The ultimate way to put away 30-plus gallons without sacrificing closet space. By Jason H. Harper
My wife, son, and I live in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City. We also have family that lives nearby, in Philadelphia. One family is in a row house, the other in a high rise. What do we all share in common, other than Thanksgiving?
Very little storage space.
When it comes to emergencies in the city, my biggest worry is water. If water flow is interrupted, we are all in big trouble.
For this reason I keep water filters nearby (the LifeStraw, namely), but also try to keep at least 30 gallons of water stored inside the apartment. That would give us each a gallon of drinking and cooking water, per person, for 10 days. (That still isn't as much as I'd like, but...)
How the heck do you store a bunch of water in a small space? Because a bunch of Poland Springs bottles from the local bodega isn't going to cut it.
The answer is WaterBrick.
What is WaterBrick?
Each brick — and they are roughly shaped like bricks — hold 3.5 gallons of water. They are made of BPA-free plastic (a high-density Polyethylene resin), so water is safe to store for long periods. At 18 inches long, 9 inches wide, and 6 inches thick, they're bigger than they might appear in photos.
Once filled with water they're heavy (27 pounds says the manufacturer), but they come with a sturdy wire handle that makes them easy to move around.
The best bit is this: The exterior of each brick has grooves and extrusions so that they can be stacked on top of each other four high. They stack like actual bricks — in other words, two on the bottom face north-south, and the next layer goes across them (east-west). The interlocking structure is quite stable and is recommended up to four foot high.
The products are made in the United States. The company is family owned, and based in Florida.
How much water do you need?
This is a common question, but figure on a minimum of 1 gallon per person per day for actual hydration. Even more in a hot, humid or desert situation. But then you should consider if you'll need water to boil or add to food (necessary for oatmeal, beans, or ready-made meals like Good To-Go). Then consider basic sanitation. Three gallons a day, per person, is an even better yardstick.
A single WaterBrick sells for more than $30 on Amazon. We suggest instead that you buy in bulk. Ten is a good number to start with, like the ones found here.
Ten bricks give you 35 gallons of water storage... Which should give a family of three some ten days of the most basic water needs.
Water matters. Having it stored away in a safe and efficient manner is a really smart move.
The WaterBrick's killer application is easy storage for people who live in apartments or smaller houses without a garage. (If you've got a garage or sizable space that can handle a 55-gallon drum, we suggest and own the one from Augason Farms. Just don't leave it sitting on naked concrete — chemicals can leach into the water.)
The easiest way to store the WaterBricks is not to stack them at all: Put them under your bed. We easily fit 10 WaterBrick's under our queen-sized bed. Sitting on their sides, the fit perfectly under a normal-sized bed frame, with about an inch to spare in terms of height. We cut up the cardboard box that the bricks were delivered in and laid it on the floor underneath the bed to capture any moisture and deaden any rattling. Then we slid the bricks onto the cardboard. We don't sacrifice any storage space in the house whatsoever.
Otherwise, you can stack them in a corner of closet or other space. One of the WaterBrick executives suggests making a side table out of them by placing glass or wood on top. They really are stable enough to be used in this manner. (You'd have to like the available tan or blue colors, though.)
There is also a FoodBrick product available. It has a wider mouth to accommodate Mylar bags (a special bag which protects dried foods like beans or rice and can be vacuum-sealed shut). Critically, the FoodBrick also interlocks with the WaterBrick, allowing you to store all of your essentials in one place.
Instructions: What to know
As is sometimes the case, the process of storing water is not nearly as easy as you might surmise. Even clean tap and bottled water have microorganisms, from Coliform bacteria (found in your gut right now) to pathogenic organisms that you want no part of. After many months of sitting in a vessel, you may find unappealing bits of gunk in your water.
The answer is to treat the water with something akin to this small vial of water preserver. You simply pour some drops in with the preserved water and give it a good shake. (The main ingredient is sodium hypochlorite, the same stuff found in unscented bleach, but it also has a stabilizing agent.)
But before putting in your water, you need to make sure the containers themselves are clean. This takes a bit of work. We simply prepared ours in the bathtub.
First, take some bleach and wash the inside and exterior of each brick. Then wash the interiors again with a bit of liquid dish cleaner. Make sure all of that is thoroughly washed out. You don't want your water tasting of soap, after all. Then we suggest you let it all dry out.
Then fill up the containers with tap water (or bottled water if you must), cap, and store.
Note: Some users have seen leakage issues with the WaterBricks, and that is due to one issue: The gasket, or interior plastic piece on the lid, must be positioned correctly. Each gasket has a rib around the edge that helps to ensure a good seal. If you can't see the rib, the plastic piece is facing the wrong direction. (See here for a good visual presentation of right versus wrong.) Also, if you over-tighten the lids, it can cause that plastic piece to ripple. Basically, before you put on the lid, check each one. We've seen no leakage or issues whatsoever. If you DO have any issues, WaterBrick is quite responsive and will send you new gaskets and/or lids. Call them at 407-499-4105. They're good people, in our experience.
Do you need to replace the water?
The water preservative says it's good for five years, and no icky stuff should be able to penetrate the WaterBrick. That being said, you might consider changing out the water every six months to one year, depending on your level of concern. We change ours every year.
Is this overkill?
One word: No. The bricks aren't cheap, and it takes some time and effort to wash and fill them. But once you've done it, you'll feel better prepared than any of your neighbors. Water matters. Having it stored away in a safe and efficient manner is a really good, smart move.
About us: Preparation Concierge is devoted to emergency planning and disaster preparation. We offer users level 101 information and advice, and a smartly curated list of gear, food, and water solutions. We take a particular interest in urban and suburban areas — these populations are especially fragile and susceptible to disasters, and are often the most unprepared.