How much water will you need when SHTF?

Water is the most important aspect of survival. When the tap turns off for the long haul, we’ll see first hand just how much we’ve grown to depend on the beast. Right now, the average household burns through roughly 400 to 500 gallons of water per day. When the big event finally happens and all this convenience is a memory, we’ll be using dramatically less water because the only water we’ll use is the water we find and purify ourselves (or stock up on beforehand). This moves water to the top of the priority list when it comes to all things prepping and survival. The most obvious question would be, how much water will we need to cover about 30 days? Keep in mind, 30 days is the gold standard of time estimation because even if the event is over with quickly, basic services may not be back online for several weeks. It’s best to prepare for about 30 days, just in case.

How much water do you and will you use on a daily basis? According to the USGS, the average household runs through 80 to 100 gallons per person, per day. This number factors in everything from brushing your teeth to flushing the toilet. Since we’re talking about a time when basic services are null and void, let’s unpack what we use the water for in the first place. We’re going to leave the toilet out of the equation. That’s a whole separate blog. When the time comes, there are a plethora of options for that too. For now, let’s focus on the basics: hydration, cleaning, cooking and sanitation. Also, as a side note, I’m talking about plans that are designed to shelter in place. Carrying around enough water to meet your family’s needs will require considerably more strength than you might think. There are contingency plans for that too but again, that’s an entirely separate blog. All that follows was written with staying at home in mind.

In order to stay hydrated, you have to drink enough water throughout the day. The average amount of water you need to stay hydrated is approximately 102 ounces or around 2 quarts. Keep in mind that the average bottle of water contains around 17 to 20 ounces. There’s roughly 32 ounces in one quart. Since you need at least 2 quarts of water per day to stay hydrated, this means you’ll need about 4 full water bottles to achieve your personal hydration goals, give or take. We could break it down to differences in gender (all 2 of them) and water per weight but no one will have the luxury of exacts when the time comes. Remember, this is all based on estimations. You may need more or you may need less and every bit of it depends on your personal constitution. If your plan is to stock up on water for hydration (which is the most realistic), here’s what you’re going to need (give or take) for a 30 day period per person to achieve that goal:

  • 1 person will need 120 bottles of water or about 15 gallons.

  • ​2 people will need 240 bottles of water or about 30 gallons.

  • ​3 people will need 360 bottles of water or about 45 gallons.

  • ​4 people will need 480 bottles of water or about 60 gallons.

  • ​5 people will need 600 bottles of water or about 75 gallons.

Remember, the above list is only talking about basic hydration. We haven’t even touched on cleaning, sanitation and cooking. When you look for water to store, remember to shoot for BPA (bisphenol A) free containers. Most containers are now BPA free but make sure because BPA can cause cancer among other health problems. BPA is an industrial chemical used to make plastics and after a while, it can leach right into your water. When SHTF, you’re going to have enough problems. Worrying about carcinogens in your water shouldn’t be one of them.

The good news is that there is no ‘use by’ date when it comes to water assuming the water is stored in a cool, dry place and the bottles are BPA free. Much like anything else used in your pantry, remember to rotate your stock or use the FIFO (first in, first out) method to keep track. Ideally, you’ll want to use your water within a year but don’t sweat it if it’s kept in the basement a little longer.

If you think about all the ways you use water when you cook, from rinsing potatoes to boiling a pot of water to JAW (just add water) foods, you might be surprised at just how much water that turns out to be. A good guess would be about 1 gallon of water per meal per day to cook with at a minimum. Three meals per day comes out to 3 gallons of water. Some meals will need more water and others will need significantly less. For 30 days, a good guess is that you’ll need about 90 gallons of water regardless of your family’s size.

Cleaning uses more water than you might think too. Every time you turn on the tap to wet your towel, you’re using about 1 quart of water. When you factor in laundry, dishes, mopping the floor, cleaning up spills and all the rest, you’re actually talking around 50 to 75 gallons per day – just to clean with. When the tap is gone, you’ll have to make what water you DO have last a little longer.

While the subject of cleaning may not seem as pressing as hydration and cooking, half the battle in a SHTF situation will be to prevent as much infection as you can. The best way to do that is to keep your hands clean by washing them frequently and by keeping your counter tops, floors and clothing as free from infectious material as possible. (Think bug guts, animal guts, and about all the little impurities hiding in unfiltered and un-purified water.) Cleaning is just as important as filtering your water in that sense considering all the hidden variables.

Cleaning during a SHTF situation where you’re at home and already know what’s lurking on your counter tops may not be as water-demanding as it would be in the wild. A good, basic estimation of water needs related to cleaning would be around 1 gallon per day. You’ll have to make it work or stock up on hundreds of gallons of water. Side note. . . I’m not talking about laundry in the cleaning list, of course. That too is an entirely different blog because there are ways to manage that as well.

What’s the grand total? Remember, this is strictly an estimation. Considering that water doesn’t really ‘go bad’, if you can gather and store more water, the better off your family will be when SHTF.

A lone wolf will need roughly 135 gallons of water.

Family of 2 will need roughly 150 gallons of water.

Family of 3 will need roughly 165 gallons of water.

Family of 4 will need roughly 180 gallons of water.

Family of 5 will need roughly 195 gallons of water.

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