5 Myths about Water Storage

· Reading Time: 5 minutes


Since storing water is very different from storing food, there are a few things you should consider if you’re new to water storage. Water storage needs to be protected against viruses, contamination, and bacteria. So you must take different measures to protect your water from these threats than you would with food.

Here are 5 common myths and facts about water storage that you’ll want to consider as you start your water storage reserves.

Myth #1: Water can expire.

Fact: Water does not expire. It can become contaminated (chemically or biologically), but it doesn’t “go bad.” Water can have a stale taste, but that taste can be eliminated by rotating your water and purifying it. If a water storage source is in ideal conditions (it started out clean and was stored in a dark, cool area, not directly on concrete or near harsh fumes and chemicals), it technically can store indefinitely. Rotate water for peace of mind or if there is a risk of contamination.

Myth #2: It’s fine to store water in any type of plastic container I have at home.

Fact: Water should be stored in a UV-resistant, food-grade plastic container or in metallized bags. Traditionally, water storage barrels are blue. This color limits light exposure and biological growth (bacteria and algae) and also signifies that what is stored in the container is safe for human consumption (for example, gasoline is stored in red containers).

The safest containers to hold water in are polyethylene-based plastics, or plastics #1, #2, and #4. Our water barrels are made out of plastic #2 and, unlike some other companies, have never been used to store other items before they are sold to you. This type of plastic is good for long-term storage and is BPA-free.

You can figure out the number of plastic by looking for this symbol on the bottom of containers:



Other helpful tips for storing water in plastic containers:

  • Don’t use milk jugs for water storage. Since milk jugs are biodegradable, they will break down over time. Also, any live cultures in the milk that remain in your jug could make you ill if you store drinking/cooking water in milk jugs.
  • Disposable water bottles are not great for long-term storage. Water can be stored for long-term use in re-useable Nalgene bottles.
  • Soda Bottles and Powerade/Gatorade bottles can be used for long-term water storage. However, it’s important to remember that plastics absorb flavors, so your drinking water may have a cola taste. If you store water in soda or Powerade bottles, don’t use the water for cooking or else your soup might taste like cola!

Myth #3: If I have a water barrel, I’m set for every emergency I’ll encounter.

Fact: You can’t solely rely on the barrel for all the situations you may encounter. If you have to evacuate, you won’t be able to carry a water barrel with you. Also, if you only have one barrel or one water source you may run out of water given the number of people in your family and the number of days that you will be without water. Remember that the average amount of water to store is one gallon per day per person for a 2 week period.

Store water in various sized containers and plan for different situations (grab-and-go, shelter-in-place, extra water for cooking, etc.). You can siphon the water from your barrel into other containers and refill it before emergencies arise.

Myth #4: To save space, I can stack water barrels on top of each other.

Fact: Most water barrels are not built to stack on each other. If you want to stack your water because you don’t have room, use water containers with grooves on the bottom for stacking like our 160 Gallon Water Reserve, Aqua Pak or Aqua Tainer.

Water barrels are safest if they are stored standing. However, do not store your barrel directly on cement or on the floor in your garage. Plastics absorb flavors and odors from gasoline, liquids spilled on the floor, and chemicals used to create the concrete. These chemicals and odors will make the taste of the water unbearable to drink. Instead, place your water barrel on top of a wood board or cardboard so that odors and chemicals do not leach in.

Myth #5: If I have a water purifier, I don’t need a filter.

Fact: Water purifiers like Chlorine Dioxide will kill 99.9% of all microorganisms (like protozoa, bacteria, and viruses) in your water. Chlorine Dioxide is excellent for sheltering-in-place, and also great for treating water from your barrels or water you collect from streams or rivers while hiking.

However, purifiers alone won’t remove turbidity (dirt, silt, “floaties,” and chemicals) from your water, so we recommend using a purifier and filter together to make sure your water is clean (especially if you are collecting water for drinking and washing, but turbidity is ok if you use soap while washing.)

If you’re a first time barrel buyer remember that you’ll want to buy a water storage combo. Each combo includes a bung wrench, replacement bung (a bung is the white cap on top of your water barrel), siphon hose, and water purifiers for maintenance.


These are just 5 myths about water storage. But if you’re new to water storage and want to learn more, check out these articles for more tips:

Not all Barrels are Built the Same” 

Water Storage Overview” 

Water Storage Options” 

43 Responses

  • It seems prices have gone up astronomically. If I had to pay the prices charged for barrels today, I would probably just have to die. With the economy the way it is one would think a hold would be on costs, but everything keeps going up. I wonder if people are really important or profit means more. What determines the price?

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for your question. Prices on water barrels can vary in time with the actual cost of shipping. The shipping charge we collect on is a flat rate to our customers and it does not reflect the actual cost of shipping these large barrels. We were founded to “Help people prepare… in exactly the same way we would want to be served” since 1987. We have not increased the price of our barrels at anytime for additional profit. We have had to modify the price slightly depending upon shipping cost. This is apparent when you see that the price decreases when you purchase more of our barrels. We receive a discount on shipping and we pass it along to our customers. We very much value each customer and want to help them prepare in anyway possible.


    • My thought for those who cannot afford the expensive storage containers is to buy a few refillable gallon jugs and keep refilling and using them for as long as we have water available.
      Keep rotating, inspecting and using the containers. I had a few thin containers a while back in my basement and mice ate through the plastic.
      For storing, even keeping one under an end table or in a closet is ok if you remember they are there and rotate them. Keep a list of where your supplies are stored and inspect them frequently.
      Large plastic jars from pastas etc. would be an alternative to actual water containers as long as they have a screw on lid. Just use and rotate occasionally. We don’t need them right now, this is planning for that terrible day when we might need them.
      Also remember that liter bottles of various juices (V8, etc.) are also sources of liquid that will hydrate and can add vitamins at the same time. I would recommend actual juices, not juice drinks. Accumulate one a week with your regular groceries and soon you will have a few dozen extra available for emergency situations.
      Also think about additives such as lemonade powders for your water when you finally use it, no one says that you have to drink it as just water. It will cover the smell and taste and again add vitamins.
      I hope this helps someone , don’t be afraid to think out of the box.
      I also have a filter available but a pound of charcoal is cheap and you can learn to build one if you ever get into a situation where you need it.
      Think rotation and portability, not years of storage, if it gets really bad out there, none of us will be in one place very long any how.

    • I am having two 160 gallon barrels with brass fittings delivered in 30 minutes. The cost was high. I refused to pay the price for the last two years. But I wanted storage for 3 gallons per day for may family and for at least 3 months that is about the longest southern WI drought period that I have experienced (with no rain). This is as best as I can recall. I operated a Blue Ridge Mountain range camp once. We had a 2,000 gal plastic water container. It was very expensive. The camp had wells, but we needed more water and digging a new well on a PA mountain top was too expensive. Even replacing a well pump at 100′ depth was expensive. Once I remembered these things I went ahead a bought two 160 gallon containers, for the preparedness peace of mind as well as the portability of the “empty” containers should I move in several years. If you want the peace of mind of a lot of water, it is going to be expensive unless you can dig your own shallow water cistern close to ground water and take that level of water quality that comes with it. But that is hard work and if you use back-hoes…its is going to be expensive. The expense is a no-win situation. If you want water storage that can suffice for a month or longer you just have to do it; and then relax in the protection that you have acquired for yourself and loved ones.

    "do not store your barrel directly on cement or on the floor in your garage. Plastics absorb flavors and odors from gasoline, liquids spilled on the floor, and chemicals used to create the concrete. These chemicals and odors will make the taste of the water unbearable to drink."

    • Hi DB,

      Thanks for your question. Our water barrels are high quality, food-grade containers that are thicker than others on the market. We are confident in their quality and ability to store water safely. We are not aware of any other water storage barrel or container that provides a perfect barrier. We are confident that if you store your water properly, it will be safe to use and a reliable option.


  • I have a small room in my garage that is used for storage. The water heater is in the same room. Can I safely place my water barrels in this room, I plan to put them on pallets.

    • Carolyn,
      It’s fine to store your water in this room as long as your barrels are up on pallets like you plan to have them. Just make sure not to store food in this room because of temperature changes.

  • I love your website and I really enjoy all the helpful hints. This is one of a very few company’s that I feel is not out to get rich off of me. Keep up the good work.

  • Why are water bottles not recommended for long term storage? They are a plastic #1. What could be the potential dangers of drinking from them if you’ve stored them long-term?

    • Hi Katie,
      Water bottles are not the best for long-term storage because they can give the water a plastic taste after a period of time. Also, they are not as durable as stronger plastics for long-term water storage. This is not to say that you cannot store water in plastic bottles. It’s just that they won’t be as strong or as reliable as a stronger plastic.

  • I have six large water barrels. Can I safely store them in my garage without impacting my house foundation because of the weight of the barrels? If so, can they be stored together or should they be placed in various locations so all the weight is not in one area? Or, is outside with a cover built over them a better option? I live in north Texas. Thank you in advance for your assistance!

    • Carol,
      You barrels should be fine stored next to each other in a line without disrupting the foundation. Just make sure to put them on a wooden platform or 2×4 to make sure they aren’t touching the garage floor. Storing them outside is a good option as well, as long as you have the cover. If you choose to store outside, please make sure to have them well covered.

  • I have the costco barrel and is stored in garage with gas,paint and many other chemicals used for working on my car. Will it absorb all thw other fumes created by open chemicals?

    • Hi Frank,
      I saw that you made this same comment on the post “3 Things you Need to Know about Water Barrels,” so in case you didn’t see my response there, I’ve written it here as well:
      Thanks for your question. You are corrected about fumes being absorbed by plastics. So, if your garage has paint cans and other chemicals, it’s not preferable to store them there because the chemicals can leach in and make the water unbearable to drink. Try storing your water barrel in your basement (if you have one/have the space) or store it outside with a barrel bag http://beprepared.com/barrel-bag.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1360 to protect it from sunlight and other outdoor elements. You can also look for barrels that have a seal inside that protects against absorption (for example, our 160 Gallon reserve is made of an enhanced plastice that’s BPA free and non-permeable).

  • We just built a storage room/basement in southern Arizona, with a concrete floor. It has shelving composed of that ground-up wood that is pressed together (I cannot think what it is called right now). The shelves are painted, and after two years the paint still stinks. So my question is, will putting laminate (abt 1/4 inch thick) on the floor, or carpeting, be enough of a barrier between water barrels and food storage plastic buckets to stop them from leaching the chemicals? How about stopping the formaldehyde from the wood from getting into either the plastic buckets or plastic barrels?

    • Hi, Deanne.
      Great questions. I reached out to two of our experts, Dawn and Tim, to get their suggestions. Here’s what they had to say:

      This is actually a common question in the stores. If possible, use fans to air out the storage room as much as possible first. All water barrels should be raised off the floor with a pallet or 2 X 4’s. Plastic buckets that are lined with metallized bags do not need to be raised up, but if they don’t have a metallized bag then the same rule applies to them. Cans aren’t an issue because they can’t be permeated by gases. Air flow around plastic is really important. It won’t prevent all gases from getting in but it will limit the process significantly. Change out the water yearly to make sure the water is as fresh as possible.

      Paint has chemicals, and I’m guessing the wood you are referring to is OSB or Particle board. OSB is very “fumey”.
      My suggestion would simple be 2 x 4 pine studs cut into 2-foot-lengths and 3-4 of them placed under the barrel (leave 1-2 inches of spacing between each piece for air movement). That will help, but the smell may be strong enough to not be blocked by anything – especially if the room is not well ventilated. The smell will have nowhere else to go.

      So, Deanne, it sounds like raising the barrels (and the buckets if they don’t have metallized bags) onto a pallet or 2×4’s with space between them and making sure the room is well-ventilated are the two key things to address.

      Thanks for your question! Let us know what else we can do to help.

  • i’ve had a water barrel for a few years in my garage on the floor, but have not put any water into it yet. i haven’t gotten a bung wrench yet to open it. (lame, i know.) my question is whether the barrel is ok to use if i put it on some wooden 2×4 or a pallet when i put the water in. or is too late now because of all the time the barrel has been on the floor absorbing fumes, chemicals, etc.? thanks!

  • one gallon water/milk jugs are made out of #2 plastic (high density polyethelene) same as the water jugs and barrels you recommend. It is estimated that takes about 500 years for them to bio degrade.

    I’m not saying that one should use one gallon water jugs off the shelf, but maybe people claiming to myth bust shouldn’t pass on more myths.

  • What about the bottled water that comes in cases of 24/36 16 oz eg Nestles. Is this safe for long tem storage? 5 yrs? I have also used soda plastic 2 liter size— soap water,rinse & then freshwater & 2 drops of good bleach per bottle. Ho long are these good for. I store in basement…some are on a rug, some are stacked on top of each other, some on shelf

    • Ready.gov suggest rotating through your stored water every six months, although that’s more for straight up tap water than anything else. Bottled water from the store (like Nestle) may have a “best before” or expiry date on it, but the FDA considers bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life. So, for your store-bought bottled water, it should technically be good for 5, 10, or many more years. For your own bottled water that you gathered from the tap, you should consider rotating them every six months.

  • I’ve wanted to store water for a while now but I never knew quite how to start the process. It’s good to know that these 5 myths are not true as far as water storage is concerned. I find it very interesting, that despite popular belief, water shouldn’t be stored in just any plastic container. Thank you for your helpful tips on the subject!

  • We got the 50 gallon water barrels.
    1) So, if we store them on 2x4s in the garage, and my cars are parked in the garage- would the barrels absorb fumes from the cars parked in my 3 car garage.
    2)can we just wrap them in any tarp/ plastic – inside or out to prevent absorption?

    • Your water will be safe in your barrel. For extra precautions, you can add some Aquamira water treatment to your water which would counteract any fumes that did get in, but to be honest, that’s not going to be a concern. The barrel will protect it just fine. If your car is running in the garage long enough that your water gets affected, you have a much more pressing problem on your hands 🙂 As for wrapping in plastic, it wouldn’t hurt anything, but the amount of help it would do is negligible. But, rest assured, your barrel is made to protect your water from this kind of situation. Hope that helps!

  • We have a crawlspace with a gravel and Dirk that at time floods when the water table rises and is damp down there most of the time. There is plenty of room for water storage. Would the dark dampness be ok to put plastic water jugs? There isn’t much airflow either but is duct vented to the furnace and AC.
    Please advise.

    • Storing water in high temperatures (generally 70 degrees or higher) can increase the risk of micro organisms growing in your water. If you still choose to drink it, you would likely need to treat it first. Also, high heat (or being exposed to direct sunlight) can deteriorate the plastic of your storage container, thus allowing the plastic’s chemicals to seep into your water source, rendering it undrinkable. The blue water barrels are designed to mitigate that, however you should still keep those barrels away from sunlight anyway. Hope that helps!

  • I have access to use well water from someone who lives in the country (not around any farming or chemical use) and the well is new. The water is clear and tastes great. I have to drive 100 miles to get it and wondered if it is safe to store in refrigerator in glass containers for a month at a time.

  • OK I am emptying a 30 gallon barrel I have had full (with water preserver treatment) for over 5 years but know it’s time to empty it, been putting it off (Never used any). I now have a good purifying thing so don’t feel the need for stored water right now but wondering if there is anything other than emptying I should do so that the barrel remains dry inside and doesn’t grow mold or something.

    • Use a long-handled brush if you need to scrub any buildup. With that use a mixture of water and vinegar or water and bleach to clean. Rinse with fresh water and you should be good to go.

  • I have been thinking about getting a water barrel. So, I liked that you explained that you can’t stack them on top of each other to save room. Perhaps it would be better to look for an underground water tank. That seems like it would help me save space while still having a water tank.

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