How Long Can You Survive Without Water?

how long can you survive without water?

Did you know that the human body is made up of 60% water? Maybe more interesting than that are the more specific figures of individual organ composition. For instance, did you know that the brain and heart are each 73% water? Or that our muscles and kidneys are 79% water? What about the fact that our lungs are 83% water? We’re basically all here just floating through life.

Our most essential organs—as well as our greater bodily systems like circulation, muscular function, and nutrient and message delivery—rely on water down to the cellular level to be able to perform properly, i.e., keep us alive.

So what happens when you don’t have enough water or none at all? How long can you survive without water—one of our bodies’ most desperate physical needs?

When you find out the answers, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough water stored for your family in case of an emergency, and we’ll let you know exactly how to do it—the right way.

How Long Can You Survive Without Water?

Getting an answer to the question, “How long can you survive without water?” is a little more complicated than you might think. But there is no direct, all-encompassing answer because all of our bodies and circumstances are so unique. Some people have generalized that a human can go 48 hours without water, or even up to 72. But that answer fails to take into account the specifics of every individual situation and therefore can’t be accurately relied on. Some things that can affect how long you can survive without water include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Body composition
  • Activity levels
  • Location/temperature
  • Overall health
  • What you’ve eaten recently, particularly salt vs. water content

Another figure experts sometimes use in predicting how long you can survive without water is a 10% rule. Meaning, if you lose 10% of your body weight due to water loss, you’re considered severely dehydrated and your body is going to start shutting down, fast.

Most of us have noticed at some point or another that our mouths are dry or we feel very thirsty. These are the first indications that your body is running low on fluids and you need to replenish it with water and possibly electrolytes, quickly.

Once your body is passed that initial phase, other bodily functions that rely so heavily on water, will begin shutting down as well. Some signs of dehydration include:

  • An inability to produce sweat and regulate body temperature
  • A drop in blood pressure and proper circulation
  • A slowing down of the digestive system
  • Lack of kidney function and subsequent toxin buildup
  • Other organ failures
  • Fatigue, unconsciousness, and even death

Whoa. That got real serious, real fast. And we obviously never want to see those negative side effects of dehydration. So let’s talk about how to prevent it, particularly in emergency situations.

5 Myths About Storing Water

Now that you know you can only last a couple of days without water, it follows that you have to do something about the potential scenario of not being able to get water the way you normally would. In most cases, this means storing water as part of your emergency food supply. But if you don’t know much about storing water for food storage and survival, you may fall prey to some common myths about water storage. Like these…

Myth #1: Water Goes Bad 

The fact is, water never expires. That said, not all water is good for drinking! If not stored properly, water can become contaminated with biological growth (bacteria, algae), or even with chemicals. So while the actual water doesn’t go bad, the gunk in it can make it ill-suited for human consumption.

Myth #2: You Can Store Water In Any Plastic Container 

Not all plastics are designed for long-term water storage. Even disposable water bottles aren't great for the long haul. Some plastic bottles, even those used for other drinkable liquids—milk jugs, for instance—are biodegradable and will break down over time. Soda and sport drink bottles are a better option but can still leach previously-stored liquids’ flavor into your stored water so you could end up with cola-flavored water. It may make you start wondering how long you can survive without water, but it’s drinkable.

Myth #3: You’ll Be Fine If You’ve Stored Water Barrels Only

The problem with thinking that water barrels (large, typically blue, water jugs designed for your long-term emergency supply) are sufficient water storage, is that there are a number of emergency scenarios where you may not have access to your barrels. Think on-the-go emergencies or evacuations—you may not have time, space, or ability to move your water supply if it’s solely in barrels.

how will you transport your water storage?

Myth #4: If I Have Water Purification, I Don’t Need A Water Filter 

Water purification pills or chemicals can be a great way to kill off 99.9% of the microorganisms in your water. But they don’t have the ability to remove chemicals, dirt, and other mystery “floaties” from your drinking water. Only a filtration system can do that.

Myth #5: I Don’t Need To Store Water Because I Have Access To A Well Or River 

If you’re not storing water because you think you have access to a regular source of water, like a stream or well, think again. Even typically reliable water sources can be contaminated by man-made or natural disasters. They are also at risk of being reduced greatly by pump sources upriver or drought.

Tips For Storing Water For An Emergency

Now that we’ve overturned the myths about water storage, let’s get to the tips on the best way to store water for an emergency.


  1. Store water. Yeah, the first tip for the best way to store water is to just do it. Sure, there is a right way, and we’ll get to that next. But make the commitment today to start!
  2. Know your water needs. Just like FEMA’s recommendation to store a two-week supply of emergency food for each individual in the family, there is a target for water storage as well. The goal is to store 1 gallon of water per person, per day in case of an emergency. Of course, you won’t be able to predict how long a given disaster will last, but you can start small and build up to a solid (er, liquid) supply of drinking water for your family over time.
  3. Make sure you have the right water storage containers. Like we mentioned in the myths section above, not all plastics are created equal! Choose food-grade, UV-resistant containers or metalized bags to store water properly. We suggest investing in some long-term water storage barrels—typically made of plastic #2—and a variety of smaller containers that may be more easily moved. You can even utilize reusable water bottles for this as long as you can make sure they’re polyethylene-based and BPA-free (check for plastics #1, #2, and #4).
  4. Don’t keep your water storage directly on cement. One of the best ways to store water for an emergency is to keep it off the cement. Keeping your water and food supply up off the floor on pallets or in proper shelving can prevent chemical- and flavor leaching, flood damage, and drastic temperature changes that can ruin your entire supply.
  5. Don’t forget about water for your food supply. Remember that 1 gallon per person rule? Don’t forget that that estimate does not include water you may need to rehydrate emergency meals you have in your food storage. For instance, a good rule of thumb to follow is about 1 cup of water per serving of a freeze-dried meal. That means that in a 1-month supply of Hibernate’s emergency food, you’ll need to store about 20 gallons of clean, drinkable water to enjoy your fettuccine. (Trust us, it’s well worth it.)
  6. Make sure you have water purification and filtration systems at the ready. No matter how much perfectly stored water you have in your emergency supply, things happen. You may have to evacuate or something gets contaminated and you have to act quickly. Keeping purification pills and a reliable water filter ready to use is a key to ensuring the water you did store remains safe and drinkable or that new water you come across can become that way.
  7. Don’t panic. It may feel overwhelming to think about all the emergency possibilities and the ways in which you need to prepare now. But knowing the importance as well as the dos and don’ts of storing food and water properly has created a foundation on which to build. One step at a time, you can prepare your family and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with ensuring your family’s health and safety—including their food and water needs—before disaster strikes.

Hibernate Makes Food Storage Simple

At Hibernate, our goal is to eliminate the frustration and confusion that surround emergency water and food supply questions and concerns. We make it easy to know what to store, how to store it, and why it’s so absolutely essential to do so, now. If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that the unthinkable not only can happen but does. To me and you and everyone else across the globe.

Preparing today with an ample supply of high-quality emergency food that doesn’t suck, along with enough water to keep your family and your freeze-dried emergency meals hydrated properly, is critical. And starting with our lightweight, easy-to-store 1-month food supply bucket full of delicious, easy-to-prepare, and nutrient-rich meals is the perfect place to start. But don’t forget some of our fan-favorite add-ons like our fruit and vegetable buckets that don’t necessarily require water and are a great way to snack your way to nourishment during an emergency.

Don’t wait—prepare today with Hibernate!


 More On Food Storage:

Nutritional Benefits Of Dehydrated Food Storage 

How Do You Store Your Emergency Food Supply

Hibernate: Changing Emergency Food For The Better