All About Water Rotation

Water rotation can seem like a big mystery with all kinds of different advice floating around. We hope to make things a little more simple and address the reasons WHY you rotate to help you make a decision for how often you want to rotate YOUR water storage. Please leave any additional questions or comments about water rotation in the comments below.

Why You Rotate Water

With properly treated water stored under perfect conditions you may be able to get away with never rotating your water. However, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry. Bacteria, algae, etc. can start to grow in your water making it very unpleasant (and unsafe) to drink should you need to use it. Store-bought water needs to be rotated by it’s “expiration date” because the plastic used for the containers can break down and/or start to leech chemicals into the water. If you re-use containers it is also very possible that there could be remnants of food/water left in the container that can be a contaminent to the water over time. Even if you are using brand new containers and purified water, there is always the chance that something from the air can get into your containers and cause the water to become contaminated.

How Often to Rotate Water

There are many differing recommendations on how often you should rotate your water storage. You may hear anywhere from every few months, to a year, to five years, to never. Assuming you have properly stored your water, we feel that it is a good idea to CHECK your water every six months. Make sure nothing is growing in it and that it is still drinkable. Unless you add a special additive (see below) we recommend that you rotate your water once a year. Your water probably will still be ok if you go longer than that, but it is better to be on the safe side (plus it seems a bit gross to drink 10 year old water, lol).

Tips to Rotate Less Often

Here are a few things that can help your water storage be good for longer:

  • Store in opaque containers to keep out light (dark green and blue are best)
  • Store in a place that is dark and cool consistently
  • Sterilize any containers you are storing water in before filling
  • Treat your water with a special water treatment. The Aquamira Water Treatment combo can treat up to 60 gallons of water and they claim “When used according to instructions, and kept in a sealed container, treated water needs no further treatment for 5 years”.
  • If you have a good water purifier you may choose to avoid rotating and just treat all water when the time comes to use it

What to do With Rotated Water

If you have hundreds of gallons of water stored, you want to make sure to be able to USE the old water so you aren’t wasting it. Some ideas for using your water are:

  • Rotate in the spring and water your lawn and gardens with it
  • Use it to flush your toilets
  • Run several batches of laundry using stored water
  • Wash your car with it
  • Water house plants
  • Purify it and use it for drinking/cooking
  • Give your dog a bath
  • For more ideas check out the responses from our readers on Facebook

If you store water mainly in large barrels some of these ideas may not be that easy to facilitate so you may want to consider treating the water to give you a 5 year rotation time frame.

How to Improve Water that Hasn’t Been Rotated

If you haven’t been diligent about rotating your water, all is not lost! Most often the biggest complaint is just the taste of the water. You can improve the taste by pouring the water back and forth between two containers a few times. This will aerate it and improve the taste. It’s also a good idea to store some sort of drink mix like tang, crystal lite, koolaid, etc. if you have picky “drinkers”. If you are worried about the safety of your water, you can always boil it to purify it. If you are conserving fuel or need to also filter out any particles, then have a good filter/purifier like a Berkey or AquaPail on hand. The idea is to make sure you have a way to have clean and drinkable water in the case of an emergency.

Stay tuned all month long as we go over more water storage topics!


  • Brandi

    I am new to long term storage and am especially concerned with storing water properly. What is the best way to store water in your car? I thought it was bad for water to warm up/cool down, but cannot think of how to avoid this if I am leaving water in a car. Any suggestions or tips are alpreciated!

    • It’s best to avoid storing it in plastic containers. The problem is if chemicals from the plastic can leach into water if it gets too hot.

      • Brandi

        Do you have any suggestions/recommendations on what water storage containers would be best to keep in your vehicle with a 72hr emergency kit? Thank you!

        • Either the foil pouches, water drink boxes, or metal water bottles.

    • ash

      What if you do it using the same method as canning food in glass jars. boil it and put it in a sanitized jar and seal it.

  • Steve Franks

    Go to a pool shop or big box store and get a pool test kit for chlorine… When purifying water in the army for troops to drink that’s how we tested it. Too much chlorine does bad things to your stomach… Sunlight degrades the chlorine, but stored in a cool, dark place stays stable much longer… Use tester 3 months to start and check it .. And little to bring it up. You need to check amts. am thinking .05 ppm (parts per million) but double check to make sure…

  • Jj

    The roof runoff will not be cleared out by a water filter if the shingles that your house is made with contain tar there chemicals in shingles and the tar products that can be filtered into the water that cannot be taken out by conventional water filters. To adequately clean that water you would need to distill it.

  • JAK

    we have several thousand gallons of rain water stored in black tanks. This is runoff from the roof. I am told the Berkey water filter will make it safe to drink…..does this match with your information?

    • Yes a berkey should clear up anything that is contaminated in that water!

  • GJ

    I have several 5 gallon water containers. They were stored in the garage on concrete floors until I read that will contaminate the water. (I have also read this is just an old wives tale, but have no way to know for sure.) I moved them up on wood, but now I wonder if the containers are really okay. I also have 5 gallon buckets of food that have at various times been on the concrete floor. Do you have an research on if this is a problem? Are my containers contaminated or do I just need to continue to rotate the water? Thank you!

  • brooke

    So is it unsafe to just drink the water when rotating it?

  • Christine

    If store bought bottled water has never been opened, how often does it need to be rotated out?

    • It’s still usually 1-2 years because the plastic in the bottles can degrade.

  • Randi F

    When treating the water with the bleach amount recommended is it safe to drink right from the container?

  • Great tips! This has spurred me into action! Thanks!

  • Julia

    When I rotate my water (in 2-liter soda bottles), should I re-sanitize the bottles (with a bleach solution) before I refill the bottles with tap water?

    • You can if you want, but what is probably most important is to treat the water before drinking it.

  • Brittany

    Thanks for the great info! I have a few questions! I have 2 55 gallon blue barrels and a few 15 gallon. Then I have a bunch of the thick plastic juice containers. First, if I want to avoid heat and light, should I store my water storage in my basement storage room or my garage? My garage is hot in the summer, but it would damage my basement if I had a leak. Second, how am I going to rotate that water when it’s such a large container?! Would you just do it slowly over weeks and use the water where possible or is there another good idea? Thanks so much!

    • Nermal

      I use a 12v marine utility pump from Harbor Freight

  • Tiffany

    Thanks for the great info.
     

  • Jenny Croft

     You should add a picture to this post so I can pin it.  🙂