How much water is enough?

This is a guest post by Tom Sciacca of :yes: .

If you like food as much as I do, it’s hard to imagine that our body can actually go weeks without food. It wouldn’t be fun, of course, but it can be done. But without water, our bodies can get into serious trouble quickly – just a matter of days before dehydration can set in. So why is it that many people keep lots of extra food stored in their houses, but neglect to store any water?

This subject came to mind recently when my cousin told me about having to endure a power outage with no drinkable water. Since power outages often impact water treatment facilities, tap water can be unsafe for drinking. The situation was made worse by the fact that her child had vomiting and diarrhea, which meant that there was an even greater need for drinking water, as well as water for cleaning, sanitation and hand washing.

For instance, a mixture of water and chlorine bleach would have greatly assisted in sanitizing around her child, helping to ensure that others didn’t also get sick. And obviously, you wouldn’t want to clean up after such a mess without being able to thoroughly wash your hands. (As a dad, I know that’s NOT fun!) Finally, water for food preparation is a supply you’ll need over and above what you plan to drink.

Now if you look at the conventional wisdom out on the internet, you’ll find guidelines such as the following:

 A normally active person needs to drink at least a half-gallon of water every day. Hot environments can double that, and children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

 Additional water should be stored for use in food preparation and hygiene.

 Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day. You should have at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your household.

This is all well and good for the most basic needs, but I recently contacted a very knowledgeable ecologist and cultural anthropologist about her opinion of these recommendations, and she recommended much more. Back in the times when people hauled water from lakes and wells, she told me, a normal household used over 2 gallons of water per person for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Nowadays, people are so accustomed to having plenty of fresh water around that it’s used at a much higher rate. (Don’t forget that people only bathed once a week in olden times!)

So my latest philosophy is that it is better to plan on 2-4 gallons per person per day. Sure, you may use less, but what if the situation lasts longer than you planned? You’ll be happy you had the additional safety margin.

Now, where should you get the water? Well, for a while, I sold canned water, as it can be stored easily for long periods. But after a time, I began to realize that the shipping cost of canned water made it very expensive for customers to acquire (plus, it’s not exactly a “green” practice to ship water that you can get from the tap), so now I just give advice on how to store it on your own.

 You can buy jugs of bottled water or you can fill up empty 2 liter soda bottles (which you’ve thoroughly cleaned, of course). Make sure it’s a plastic that is safe for food use and don’t use them for an eternity. (I’ll cover safe water storage later.)

 Store the water in a cool dark place, such as your basement, if you have one.

 Rotate your water ever six months or so, by using up what you have in your cooking, washing or even flushing the toilet, then replenish the supply.

Keeping water on hand is not simply a preparation for TEOTWAWKI, but a smart precaution against power outages, storms or any other time we lose basic services. It means you’ll be less likely to panic (like all those unprepared people) and less likely to be demanding assistance from already-overtaxed emergency services.

Of course, having an adequate supply of food is important too, but without water, you’ll be majorly uncomfortable in an awful hurry. Fortunately for my cousin, she and her family came through okay, but the anxiety she felt during the situation helped her recognize that you can never have too much water on hand.

In a follow-up to this blog, we’ll talk about what types of containers are safe to store water in and how to make sure bacteria growth doesn’t ruin your day. See you then!


Tom Sciacca is President of, specializing in wilderness and urban survival.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. This is a question that cant be answered. The true answer is there is no enough. Omne can not store, carry or otherwise transport enough water. MY thought on the matter is redundancy in procurment and purification. Have multiple ways at your dispossal to purif whatever water you can lay hands on. In a nice secure static position, one can discuss water at a different level, but if you are forced to move, you can only haul so much, so purification is the way to go.

    • Agree with you Spook. You need to have a system of acquisition and purification. There is a great example of that on the first episode of “The Colony” by Discovery. The team works on a system that allows them to collect and purify water consistently. It’s available on Netflix if you haven’t seen it.

      So, purification tablets seem to be a lot more important that actual water supply as that is finite.

  2. Northbound says:

    Well-written and very useful article. Thanks!

  3. Tom:
    Water is an issue for most of us. I happen to live in a 33k= town and my house is completely dependent upon municipal services (natural gas, electricity, and water/sewage). It is part of our long term plan to get outside of the town proper and have our own water/sewage and propane/wood heating. But that is at least 2 years off.
    When I had the plumbing worked on, had the contractor put in a spigot and a drain in the basement. This was to be able to use city water to fill up our water containers in the cellar and dump them if needed without having to haul them up stairs (they are old, wood, narrow, and have a 90 degree turn in the middle).
    We currently have enough for the 2 of us to use 1 gallon per day for 2+ years.

  4. tommy2rs says:

    Baby wipes, hand sanitizer and waterless hand cleaners can all help reduce water usage in emergency situations. I learned to take a baby wipe bath when I was working land jobs as a mud engineer. I’d get stuck on a wellsite for days on end until whatever problem was solved. Another mud engineer clued me in to using baby wipes to keep a passing acquaintance with clean.

    Waterless hand cleaners range all the way from good old Gojo to a product from Timberwolf that is citrus based with no pumice or solvents at all.

  5. Rain Harvesting Systems should be considered and implemented in areas where very little snow falls. These are used in various parts of the U.S. and to a greater degree in places like Micronesia/NMI. Larger systems are designed for up to 80,000 gallaons…you are only limited by your imagination & budget.

    Personally, I would not make them too big and have a few discreet systems located throughout my survival area, vice a Bug out Location…think big for hunting/gathering, just like the native americans had wide hunting grounds and moved occasionally . Undeground cisterns vice above-ground storage tanks might be a good idea if the soil composition is conducive.

    Here is a link of the type I am referring too:

    Having lived/farmed in a Third World country for over a decade, I learned to adopt simple systems of obtaining H2O, such as shallow wells, elevated holding tanks, various H2O pumps, etc. & where to look before I started digging.

    In colder climates the ground H2O table should be adequate for installing a well…problem solved. Just have to figure out alternative power sources for when the grid goes down…old fashioned hand pumps come to mind…

  6. michael c says:

    This “problem” should be solved with layers of protection. The addage “One is none, two is one” is the reason. First, move to a place where you have water rights – if you have no water rights (collect rain water, put in well) then you have 2 strikes against you.

    2 – Pop bottles filled with water (handy to move and use)
    3 – 10 to 55 gallon containers (large compact water storage) & small hand pump
    4 – Rain water barrels, for most downspouts
    5 – Well, powered by DC solar panels or by hand or bicycle (belt to pump)
    6 – Stream nearby (pond/lake counts too)

    Also, rotating water is extra “non-value added” work. The well water at my place has been in the ground for almost 12,000 years (last glacial age) without “replacing” and still tastes good.

    • michael,
      Another thing folks need to check on the subject of water rights, has to do with collecting rainfall. In some instances the water rights (that you don’t own) extend to restricting you from collecting the rain. Stupid rule, but one that can be enforced. Know your rules, laws, and rights.

  7. I was reading the post and I totally agree with your opinion. Very often we ignore the importance of water. However at this very point I would also like to add one more thing that water is extremely important for the survival therefore it is better that we start to take care of the leaking pipes as they waste a lot of water which otherwise could have been used for a better purpose.

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