Home » What’s the Shelf Life of Stored Water?

What’s the Shelf Life of Stored Water?

by Richard A Reagan

Hopefully you’re one of those people who understand that in the event of a natural disaster or SHTF scenario you’re going to be responsible for your own food, housing, and safety. If you’ve taken the steps to stockpile food, water, and other vital necessities you may think that you’ve done everything you need to. But have you just stored things and put them away without giving them any further thought? Or are you actively rotating your stock to make sure that everything you’re storing is still fresh?

One common question that many people have when it relates to supply storage is just how long their supplies will keep. With food it’s an easy question to answer since “best by” dates are normally printed on cans and packaging. But how long will water keep? That depends in large part on how you store it.

Packaging Is Important

Many people try to stockpile water by buying pallets of individual water bottles or gallon jugs of water at the grocery store. Those bottles are made of flimsy plastic that is designed to break down over time. If you’re lucky and store them in a pantry or basement you might be able to store them for a year or two before the plastic starts to get brittle and crack or develop pinholes. If you store water in gallon jugs be sure to check them every month to make sure that none have started leaking.

Storing them in a garage or other non-climate-controlled area or storing them in an area that receives sunlight will further speed up the deterioration of the plastic. You may only get a few months of storage from them in that case. So in other words, your containers will go bad before the water has a chance to. But once the plastic starts to crack and water leaks everywhere, that water can no longer be trusted for drinking as is.

If you plan to store commercially purchased water, a far better option is to buy 5-gallon jugs such as the kind you would find in a public bottled water dispenser. That plastic is much thicker, won’t break down, in many cases can be found BPA-free, and is impervious to odors.

You can also purchase your own storage containers, from hard plastic jugs to collapsible water bladders to large 55-gallon water barrels. Storing your own tap water isn’t that difficult. Best practice is to filter the tap water when you fill your container, add bleach, chlorine, or some other decontaminant in order to maximize shelf life, and ensure a firm airtight seal.

Water Can Stay Good for Years

If you’ve stored your water properly it should stay potable for years. Anecdotal reports from people who have stored their own water in thick plastic jugs indicate that it’s not inconceivable for stored water to last for at least 20 years. The key is to make sure that water stays safe from contamination.

Bottled water that is stored properly and away from sunlight can stay good indefinitely. Just make sure that you give it a good sniff before you drink it to make sure that it isn’t contaminated. If for some reason you don’t trust that it’s good, it can’t hurt to purify it again or boil it.

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