3 days without fresh water - that's how long you'll survive.
Think about these things if you think I'm being 'extreme':
- How many power outages have you lived through in you life? Outages that lasted more than let's say arbitrarily, half an hour?
- How many boil water notices have you had to deal with?
- Water rationing? Unheard of in the Northeast, this is a fact of life in the Pacific southwest.
- Ever been stuck in traffic for half an hour or more?
QUICK ADVICE: Buy a reusable water bottle and two cases of water per family member. Costs less than $10 per person, cheapest insurance you'll ever get.
See below for further steps.
Bare minimum for survival is 2 quarts per person per day. This would not be a pleasant survival. At least a gallon for drinking is more in line with actual consumption and needs. Plan on another gallon for cleaning, cooking etc. A reasonable initial goal is 1 weeks supply. From there you can work your way up to whatever amount is comfortable for you.
There are numerous ways you can store water ranging from cattle tanks all the way down to aseptic 'juice box' size. Let's look at the options:
WATER BARRELS & BULK TANKS: can store lots of water directly from your faucet, reusable, barrels can be purchased cheaply from your local pepsi (or coke) bottler, or if you don't want to deal with the hassle you can buy brand-spankin-new ones from places like emergency essentials (beprepared.com). Drawbacks - impossible to move once filled, water needs to be changed a couple times a year. Will require additional supplies to use efficiently (see below).Pricy if purchased new ($50-$85+ shipping depending on source) Used ones can be found for as little as $10.
I've also seen a giant vinyl bag insert that fits in a bathtub and holds water as well. Great idea - here's a link:
BOXED WATER KITS: Another bulk storage option. Comes with several cardboard boxes and mylar bags you fill yourself. Not widely available, expensive compared to other options but slightly less expensive than 5 gallon jugs.
5 GALLON JUGS: Still stores lots of tap water but far more portable, easy to locate (walmart carries them in the camping section). Easier to tuck out of sight. Cost about $10 each. Drawbacks - still fairly heavy (about 50 pounds when full), water needs to be changed a couple times a year.
1 and 2.5 GALLON JUGS: Very portable, widely available, inexpensive to pick up one or two here and there. Jugs can be refilled. Unopened jugs can be stored for years. Average price is about 75 cents per gallon but can be found for as little as 50 cents/gallon.
SINGLE SERVE BOTTLES: Sizes range from 8 oz aqua pods to 32 oz. Portable, good serving size, don't take up much space. Easy to toss a few in your car, desk, backpack. Unopened bottles can be stored for years. Average price is $5 per case for 16 oz bottles, sales can be found for $3 or 4 per case.
ASEPTIC PACKAGING: Sizes range from 4-8 ounces. Handy for emergency packs, car kits, desk, purse, etc. Small size makes them easy to carry. Sturdy packaging. Unopened water stays good at least 5 years. Drawbacks: very costly compared to larger packages, not readily available
PERSONAL WATER BOTTLES, FILTER STRAWS & CAMELBAKS :
Water bottles can be purchased cheaply, camelbaks and filter straws are most portable. Drawbacks - if you haven't already filled them you need to find water. Camelbaks are expensive, need parts occasionally, and have to be kept clean.
My suggestion is to store a variety of sizes. A good per person goal would be (IMHO) two cases of bottled water, 2-5 gallon jugs, 10 gallons mixture of 1 and 2.5 gallon jugs, and 2 quarts to 1 gallon of Aseptic (this would be spread throughout emergency bags, car, etc). Ideally you would also have at least 30 gallons in a bulk barrel per person.
- Bung wrench/bucket opener - necessary to get into the barrels these run just under $10 each.
- Siphon hose - convenient way to get water out of barrels, can be connected to a hose so water can be drawn over a distance. $10-15
- Siphon hose adapter - so you can attach a hose to the siphon. Under $5
- Drinking water safe hose - better for water your going to be drinking, made out of food safe material - $15-$30 depending on length.
- Purifier - prices vary, under $10 per package
- steel buckets - for collecting surface water from streams, rainwater, etc.
- Purifier tablets
- solar still