Choosing the right water containers for your space

While we can never store enough water, there is a limit on how much we feasibly can store. Larger containers are more useful for long term storage but are treated differently. You must first decide where your long-term water storage is going to be placed before you select which containers to buy. The more room you have, the bigger container options become available to you.

Selecting storage locations

Assess your storage space for the following:

  • Should provide optimal conditions that are cool, dry, and dark. Light exposure promotes organism growth, quickly reducing your water storage time.

  • Larger spaces can include basements, cellars, and garages.
  • Garages must be used with caution as temps fluctuate dramatically. Make plans to block the light.
  • For smaller spaces consider bedroom and hallway closet space and areas under each bed.
  • There is one outdoor option as well. See Waterfull Barrel below.
Long-Term Water Storage
Water Container Options

Once you’ve chosen the best places that offer the best conditions, you can move on to finding the containers that serve your space the best. The more space, the more storage container options there are to choose from. The containers listed here are not the only ones available, but they are some of the most popular.

Long-Term Water Storage
Which Options Are Right For You?

3.5 Gallon Water Bricks

Water bricks work best for smaller spaces. They can be stored in tight spaces under couches, beds, or in closets. They are great if you need that flexibility. The also stack so you can store more with less floor space required. These are the easiest to use and transport.

Weight when full: 29.2 lbs.
Accessories needed: water spignot

5 / 7 / 15 Gallon Water Jugs

These containers are very sturdy and made of food-grade plastic which is a must, and most are stackable. The blue color helps to restrict light exposure, preventing algae growth. You must consider thickness before you buy one if you are interested in stacking them. The thicker, stackable ones cost more but this is great for limited space.

Weight when full: 5g = 41.7 lbs., 7g = 58.4 lbs. / 15g = 125.2 lbs.
Accessories needed: water spignot

20 Gallon Containers

The WURX 20-gallon water containers is a portable, space-saving water storage solution. Containers are stackable up to 3 high and are BPA free. Built-in handles allow the containers to be easily moved. This works well for apartments and other small spaces, serving as middle option between the 5 and 55-gallon containers.

Weight when full: 166.8 lbs.
Accessories needed: bung wrench & siphon hose

55 Gallon Barrels

These units are standard in the shipping industry for all kinds of goods. If you go this route, make sure you purchase one specifically for water storage. This give you the ability to store more with less floor space and is one of the most popular water storage options on the market today.

Weight when full: 440 lbs.
Accessories needed: bung wrench & siphon hose

Larger Drums & Tanks

Larger size drums and tanks are efficient at storing larger quantities of water. They come in different sizes, anywhere from 160 gallon to 500-gallon tanks, and even larger. In some cases, the larger the tank the more money you will save. The price break is unbelievable when comparing the same amount of water stored in 5 gallon containers. Includes a detachable spigot.

Weight when full: varies at 8.34 lbs. per gallon.
Accessories needed: none - but an optional pump can be purchased.

Waterfull Barrel System

Waterfull Barrels are attached to your outdoor water hose. When you run the hose, water moves through the barrel and out the other end. This system always provides 30 gallons of non-stagnant water. It is a great storage device but runs on the pricier side. This water source will need to be treated unless the hose you use uses food grade plastic. Sun exposure is okay.

Weight when full: 300 lbs.

Collapsible Water Containers

You can store high quality plastic containers that are meant to be filled once an emergency has arrived. When needed, you simply place it in your bathtub and fill it with water. It comes with a pump for ease of use and holds up to 100 gallons of drinking water. If you have 2 bathtubs in your home, it's a smart idea to have another one on hand. It's a one-time use product but is quite affordable for the amount of stored water it provides.

Water Storage
Plastic Suitable For Storing Water

Now that you know what type of containers you want to buy, here are a few pointers when looking for a reputable vendor. Remember, not all plastic is created equal when it comes to water storage.

Buying the right type of plastic for drinking

What to look for when buying

  • Invest only in high grade materials by purchasing containers meant for water storage.
  • Long-term water storage must be kept in heavy-duty plastic containers.
  • They are often blue and opaque so light cannot get through easily.
  • They are made from BPA free, HDPE (high density polyethylene) food grade plastic. Do not skimp on this step.

What not to buy or use

Helpful tips

  • 1 gallon plastic containers available at your grocery store are not suitable for long term storage as the plastic can crack over time. Only use for short term rotation.
  • Do not buy used food containers in case someone has stored some type of chemical that will not come out with any amount of washing. This could contaminate your water storage.
  • Do not buy any containers from Craigs List, eBay, etc. unless you personally know the seller.
  • Avoid clear soda-type containers as light is an enemy.
Water Storage
Storage Conditions

Once you have invested your time and money, this last step is vital to the success of your long-term storage.

Storage Environment

Your chosen location should provide optimal conditions that are cool, dry, and dark with temperatures between 50°F –70°F. Garages get warm to hot in the summer so use your garage as last resort unless you are willing to rotate your water supply every six months.

Control Light

It is imperative that you minimize the light, or at the very least, direct sunlight. Light exposure promotes organism growth, quickly reducing your water storage time.


Store your water containers at least 6 inches from the ground. Learn more about water storage placement.