Canning Water for Emergency Preparedness

canning jars filled with water

We are in the midst of a power outage, here where we live; and it will likely be a week before electricity is restored. (Update: we were without power for 11 days!) For us, no power means no water. Couple that with 100 degree weather and you can see where that could quickly become a problem for those who are unprepared.

In these types of emergency situation times, people tend to feel a bit panicky and there’s always a mad rush for bottled waters. While I do use them sometimes, I’m not much of a fan of plastic water bottles. We refreeze water in them to keep the bunnies cool in the heat, but most of the time, they end up getting only one use.

Today, I thought I’d share my method of canning water for emergency situations. It’s an easy way to accumulate sterile storage water without using plastic. I’m not exactly sure where I first read this tip – I want to say (though not 100% positive) from something homesteader, Jackie Clay, wrote. I have been so inspired by her writings and her homesteading ideas. She’s a one-of-a-kind resource that is just amazing!

All you need to do, is every time you can something, whether it is green beans, soup, potatoes, or what-have-you; fill a jar with water and process with the other items per their recommended times. Store these with your other canned goods and when you need a source of clean sterilized drinking water, just reach for a jar.

I often will can a small batch of something and have leftover room in the pressure cooker. Using jars of water like this, also keeps the food-filled jars from toppling over into the empty spaces.

Now that our power is out, I find myself reaching for a can of water when we need to brush our teeth or need sterile water to wash off a cut or scratch. I see now that I did not make enough for a situation like this and plan to remedy that this year!

I hope everyone is staying cool in this heat! (Or staying warm for my friends in the midst of winter right now.) Also, remember the birds and wild animals with little bowls of water and filled birdbaths! :)

labeling canned water and green beans

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  1. Interesting! I haven’t heard this before, mainly just fill a jar and store it, but this sounds like a good idea.

    1. Yep, that’s pretty much it. :) They really came in handy this week, without electricity, but I wish I had put up more last year. They’re all used up now, and we’re having to go through enough plastic bottles to make me cringe at both the price and the pile of them!

        1. Hi Cheryl, It just depends on however long the thing you are processing needs. So if you’re canning green beans, do the jar of water for the same length of time. In the same way, I do only 10 minutes in a water bath when putting up jelly. As long as it’s sealed when done, is the main thing I look for.

          1. I’ve stored water this way in years past. It tends to taste flat but if you pour it back and forth between jars a few times it puts air into it and makes it taste fresh.

            1. If it tastes flat, it is only because the oxygen is gone. Stir it several times and it will pick up oxygen again. It won’t hurt you, but tastes “off” without adding oxygen back.

  2. I would have never thought of this idea and it’s so simple! Thanks for sharing!

  3. My friend does this – she uses previously used canning lids for her water in order to save some expense. She says they almost always seal, and if one does not, she uses that water for a plant or something once it cools, no harm done, really. With the cost of canning jar lids, that seems like a good strategy to me.

    1. That’s a great frugal idea! I was gifted a big box of canning jar lids a few years ago and still have a bunch left, so I can’t say I ever stopped to consider the price of the lid in there! Definitely a way to save even more! :)

      1. I use juice jugs for extra water in the freezer, it helps fill up empty spaces in the freezer. will help keep colder and use less electric, can be defrosted for drinking or other uses.

        ALSO use a 2 letter soda bottle 1/3 full and freeze upright, after it is frozen lay on it’s side if water or ice is lengthwise in the bottle means electric was off long enough to melt the ice and if it is refrozen lengthwise the food may be spoiled.

        1. I have heard that you should not refreeze in the bottles from juice or water. They contain nasty chemicals, and you just get more leached into the water when it freezes.

  4. HI,
    I’m a widowed ol’ Granny who lives in British Columbia.
    I was on the Homestead Barn Hop and saw your posting about canning water. You are right, it is so important to have some water stored.
    I just wanted to pass along a little tip that I received from a Morman lady who was my hairdresser many years ago. She told me how the folks in her group would save water.
    Every time they would open a jar of home canning, they would wash the jar and fill it with water and put the cap back on and put the jar back on the shelf. She said they never had an empty jar – -it would either be filled with food or water.
    You know, over all these years, I never did do it. Now however, seeing your post and being confronted with all the anomolies that Mother Nature throws at us, I’m thinking I would be prudent to do this.
    Granted, this will not be sterile like if you canned it (so you need to keep canning some) but I think I will put a T. of colloidal silver in mine to take care of bacteria.(I hate using bleach)
    Thanks for your posting – I will go to your Etsy shop and check it out.
    I too am a member of Etsy but I’ve never listed my spinning and weaving because mailing things out is a big issue for me.
    Thanks, Sandy

    1. That is a great idea, especially using the colloidal silver. I tend to use iodine for everything, including germ killing – that might work too!

      I would love to see your Etsy shop if you ever list anything! Spinning and weaving are two things I would like to attempt one day, but for now I enjoy looking at other’s creations. :)

    2. That is a very wise tip there. Thanks for sharing it. Those Mormons are quite the forward thinkers.

    1. That would be a perfect use for a 1/2 gallon jar! I have a few of those I use for making tea, but that’s a great idea to use for water!

  5. I love this idea. I live in Va too but we were fortunate that we never lost power even though many around us did.

    1. I’m glad you didn’t lose power! :) The electric company called today and hopefully it will only be a few more days until ours is restored. I know they’ve been working hard around the clock getting it back to everyone as fast as possible!

  6. Last year I started canning jars of water, mainly at first just to take up space when I was canning something else & needed it to keep my jars from rattling around.
    I started storing them with my other canned goods but I cant say I have loads of them.
    I really love the idea shared above about never having an empty jar.. either fill them with food or water.
    It would be especially awesome if you have some of the reusable Tattler canning lids. I’ve got 4 doz of each and I love them.

    1. I liked that idea a lot too!

      You are right – the reusable lids would be especially frugal. I’ve heard the Tattler lids mentioned in so many positive ways lately; my desire to try them out has really grown this summer!

      I love getting all of these great ideas & inspirations from everyone! :)

      1. The reusable lids are the way to go with all canning because regular canning lids have BPA in them. Then your water would really be sterile.

  7. Me and my oldest daughter we were pondering this the other day. We are also not fond of plastic and how it may leach things in our drinking water for our food storage. Do you happen to know how long of a shelf life this might have so I can mark mine?
    Wonderful information, glad you posted on the Frugal Sustainable link up or I would have never found your wonderful blog! :)

    1. Aw, thank you so much for your kind words! :) To be honest, I’m not sure of the shelf life. I only started doing this last summer and had just shoved them in the back of a cabinet and only remembered them when the electricity went out and we had no way to brush our teeth before bed! I try to use all of my canned goods up within a year, sometimes two. I know my grandparents would eat things that were years old and lived to ripe old ages, but I’m a little more germ-phobic (not always a good thing!) than them. I’m sure at least a year, but I suspect much longer than that.

  8. I also think canning water is a good idea. I heard of it a couple of years ago but still haven’t done it. I know it does come in handy to have something to fill the space in the canner when you have a load that’s too small. But here’s a thought, why couldn’t you just bring the water to a boil, pour it into jars, put a clean but previously-used lid on top, and screw down the band? The heat of the boiling water is enough to make the jars seal and the water will be sterile because it has boiled. And that would fit well with the Mormon practice (which I hadn’t heard before) of filling a jar as soon as it’s been emptied and washed.

    As far as keeping quality is concerned, I’d think water would be good practically forever, as long as the jar stayed sealed. It’s sterile, so there’s nothing in it to grow. True, it might taste a little flat after awhile but you could use it for external things like washing hair, etc.

    1. That’s a great idea Ilene! I was just reading an old article in a Backwoods Home anthology today where Jackie Clay mentions shaking stored water to re-oxygenate and improve the taste. I haven’t tried it, but it’s a good idea to keep in mind. Couldn’t hurt to try it anyway!

  9. Oh, and another thought: When you make pickles, it’s always best not to use tap water because of the chlorine and so on. But you could use the water you canned from the previous year because it would be as pure as any bottled water you can get.

  10. We keep flavor water packs to put in the flat water. I also
    keep water in clear 2 liter bottles for washing dishes and other

  11. an excellant Idea…& perfect for the large Jars that dont often get used at our house

  12. Pingback: Sunflower Jelly | The Nerdy Farm Wife
  13. Wow! Hope things improve for you soon ~ Life is so different for you compared to the East Coast ~ you seem to work very hard each day ~ thanks, ^_^ (A Creative Harbor)

  14. We use a lot of spaghetti sauce jars. If I just washed the jar out and filled it with our well water, would that be okay for short term, say 1 year?

    Now, if using for longer term storage, is it imperative to can it or use the boiled water, even if I put it in these jars, or does it need to be a mason jar too?

    Thanks a bunch!

    1. I think my main concern about the water not being sterilized is that just plain water can get stagnant pretty fast. Our power was out for 11 days. When we got it back, our hot water tank (which was only a few months old) was full of rotten-egg smelling water we had to flush out (caused by an overgrowth of “harmless” bacteria, but bacteria just the same.) We have a filter on our well water to reduce sediment and we also had to remove that from the canister setup and flush our cold water too, because it tasted absolutely terrible. So, I’m not sure the official or technical reasons as to what type of water to use, those are just mine for preferring sterilized & sealed by pressure canner/water bath. :)

      As far as spaghetti sauce jars I know that you’re not supposed to can in anything but standard mason jars, though I did have relatives that used to re-use mayonnaise jars…. I can’t recommend that or anything of course, just saying they did that that with no issues. Personally, I’m a chicken who plays it safe usually and since we have a huge stash of mason jars, just use those with standard lids. :)

      Thanks for stopping by; I hope that helped a bit!

      1. I have heard that the “old” mayonnaise-type jars were good for canning because they were thicker-walled. I have some passed down ones that I have been using for years. These days thought they are not usable and one does not know when the cut-off time would be for that. (most probably different for different companies. :) )

        1. Thanks for the information Wendy! That makes a lot of sense – they definitely don’t make things as durable these days!

  15. This is such a helpful post! Thanks so much for sharing at Tiny Tip Tuesday!

    By the way, I’m featuring you on my blog in the morning, so come check it out!

    1. Hi Debra! I’m unsure of the official shelf-life of canned water, but it should be fine for a minimum of one year and possibly for years and years as long as it still has a good seal & smells and looks clear when you open it. I read a tip (by Jackie Clay) in a Backwoods Home anthology about shaking stored water first, right before drinking, since after time it will develop a flat taste & the shaking helps offset that – so that may be something to keep in mind too.

  16. Hi!
    I tracked you from Better Bee Honey and was really interested in your honey recipes; very nice!

    For storing water over time, use bleach bottles. I know that this sounds really terrible (bleach taste, plastic, etc) but having grown up in hurricane country, and now living in a verrry rural part of Nebraska, where getting snowed in or being without power or water is a real possibility, this is a godsend.

    Here’s the process – use unscented bleach without additives for your laundry or housecleaning. When you come to the end of the bottle, do not rinse it out, simply fill it from the tap, screw on the top tightly, and store, preferably in a dark place like under the basement stairs. Since bleach bottles are meant to hold a caustic substance for years, these bottles do not deteriorate. I had some that were over 10 years old – and when I opened them, the water was still sweet, with no ‘bleachy’ taste. The chlorine still in the bottles keeps the water from getting bacteria or going flat.

    Thanks for the recipes! I will be getting my annual 60 lbs of local honey this weekend, and am looking forward to trying them. Next spring I am determined to have bees of my own!

    1. Thank you Bea! I love using honey in candy recipes and have more experiments & ideas in the works that I hope to share. That’s a great idea about the bleach bottles – thanks for sharing that tip! :) I hope you enjoy that 60 lbs of local honey – YUM!!

  17. Unfortunately I don’t think this would work with our water. We have a well and extremely hard water. We have it stored in the crawlspace for flushing in case the water goes out. We have bottled water stored for drinking.

    1. Hi Rose Garten, we have hard well water also & I haven’t had a problem with the water in the jars. Storing water, for flushing, in your crawlspace is a great idea! This definitely isn’t our only water for emergencies – but I always have tons of extra jars stacked up in my storeroom, so it’s better for us to have them filled with water, than just leaving them empty on the shelves. One thing we’d love to do, is to power our well with a solar panel. We know a guy on our road that does that (and lives completely off-grid) and he had no trouble when we had the big power outage. Life went on like normal for their family. I’d love to get to that point one day! :)

  18. I have been canning for close to 45 years and never thought of canning water. Being raised on a farm, I never saw my mother can water either. But these days, Its a great idea for emergency. Thank you for the tip.
    This is proof that one is never to old to learn something…LOL

    1. Hi Freda, I never saw my mom or my grandma can water either – and my grandma had an amazing array of home canned goods in her basement (which I’m trying to emulate!) :) I’m glad you found the idea helpful!

    2. We have a old hand pump on a shallow well in our yard that we don’t use for the pump anymore. After Katrina left us without electricity for little over a month, my husband put this hand pump on the old well so now we have water as long as we keep it from freezing. Will be canning water for the future.

      1. That’s an excellent idea and is something that’s high on our priority list too. We have a really large tank where we can store water for animals (and sterilize for us if needed), but being able to pump from the well would be ideal!

  19. Done this for years. Never liked wastin space in the canner an always need water. Plus keeps fer years stead a months.

    1. Hi OldCootHillbilly (I like your name!) That’s great that you’ve been doing it like that. I’m glad to know that it keeps for years for you, since I haven’t had any unused for that long & wasn’t sure. For me, I have so many empty jars inherited from grandmas and collected over the years (and I just can’t throw a perfectly good jar away!) that I figure if they’re going to sit on my shelves collecting dust, they might as well be useful in the process. :)

  20. I have really bad well water . But today it’s looking pretty clear but I still would rather not drink it. Instead I am canning snow water because it is crystal clear and it’s too be used for just cooking and drinking. I might try canning my well water . Sometime but for now I’m snatching up the free clear water while I am able.

  21. does anyone have any ideas about saving water In mylar bags? Like to make personal Sized pouches?is that even doable?

    1. Hi! Canning lids are treated with a coating that prevents them from rusting. You also want to make sure to remove the rings before storing home-canned products, since that can sometimes cause rusting as well.

  22. If you boil the used canning lids for 10-20 mins. most of the rubber will flatten back out and they can be reused. The ones that don’t I use for things I put in my pantry that get eaten up pretty quickly and don’t need to be sealed.
    I did this last year for the first time and reused the lids for my plum juice and it worked brilliantly. The juice sat on the shelf for 6 mos. with no issues. Once I reused the lids one time I threw them away or recycled them.
    Great idea to never have an empty jar. We had to use our stored water this year for a water emergency in our city and I was thrilled we had so much water available to use that we have stored up. I store drinking water and cleaning/bathing water. Drinking water is usually new water I have purchased in gallon bottles. The cleaning water is water I have put in left over juice bottles or soda bottles. I rotate them every 6 mos. and use the water for my garden or grass then refill them and start over.
    I am going to start filling my jars with water too. If you reuse the lids just be sure to put a bit of vinegar in the boiling water so it can help get rid of any previous flavors from other canned food so it doesn’t flavor your stored water.

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