First, a note. Yes, I am including quite a few affiliate links in here. However…they are also products that our family has personally used for years. They are the best quality possible and we’re not getting kickbacks from the companies involved (if we were we’d be having a giveaway, oh yes!). The following is my personal advice and review of a few different products on the market. If you make a purchase using the links in this article then it will help keep the lights on at Casa de Selfsufficient. Thanks for your support.)
So I’m in love with the Berkey.
The British Berkefeld, that is. It’s a water filter. No, we don’t sell it and yes, I do own one. We’ve had the same Berkey with the same filters since 2009 when we upgraded to a set of 4 black filters from the ones it came with and it still works great. The only filters we change once a year are the PF-2 filters on the bottom that filter most arsenic and fluoride from our water. The link above is to the deluxe version we have but you can get one for a lot less than that.
When we bought it we still lived in an apartment and it has traveled with us from apartment, to urban homestead, to suburban house. Through the years we’ve used it every single day, filling it 6-8 times per week. We’ve also used it for filling tubs of water for long term storage. The main filters will likely last us another 5 years or so before we have to replace them. Considering how costly most filters are to replace and how often you have to replace them it’s a pretty good deal!
But this is about water storage, not how much I want to make love to my water filter.
To calculate your personal needs, think about 1 gallon per person per day for the length of emergency. I recommend preparing for 2 weeks if at all possible but in apartments that can be difficult so aim for 1 week and buy a kit so you can collect and filter non-potable water after that runs out.
When you live in an apartment most of the time you are wondering where you’ll fit something already, much less worry about emergency storage. There are a lot of creative solutions, including collapsible water containers, that make this much easier. Eventually there will be an emergency where you need fresh water, even if it’s just that your water heater exploded or there is a boil water advisory.
Or you could live in Flint.
Storing water can be as simple as purchasing 2-6 gallons of spring water each week when you buy groceries and switching them out once a month to a larger set up like narrow 5 gallon containers that you can fit under your sink or in the closet. For most apartments, I recommend purchasing several gallons of fresh spring water once a month and rotating them out as you can.
If you want to store water for longer than a month please read below for house water storage.
So you live in a good sized house and it’s not perfect but you’ve got maybe a garage or basement where you can put some emergency storage items. Most people think about food and medicine before anything else. Water is often just a tertiary thought. Most people can’t wrap their minds around water not coming from the tap if they’ve never experienced it. Or what if you can’t drink the water coming from the tap? Look at the poor folks in Flint, Michigan.
Just like food storage, water should be stored in a cool, dry place. If you plan to store water for longer than a month you must either rotate it every 3-6 months or use another method of preservation. You must also look at the material you are storing your water in. You can’t just use any random plastic or your water will taste worse than it looks by the time you need to use it.
For long term storage glass isn’t terribly practical unless you’re lucky enough to have a very stable place with very stable shelves. Mostly my concern with glass other than breaking is that it makes the container even heavier to handle. The best containers are going to be #2 plastics because they are BPA free. You’ll find that #1 plastic is what most water bottles are made from but these tend to leach chemicals into your water.
The most important issue for long term water storage seems to be putting clean water into clean containers and then adding an agent that will keep it that way while preventing a breakdown of the container (that cool, dry place I was talking about).
In a house with a garage or basement there is room for all those smaller containers. It’s also a good idea to have many small jugs in case you have to take your water and run. But then you’ve also got room for water barrels.
You can easily keep 4 55-gallon water barrels in the corner of your garage and have enough water to last you a long time. It’s recommended that you purchase water barrels that are made for storing water, not old pickles or bourbon, so your material will likely be blue plastic with a bung on top for filling and tapping. You want the barrel to be clean and free of bacteria or fungi so wash it with diluted chlorine bleach and rinse several times before using a dedicated water hose (usually these will be sold at the same place you bought the barrel) made of clean materials to fill it with clean (usually filtered by some method) water. Keep hearing that word clean in there? Good. Keep saying it so you don’t forget or you’ll tap a swamp when you need something drinkable. Pretend you’re preparing water for the Boy in the Bubble if it helps.
It’s suggested that you store water barrels slightly off the floor to prevent contamination or in case of minor flooding so grab some of those wood pallets behind the hardware store for this. You know, the ones they throw out? Yup, they’re free.
We treat our water with this stuff called Berkey Biofilm Drops. Why that in particular? Well, it’s very safe from what I’ve read and it extends the shelf life of stored water to 5 years. Plus they happen to sell it where we buy our filters and it made a very lucky impulse buy. We treated some stored water with this 2 years ago and when we opened some last month it was still fresh tasting. Especially when we considered that the container had accidentally been exposed to heat for a couple of months.
Living on a farm is supposed to be your ideal for self sufficiency. But if you’re relying on just your well you’re opening yourself up to a lot of possible problems. Wells go dry and get contaminated every day, not just when zombies fall through the cover.
So it’s a good idea to not only have some of those smaller containers for running down the road with and the water barrels for smashing up dead guys trying to break into your barn but you also want water tanks and cisterns.
Cisterns can be stored on your roof or the side of your house and depending on the size of your property you can have several of them. If you have livestock it’s good to have one for each stable, coop, or barn plus the house.
There are specialized water tanks, larger than water barrels, that you can store water from cisterns into or you can store well water or other filtered water in as well. The same cleanliness rules apply to water tanks but with cisterns it’s more a matter of having a good filter on the user end when you draw water from it and making sure you clean it out once every few months.
You also want to have screens on top of your water cistern to prevent animals and debris from dropping inside. And zombies, of course.
And no matter where you are…
You should probably have some of these items.
WaterBOB – Turn your tub into a water storage tank that holds up to 100 gallons of clean water
LifeStraw – Incredibly cheap and completely portable. I usually grab one every time I order something from Amazon and put them away for emergencies in the van and garage. It’s also just good to have on the go if you need to drink tap water.
On the Go H2O – This is a great little jobby to have on hand to filter your water after you sanitize it by boiling or bleaching to kill the little germies. It’s not badly priced and everything comes in a small bucket.
If you have any tips, suggestions, clarifications, or corrections please leave a comment below.