We all know that water is essential to life.  It’s no wonder that most City’s are situated close to water. Most of us are blessed to be in a situation where little thought is necessary to get water.  When we are thirsty, need to take a shower, wash clothes, or clean, we turn on a faucet and out it comes…clean and ready to use.

Unless you have your own water source, your water is probably conveyed through a large City network of pipes, pumps, valves, and reservoirs.  Engineers, technicians, and maintenance crews  are dedicated to providing you clean water, on-demand, in the most efficient, safe, and economical way.

When disaster strikes, the reliability of the water infrastructure may be compromised.  What will you do when turning on the faucet doesn’t give you clean abundant water?  In preparing for an emergency, water storage should not be overlooked.

Your own personal cache of water provides insurance against such emergency situations.

Typical Residential Water Use

The typical family in North America uses approximately 171.8 gallons per person per day.  About 69.3 gallons per day per person is for indoor use.  This was found in a 1999 study of 1,188 homes in North America (research funded by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Research Foundation and can be found here).  The following graphs break up the water use by category:


Average Household Water Use

Keep in mind that this is typical residential use, and not water use during a crisis.  If people had to carry water from a spring to their home (as many in the world do), water use would be drastically reduced.  The following chart shows how the per capita water use in the United States of America compared to other countries.

Domestic Water Use Per Person (derived from "Facts and Trends" by World Business Council for Sustainable Development)

Domestic Water Use Per Person (derived from “Facts and Trends” by World Business Council for Sustainable Development)

Notice that both sources above give different water use values.  It is interesting to see, however, the low amount of water that people in other countries use.

How Much Water Do We Really Need?

On average an adult will need to drink about half a gallon every day to stay healthy.  FEMA recommends to plan on storing a minimum of 3 days worth of 1 gallon/person per day.  So for a family of 5, this would be 15 gallons.

My Recommendations

I recommend storing 1.5 gallons per day per person (adults and children) as a minimum.  This will provide you with the bare volume needed for cleaning, cooking, and drinking.

The amount of storage you need depends on how long you plan to be without water.  You may want to consider what type of disaster is likely in your area, and how that might affect your ability to get clean water.  An earthquake may break water mains and cause water contamination.  Power outages, without contingency sources, will cause pumps to become inoperable.  I recommend starting out small then growing your storage over time.  Start with storing enough water for your family for 2 weeks, then make plans for storage of 1 or more months or longer.  I recommend having a 2 weeks supply of water as a minimum.

In summary, here are my recommendations:

  • Plan on using 1.5 gallons/person/day (5.7 liters/person/day)
  • Store a minimum of 2 weeks worth of water (21 gallons/person).




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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Ben,
    I have been working with a poor neighborhood in the Dominican Republic. They have to buy all of their water for all needs from trucks that come by every once in a while. They are a very poor family. So they don’t waste anything. So how much water does this family use for drinking? How much for cleaning/cooking etc? We visited them and interviewed them. Here is the answer for this family of 2 adults and 3 children:
    3.6 gallons/day drinking
    7.9 gallons/day other
    11.5 gallons/day total
    Mayo clinic recommends for drinking:
    Drinking water
    Men 0.8 gallons/day
    Women 0.6 gallons/day
    Children 0.3 gallons/day

    So I think you number might be a little bit low for low consumption situations. Who knows?

    • Some real world experience…that’s great! So they use about 2.3 gal/person/day.
      I can see how 1.5 gal/person/day will be stretching the water budget thin. Great comment.

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