How to store water in a 55 gallon drum

September 5, 2011

Water storage is a critical “prep” for you and your family. You can live for about 3 days without water. That’s it. How to store water in a 55 gallon drum? It’s pretty easy.

I have six 55 gallon water containers in the garage. I rotate the water out every year or two. When I’m ready to replace the water (which I did today),  I just carefully tip over the barrels, roll them to the lawn, open the caps with the bunch wrench, and let the water run out. I then rinse them out with fresh water, roll them back into the garage, throw in a scant 1/4 cup of unscented liquid bleach (kills algae and bacteria), fill ‘em up with the hose, screw the caps back on with the bunch wrench, and I’m done. Water can store this way for years!

Here’s some general guidelines for treating water with liquid bleach and how to store water in a 55 gallon drum:

  • Use unscented bleach.
  • Add a scant 1/4 cup of bleach to each 55 gallon drum.

Water Treatment guidelines from the Red Cross:

In addition to having a bad odor, and taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and parasites that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. All water of uncertain purity should be treated before use.

To treat water, follow these steps:

1. Filter the water using a piece of cloth or coffee filter to remove solid particles.
2. Bring it to a rolling boil for about one full minute.
3. Let it cool at least 30 minutes. Water must be cool or the chlorine treatment described below will be useless.
4. Add 16 drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water. Stir to mix. Sodium hypochlorite of the concentration of 5.25% to 6% should be the only active ingredient in the bleach. There should not be any added soap or fragrances. A major bleach manufacturer has also added Sodium Hydroxide as an active ingredient, which they state does not pose a health risk for water treatment.
5. Let stand 30 minutes.
6. If it smells of chlorine. You can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add 16 more drops of chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water), let stand 30 minutes, and smell it again. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.

Hope that helps.



7 Responses to How to store water in a 55 gallon drum

  1. Tina on September 8, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    This is too big for people like me thAt live in an apartment. Suggestions?

    • Prepster411 on September 9, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      The 5 gallon jugs aren’t too bulky. Also, have a look at this: waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage. Or a Katadyn Hiker PRO Water Microfilter is nice, compact and highly rated.

      Also, get to know your neighbors. Join forces. Someone could store water, someone food, someone tents or campstoves. Be creative. Your community’s resilience is as important as your own.

  2. Ray Gordon on October 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    It is my understanding that drinking water should be stored no longer than 6 mos. to one year. I question the statement that it can be stored indefinately. Please direct me to reliable information where that came from.

    • Prepster411 on October 7, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      Hey Ray,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I don’t think is said indefinitely. I said “years.” I’ve used water I’ve stored for over a year and didn’t have any problems.

      If you can rotate your water supply every year, I think that’s a good idea.

      Water is water, however. I personally wouldn’t have any problem drinking water that I had properly stored in a barrel for up to 5, maybe even 10 years, as long as it wasn’t obviously brackish or contaminated. Yes, it might taste weird, but it’s water. If I had any doubt I’d just filter it or treat it with a steri-pen, but by all means, rotate through your supply as often as you feel comfortable.

  3. Mark on February 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I recently aquired (6) 55 gallon drums that had contained sodium hypoclorite. I have rinced them three times each and am wondering if they could be used for water storage?

    IMO, they any left behind chemical could just be keeping the water pure, but I am not an expert. Any thoughts on this?

    • Prepster411 on February 19, 2012 at 9:05 PM

      Would probably be okay, but I don’t have any experience with drums that have previously had chemicals in them. I’d exercise caution.

  4. southern patriot on October 21, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    We have several 55- gallon drums that had either soap or chlorine inside, before they were given to use. We washed them out several times with Dawn liquid detergent, rinsing them out each time. We then washed the barrels out again with baking soda. We then allowed them to dry out before using as part of a rain barrel catchment system. We regularly used the water collected in our garden. We have cleaned them out again & rotated the barrels and used the water during the summer months. Now we are beginning to store water from our home water supply. Adding the right amount of bleach and then capping them. We have added a pitcher pump to the drums for easy access to the water. If, and when, we need to use that water, we would filter for any debris and then boil any water before using. If there was a concern, it would be that they have to be stored outside during the winter months. We are planning to wrap and cover from the weather. We are making plans to store the barrels in the our green house, that we recently built.Thanks for letting us add our 2-cents worth. Southern Patriot