Website on Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water

Additional Resources