How Long Does Stored Water Last? It Depends.

Many conditions determine how long stored water will last

How long does stored water last? That’s a common question in the prepper world for old and new preppers alike. While some people like to give definitive answers like “one year” or “6 months,” there are just too many variables at play for a straightforward rule.

First, we’ll talk about the lifespan of different types of stored water, and then we’ll talk about the variables that can affect this.

How Long Does Stored Water Last? 4 types of Water Storage

There are many different ways to store water, but here are the four most common and how long they last.

Commercially Bottled Water

Commercially bottled water is available at nearly every store and gas station you can find. This is one of your longest-lasting options because it is sealed once it’s bottled. You may notice “expiration dates” on bottled water. This is due to the potential breakdown of the plastic, not the water itself. Unopened bottled water never actually goes bad, but plastic can begin to leach into the water, which is not ideal. However, if the water is stored optimally, you have at least two years before the plastic starts to break down.

Commercially Canned Water

Commercially canned water is one of the most expensive ways to procure water, but the long shelf-life makes it worthwhile to have some on hand. One of the most popular brands is Still Water,  which claims to be shelf-stable and fresh for up to 50 years. Several emergency food brands have their own lines of canned water.

Store extra water in washed soda or juice bottles

Home-Stored Water (Indoors)

Brian wrote about how to store water in great detail in this article. How long does stored water last indoors? When properly stored indoors, water can be stored almost indefinitely. However, heed the same precautions as mentioned with bottled water if you are keeping it in plastic vessels. You may find that it tastes “flat” if it has been sitting for quite some time. It’s simple to re-oxygenate water. All you have to do is pour it back and forth between two containers a few times, which will greatly improve the taste.

Home-Stored Water (Outdoors)

If you’re keeping your supply outdoors, seek a food-grade, UV-resistant container. This water should be chemically treated to prevent the growth of algae. How long does stored water last outdoors? It’s recommended to replace water stored outdoors annually due to exposure to the elements.

The Variables

Of course, as mentioned in the introduction, there aren’t any hard and fast rules due to significant variables. Here are some of the things that can affect how long your drinking water will remain fresh and potable.

Hot Temperatures

If your stored water is exposed to extreme temperatures, it can affect how long the water will last. But this isn’t so much because of the water itself, but due to the container in which it is stored. Extreme heat causes plastic to break down faster, leaching potentially unhealthy chemicals into your water.

Freezing Temperatures

Repeatedly freezing then thawing can cause plastic containers to break down far more quickly. Not only can it leach chemicals into your water supply, but it can also weaken the material and result in leaks. Also, water expands when it freezes, which can weaken or break any type of container, including cans, if there isn’t room for expansion.

Avoid UV exposure when storing water outdoors

UV Exposure

When outdoors, water is generally kept in a blue or black container. This helps to protect it from UV exposure, which can hasten the growth of algae and bacteria. You can help prevent this growth by adding the appropriate amount of bleach to your container.

Cement Floors

Placing plastic water containers directly on cement floors can cause your water to become contaminated. Any chemical that has been on that cement can leach into your water. Some blogs say that it just makes it taste or smell like a contaminant, but I would not recommend consuming water that has a whiff of kerosine, for example. If it smells like a chemical, then it is contaminated by that chemical. This is a very simple problem to avoid. Just lift your containers up on a couple of 2x4s.

So, How Long Does Stored Water Last? It Depends.

It’s impossible to say precisely how long your emergency water supply will stay fresh. Still, in ideal conditions with the correct pre-treatment and a high-quality container, you can store it almost indefinitely. Of course, you may not have the perfect conditions, particularly during a longer-term emergency. It’s strongly recommended to have multiple methods of water purification in case you need to treat your stored water before drinking it.

How do you store your drinking water? Do you have any water storage tips? Let us know what you think in the comments.

How Long Does Stored Water Last? It Depends.

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Ash Duncan

Ash Duncan and family live on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they enjoy hiking with their dogs, spending time outdoors, and watching apocalyptic movies.

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  1. Floud on September 19, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    Water , ? You dont give it a thought untill its when you dont have any . I never gave it any thought from one to the other in my early days in the service or when we were out on inthe field i took it for granted . There a verse in the the new testment we walk by faith not by site . One gallion of water will give you 2 days of a opertuintey to make 2, days of coffie in a 12 cup coffie maker . That one gallion weigh 8 pounds approx . I just leard that from a book ,but now as to storeing water , i know from my time in the service the water continers were of colar ,with that i have a local grocey store that sells 5 gallion jugs that are thick white plastick ,for about 7 dallers . I went and bought a can of black spray paint for plastic and i paonted them black ,and i have painted one gallion jugs black as well . I do have them in my garges but i put them on a carpet under my cabnets ,but with that it gets in the 110 range where i live so my gargae is about 100 degrees during the summer . Now i do wander if the one gallion jugs plastick has started to break down . I do use them from time to time in watering plants to keep fresh water supply as possible .

    • Michelle on October 15, 2021 at 7:07 pm

      What does painting the bottles black do for the water? I have never heard of this and am curious about what the benefit is.

  2. Michelle on October 15, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    I am loving reading these articles. I always wondered how long water last. This is a very informative article. I will be able to use this information when I start storing consumable foods and waters and being more prepared.

  3. Curtis on October 17, 2021 at 9:22 am

    I just purchased a food grade 275 gallon tank and did a Google search to find out how much bleach to add to disinfect the water in the container. This is the answer I got. –> Just the raw, basic, household bleach. Use 1 tsp for every gallon of water in the tank. A full 275 gallon tank will take about 5 3/4 cups (sources: University of Florida and ). Mix it into the tank the best you can and then let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking. This will disinfect the water and help clean the tank and hose.

    I don’t plan on filling the container to the top so that I can leave room in the event of a hard freeze.

    Does anyone know if it would be worth while to cut the hard foil back foam insulation and attach to the wire cage for freeze protection. I already have it wrapped in a tarp and camo netting but this is to keep it out of sight and out of mind for anyone traveling past the house.

    I would appreciate any ideas on an affordable yet effective freeze protection plan.

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