Water is essential to everyday life. Whether you are drinking it or using it to bathe, clean the house, or cook food, water keeps you comfortable and most of all, alive. However, if an emergency situation like an earthquake, hurricane, fire, or city-wide water contamination occurs, you can find yourself without a reliable source of water. To help reduce this risk, you can keep clean, potable water in one or more water storage containers.
The best water storage container for disaster preparation needs to be made with food-grade materials. It should also be sized to suit your emergency plan. For example, if you know you might need to relocate, plan to have multiple portable water storage containers, instead of a single, huge container.
Take a look at the top products below to get a better idea of what some of the best water storage containers have to offer.
- BEST OVERALL: Reliance Products Jumbo-Tainer
- RUNNER-UP: Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WaterStorageCube BPA-Free Collapsible Water Container
- UPGRADE PICK: Scepter 05935 Military Water Container
- BEST SMALL STACKABLE: WaterBrick Stackable Emergency Water and Food Storage
- BEST LARGE STACKABLE: WaterPrepared Blue 55 Gallon Water Storage Tank
- BEST WATER STORAGE BAG: Extra Packaging Corp. Water Storage Bag – AQUATANK2
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Storage Container
If you aren’t sure what information you should have about water storage containers, read the considerations below to help you make a more informed purchase.
Water storage containers come in a variety of forms, including drums or barrels, standard water containers, and water bags or bladders.
- Water storage drums or barrels are best for emergency bunkers or other stationary shelters because, when full of water, they are too heavy to easily move in an emergency. These barrels, which typically hold about 55 gallons or more, can also be used to collect rainwater as a utility water source.
- Standard water storage containers come in two broad categories based on their shape.
Stackable water storage containers might have only a 5-gallon capacity or hold more than 10 gallons. Their shape allows you to stack the containers on top of each other, which saves storage space.
Non-stackable water storage containers can also range in size, but these containers cannot stack on top of each other. However, they might be designed to lay horizontally, so you can carry them in your car or truck without worrying about the container falling over while you drive.
- Water storage bags or bladders are designed for portability when empty, but can have an impressive water capacity equal to a drum or barrel. However, when the bag is this size, it’s very difficult to move when full due to the weight of the water. But, this flexible container can typically be condensed into a much smaller profile when it isn’t full, making it a great option for an emergency preparedness kit.
- Small water storage bags can be filled up for a road trip or kept stored with water for a quick exit. This works well if you need to evacuate your home to ensure you always have an emergency supply to take with you.
You can find water storage containers made of plastic, glass, enameled metal, or fiberglass. The most commonly used material is plastic because it’s lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. You also won’t have to worry about rust and corrosion, like you would with a metal water storage container. The material in your water storage container should also be food grade, so you can store your water safely without the container breaking down over time and contaminating the clean water.
Size and Water Capacity
Before deciding on a water storage container, figure out how much water you will be storing, where you will store it, and whether you want it to be portable or relatively immobile. It’s advised you store approximately 1 gallon of water per person per day for a period of 2 weeks. With this base recommendation, you can estimate the amount of water you should have stored for an emergency situation, and decide on the most effective water storage container size and capacity.
If you are storing the water in a safe location where you can take shelter, like an emergency bunker, then a stationary water storage container is a good idea. It can hold a lot of water and you won’t have to worry about moving it. However, if your emergency plan includes evacuating, you might want to invest in smaller containers you can carry. Keep in mind, a container is significantly heavier when it is full of water than when it’s empty.
Ease of Use
It can be easy to use a water storage container or it can be frustrating, depending on a few important features.
- Spouts might come with a water storage container to help direct the flow of water when you are pouring. These devices are typically seen on smaller, portable containers, as they are the only type that can be lifted easily for pouring.
- Spigots are simple, effective, and convenient, which is why they’re the most frequently used method of removing water from a storage container. The spigot can either be built-in or attach to the container only when needed. To get water, just open the spigot, and close it again when you are done.
- Hoses can be attached to a siphoning pump on a large storage container or used with a water storage bag or bladder to pull water.
- Caps close the water storage container and should have a secure seal to prevent the water from becoming contaminated or leaking and damaging items in your disaster kit, like your emergency radio. You might also want to look for a cap with a textured grip, so it is easier to open and close.
The storage of these containers is another aspect to consider when deciding on a container’s type, shape, and capacity. Small, portable water storage containers can be moved around without a problem, stored in a closet or cold room, or fit easily inside your vehicle. Typically, larger containers take up less space overall than a bunch of small containers that hold an equivalent amount of water. However, once the large containers are full, you won’t be able to move them without considerable effort. This means that the container must be in place before you can fill it with water.
If you are storing your water in a safe location, you can invest in large-capacity water storage containers. But if there is the possibility of an evacuation, then portable containers are better. Stackable water storage containers don’t take as much space as non-stackable containers and the stack can be quickly disassembled and packed into a car or truck for transportation.
If portability is important to your disaster or emergency plan, then you won’t want to rely solely on a barrel or drum, which can weigh more than 400 pounds when full, rendering it immobile in an emergency. These larger water storage containers also might not fit in a car or truck if you need to evacuate.
Standard water storage containers don’t take up as much space and typically weigh around 50 to 100 pounds when full, making them a better option for transporting a large amount of clean water in a short period of time. Small water bags are also a good portable option, but they don’t have the same storage capacity as standard water storage containers, and large water bags would be very difficult to move once full of water.
Water storage containers are designed to keep your water sealed away from possible contaminants, but you need to take the container’s shape and weight into account before you begin stockpiling water. Stacking containers are designed with the strength, durability, and interlocking shape to be able to pile three or more containers high.
Before filling a water storage container you will need to clean it out and disinfect it. Once the container is filled and sealed you should store it in a cool, dark location, ensuring that it is stacked carefully, so it won’t be knocked over or collapse on anyone.
Our Top Picks
The products below were chosen for quality, price, and the considerations outlined above to help you find the best water storage container for emergencies.
Made of BPA-free plastic, this water storage container features a hideaway spigot that can be concealed within the container or placed on the outside to draw water. The spout on the spigot is wide, so it easily lets through plenty of water, but if the flow seems too high you can just adjust the flow rate down with the tap-style spigot control.
This water storage container is a great portable option that can hold up to 7 gallons of water despite its compact size and can easily fit in the trunk space of the average car. The container has a jerrican design, enabling it to sit horizontally or vertically, with a handle at the top and side so you can lift it in either position. This versatility allows you to store the container in a variety of positions to suit your water storage space.
With a capacity of 7 gallons, this option from Reliance Products can hold a large volume of water in a container designed to be carried over short distances. The container features a wide top grip, so you can move it around your storage area, take it to your vehicle, or carry it away on foot if necessary. This water storage container can be stacked, but only when the containers are empty. When filled they will weigh too much to stack safely.
The spigot that comes with this container can be attached for access to the water inside or reversed to hide inside the container, so it doesn’t get broken off during transportation or while in storage. The container is made of recyclable, BPA-free plastic and includes measurement markings on the side to help you see the amount of water within the container.
Keep a spare water storage container like this one handy if you need a way of transporting clean water away from a larger barrel, drum, or bag. This flexible container has a firm handle positioned on the top, while the sides of the container can fold down to a quarter of the size when the container is empty. The container is made of food-grade plastic, so you won’t have to worry about harmful contaminants.
Transport up to 5.3 gallons of water in this portable water storage container, and use the adjustable spigot to draw water when you need it. If you are planning on setting out to go hiking, fishing, or camping, then this storage tank is a great choice. The flexible material and small size allow it to fit easily in a car trunk, and the lid has a gasketless design, so you won’t have to worry about losing a rubber gasket when you fill the container.
The Scepter costs more than some water storage solutions, but the upgrade in durability is worth it if your containers tend to take a beating when you use them. The container measures 13.7 inches by 6.8 inches by 18.8 inches and features a 4-inch wide opening that fits a standard RV water pump. It also has a smaller, secondary opening in the cap that can be used to fill small water bottles.
This water storage container is made of military-grade LDPE and HDPE plastic, which is BPA-free and boasts superior impact resistance. It has a 5.2-gallon capacity and a firm top handle, which makes it easy to pick up and carry. The dark color of the container resists degradation in direct sunlight and weighs just 44 pounds when completely full, making it a great option for taking along when hiking, camping, climbing, or evacuating.
At only 3.5 gallons, this is a modestly sized storage container, specially designed to be stackable. In fact, you can stack these containers, one on top of the other, to a height of 4 feet—without taking up a lot of storage space. Each container is made of food-grade, BPA-free plastic and weights about 25 pounds when full.
The blue plastic on this 55-gallon storage tank is BPA-free. It’s also UV-resistant, so your water remains protected even in direct sunlight.
If you need to keep more water in storage for your family, then a second container (purchased separately) can stack on top of the first, doubling your water capacity without taking up additional floor space.
At the bottom of the container, a garden hose-sized spigot allows you to quickly access your stored water, while at the top there is an extra-large cap and opening for quick refilling.
This well-made water storage bag has a pillow-like nylon shell that covers a food-grade, BPA-free, polyurethane inner lining that can be filled with water. It measures 36 inches by 48 inches by 16 inches when full. The nylon shell is puncture resistant, though it shouldn’t be moved around with water in it. The bag has a 60-gallon capacity but weighs less than 5 pounds when empty.
Fill the bag up using the garden hose thread connection and empty it from the same connection with your choice of a female or male set of threads. This water storage bag is an excellent choice for camping and road trips, though it may not be the best for long-term storage. Though it is puncture resistant, the bag is still more vulnerable to rips and tears than a plastic water storage container.
FAQs About Water Storage Containers
Before deciding on a new water storage container, consider these frequently asked questions and answers, so you can be confident in your purchase.
Q. How do you store emergency water?
You should store water in a cleaned and disinfected water storage container made of plastic, glass, enameled metal, or fiberglass. The water storage container must be sealed to prevent dust, bacteria, and other contagions from finding their way into your drinking water. Once it is sealed, label the container with the storage date and keep it stored in a dark, cool environment away from toxic substances. Be sure to change the water every 6 months.
Q. How much water should you store per person in an average household in case of an emergency?
Among your other essentials for an earthquake or disaster kit, it’s recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to store at least 1 gallon, or 4 liters, of water per person per day for drinking, food preparation, washing, and personal hygiene.
Q. How do you clean a water container?
You can clean and disinfect a water storage container with these simple steps.
- Wash the storage container with warm water and dish soap, rinsing thoroughly when complete.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach with 1 quart of water (0.25 gallons) and pour this solution into the container.
- Cover the container opening, then begin shaking the container to distribute the disinfecting solution. Ensure that the solution thoroughly soaks every part of the interior, so you don’t miss any contaminants.
- Dump out the sanitizing solution and rinse the water storage container with clean water.
- Once clean, you can pour water into the container before sealing the lid and storing it.
Q. How long can you store water in a container?
While you should be able to store water indefinitely if the seal is adequate, it’s recommended to switch out emergency water every 6 months to mitigate the risk of contamination. Make sure to wash and disinfect the container before refilling.