how much water to stockpile

How Much Water Do You Really Need to Stockpile for Disaster Preparedness?

One of the most frequently asked questions about emergency water is how much do you need to stockpile.  I love that you can find exact numbers in gallons recommended all over the web.

As if we all have the same water needs!

If you want to find out how much water YOU really need to stockpile to be prepared for all types of emergencies, read on.

What the “Authorities” Say about Stockpiling Water

If you look online, you will find these guidelines for how much emergency water to stockpile:

If we go by the higher recommendation, that comes out to 14 gallons of emergency water per individual, or 56 gallons for a family of four.

This amount is certainly better than having no emergency water and is adequate for most small-scale disasters like blizzards.  However, as anyone who survived hurricane Katrina will tell you, the 56 gallon recommendation is severely inadequate.

You Need At Least a 30 Day Supply of Water

The most common emergencies that we face – such as outages from storms – only last a few days.  This is why organizations like say that 3 days’ worth of water is adequate.  As the EPA says of the 3-day recommendation in their report on emergency water,

The time frame that residents would reasonably be expected to sustain themselves with their own water supply.

However, the EPA reports goes on to say that large scale disasters could knock out the water supply for much longer than 21 days.  We’ve already seen these types of disaster. Just think of what happened during Hurricane Katrina when masses of people had to line up to get water handouts.

Relief workers loading water for hurricane Katrina victims

Relief workers loading water for hurricane Katrina victims

Haiti – 6 Years without Water!

Abroad, the situation after disasters is even worse.  People in Haiti are still going without water more than 6 years after the devastating earthquake.  We can also look at the earthquake and tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean in 2004. It took weeks to get in supplies to victims.

Yes, the USA is much more developed than these areas and could recover faster.  However, if a major disaster struck (such as an EMP attack), it could revert the USA into the likes of a third-world country.

The message is this: Don’t think you are immune from disaster just because you live in a developed country like the USA!

Start by stockpiling a 3 day water supply and then work up to 2 weeks.  However, to be fully prepared for all levels of disasters, you should really aim to have at least 30 days of emergency water (and food) stockpiled.

After 30 days, hopefully the infrastructure will be repaired.  If not, then it would be time to start sourcing your own water or evacuate to somewhere with a more secure source of water.

Haiti earthquake aftermath

Masses fighting for supplies after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

Calculating How Much Water You Need Per Day

All of the major organizations are in consensus that you need to stockpile 1 gallon of water per day.  Their reasoning is that you need:

  • ½ gallon for drinking
  • ½ gallon for cooking and cleaning purposes
*Don’t forget about water for your pets! To calculate how much water your cat or dog needs: Take the weight of the animal in pounds and divide it by 8.  This is the amount of water they need per day in cups.

If you’ve ever gone camping or backpacking, then the 1 gallon water recommendation is in line with what someone off-the-grid would use. However, if you look at how much water homeowners typically use, there is a huge discrepancy.

According to the EPA, the average family of four in the USA uses 400 gallons of water per day!  Some of this water does occur outdoors, such as for watering the yard, but the vast majority of it (70%) is for indoor use.

If we exclude outdoor water, that means…

Americans use an average of 70 gallons of water per day, per person!

There is absolutely no feasible way to store 2,100 gallons of emergency water per person (70 gallons per day x 30 days).  Where would you keep all of that water?  The obvious solution is that you’ve got to learn how to cut back on your water usage.

Learn to Conserve Water NOW!

Don’t wait until an emergency hits to figure out how to conserve water!

If you wait until emergency hits and you have no choice but to rely on your water stockpile, you’ll probably find that you go through it much faster than you calculated.

Of course, you won’t be taking really long showers during a full-scale disaster nor will you forget to turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth (because there won’t be water coming out of the faucet).   But every smart prepper should have an idea of how much water he/she will really use during a disaster.  To figure this out, you need to run an Emergency Water Drill.

Running an Emergency Water Drill

An Emergency Water Drill simply means that you go without running water for a designated period of time.  During this time, you only use stockpiled water.  At the end of the drill, you calculate how much water you went through.  This will give you a good estimate of how much water per day you really need to stockpile for emergency preparedness.

Tips for Running an Emergency Water Drill:

  • The drill should last at least 3 days. Any less than this and you won’t get an accurate assessment of how much water you really need to get through an emergency.
  • Plan your drill for a long weekend or period when you will be mostly at home. If you use water while not at home, this will impact the accuracy of your calculations.  If you must leave home, then bring water with you to use.
  • Consider doing an “Off Grid” drill at the same time as your water drill. During an Off Grid drill, you won’t use any electricity from the grid. This will give you a better idea of how you’d really use water during an emergency situation and also help you prepare for a grid-down disaster better.
  • If you need to use water from the tap while running your drill, first put it into gallon bottles and be sure to note the amount. You want to make sure your calculations are accurate!

If your drill shows that you really only use 1 gallon of water per day, then congratulations!  However, most of us will find that we use a LOT of water per day.  All that water for small tasks like washing hands and cleaning dishes really adds up.

An alternative way of calculating how much water you use per day is to just look at your water bill or water meter.  However, we obviously use water a lot differently during emergency situations than in everyday life.  For example, you aren’t going to be taking long showers when you are showering with a plastic bottle!  Thus, it is really important that you do your Water Drill in a “Grid-Down” simulation and not assess water needs based on your normal everyday life.

Want to learn how to store water?  Read this post.

How much water do you have stockpiled?  Do you think it will be enough? Let us know in the comments or join us in our Facebook community.

Image credits: “Katrina-Relief-237” (CC BY 2.0) by  FirstBaptistNashville
Flood Relief Efforts After Tropical Stor” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by  PANationalGuard 

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