Updated: Sep 23
SO, HOW MUCH WATER IS ENOUGH?
The answer is A LOT. Certainly more than you expect, and definitely more than the few cases you regularly pick up right before a big snowstorm.
If you're just starting to prepare, your first "layer" of preps should be for your HOME. Some emergencies, like a blizzard, will have you "sheltering in place", rather than heading out to fair the elements. In these cases, you will HAVE to stay home because you will not be able to safely leave your property. When you have children, especially younger ones, there will be instances in which it will be impractical and more risky to travel during an emergency. In general, "sheltering in place" will usually be your first step - and you'll need access to water while you wait.
Having direct access to water through a kitchen tap is great, but what happens when those taps don't turn on? What if the water is still flowing, but it's no longer being properly treated by your municipality before it reaches you? City water plants rely on electricity or other fuel to add pathogen-killing chemicals to the water supply. During blackouts, earthquakes, and floods, you may continue to receive water through your pipes, but it won't necessarily be safe to drink - even after purification. This is why you will still have to store containers full of water in your home.
STEP 1: HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED?
You need to know HOW MUCH water your family needs. Account for humans, pets, & livestock (we'll cover your gardens another time).
According to most resources, each person needs 1 gallon of water per day, minimum. 1 gallon a day per person is the minimum amount of water needed for drinking, cooking, & washing. If you live in a hot or humid area (even half of the year) you have to DOUBLE this amount. It's not the amount we are used to using, but it's enough to survive on. When in doubt, err on the side of storing MORE water rather than less.
If you are a pregnant or nursing mother, you must add 1 additional gallon per day. So if you are breastfeeding in July, you'll need a MINIMUM of 3 gallons of water set aside for only you EACH DAY - your breastfeeding child will need their own 2 gallon supply of water.
PETS & LIVESTOCK?
Each pet needs 1 ounce of water per pound of their weight. A 25-pound pet needs 25 ounces of water a day, minimum. Water consumption can change depending on diet, so please consult a trusted source for your specific species and breed of pet to ensure you store exactly what they need. Livestock is based on many factors, so consult your farming groups for those, but DON'T forget about them! Smaller flocks can be calculated based on observation: We noticed that our 1 dozen chickens drink 1.5 gallons of water a day in the winter and 3 gallons a day in the summer, so we know how much we need to set aside for them per day.
STEP 2: HOW LONG SHOULD I PLAN ON NEEDING STORED WATER?
Your first level of water storage should be for a minimum of TWO WEEKS. Two weeks is the minimum starting point, I
wouldn't aim for less than that, but you'll want to increase that time frame after you've got all of your basic needs well covered first.
If you are new to preparing, and this is your first step, I wouldn't recommend trying to store any more than this just yet. Overwhelm is real and biting off more than you can chew will grind your progress to a halt. Treat this like a practice run - go through every step - from calculations to shopping to storing. If you don't run into any major complications, great! If you do catch a snag, at least it should be manageable at this size. And always send us a message if you have questions!
STEP 3: CALCULATING YOUR HOUSEHOLD'S WATER GOAL
If you prepare ahead of time by storing the right amount of water, you'll be able to comfortably shelter in place for two weeks. Here are the basic rules:
1 gallon per person per day.*
For pets, 1 ounce per pound per day. (There are 128 fl oz in each gallon.)*
Remember to include your livestock.
Store at least a 2 week supply (14 days).
*If you live in a hot & humid area: store TWICE this much. If you are pregnant or nursing: store THRICE this much.
Use the chart below to make your personalized calculations:
Here in New Jersey, we are still in the summer months, so that is what we will be preparing for: each person in our household needs a minimum of 2 gallons of water per day, and as I happen to 4 months pregnant, I'll be setting aside 3 gallons of water per day just for me. Our 70-pound dog will need TWO ounces of water per pound per day, or 140 ounces of water. There are 128 fluid ounces per gallon. Convert ounces to gallons here. Our pet bunny adds another 16 ounces of water, or roughly the size of a standard single use water bottle per day. We know we need to set aside 3 gallons of water a day for our flock of chickens.
Here are my family's calculations:
My husband & children: 2 gal x 4 people x 14 days = 112 gals
Me, pregnant: 3 gal x 1 person x 14 days = 42 gals
My dog: 2 ounces x 70 pounds x 14 days = (15.5 gals) 1960 ounces
My bunny: 2 ounces x 8 pounds x 14 days = (1.75 gals) 224 ounches
Our flock of 12 chickens: 3 gal x 1 flock x 14 days = 42 gals
Our household water goal: total: 213.25 gals
Use basic editing software to fill out this chart, take a screenshot, and save it to a folder on your phone/desktop, so you always have a digital copy. You can also download the printable at the bottom of this page and place it inside of your emergency preparedness folder. Here is what my family's chart looks like:
What if I have access to well water?
Having access to a well is great - if you don't have one, check to see if your neighbors have one and if they would be amenable to sharing it/bartering for it's use in an emergency. However, just like municipal water, wells can stop working if you lose power, and can become contaminated during a flood. There are precautionary measures you can take to protect your well water access, but you should STILL have water physically stored inside of your home. If you can't touch the water right now, then you don't actually have the water, does that make sense?
SO, WHAT'S NEXT?
Now that you know HOW MUCH water your household needs, you can start to decide how you want to store it. Keep an eye out for my next post detailing your water containment options and where to buy them.
And remember, get prepared, stay crunchy.