Since moving to our off grid property just over a year ago, we've had plenty of adventures learning how to become more sustainable and self sufficient. One of the big challenges that we've had to work through has been setting up a long-term, off grid water system. After looking into lots of different methods over the course of the entire year, we've finally established a system that works for us- at least for now. We are tiptoeing towards long-term water sustainability, and our newly-established gravity-fed water system is the right step for us at this time.
The full year we took to better understand the layout of our property and our water needs before getting this system working was completely worth it. There's a lot to be said for patience, and we hope you might learn a thing or two from our process.
The Journey to a Sustainable Water System
When we first arrived on our property, our plan was to either dig a well or collect rainwater. However, we quickly learned that those options weren't the right fit (cost or efficiency-wise) for our situation. Our long-term water plans were delayed and we got by with portable water jugs that were easy to fill up on a quick trip into town.
This strategy worked through this past fall and winter, but it became ineffective when we needed a large supply of water to seal the joinery in our DIY cedar hot tub. With only our portable jugs as a supply, water leaked out faster than we could pour it in. and we knew that if we wanted our tub to be a success it was time to move towards a long-term plan for our water system.
Obviously there were more pressing reasons to update our water system than keeping our hot tub full (fire protection and garden irrigation for example), but our struggles with our tub provided the push we needed to design a better system.
Building a System That Meets Our Needs Today
To be clear, this isn't going to be our permanent water system. Frankly, our property and our budgets aren't ready for that step right now. Rather, it's an improvement on what we had before, and it has given us the opportunity to learn how gravity fed systems work while also learning more about the water needs for our property. Will we be using this same system in five years? Probably not. But, we'll have learned a ton through experience and most likely will be able to reuse or sell the pieces of this system when the time comes to update it.
The Details of Our Gravity Fed Water System
Our decision to build a gravity fed water water system came down to two main reasons.
Lower power demands: We won't have to worry about straining our pump or limited power supply (even though we do have a small solar power setup) if gravity is doing the hard work!
Great learning experience: By building a small system, we were able to find out if gravity fed systems fit our homesteading needs. When we expand our system in the future we will be better informed about what works well for us.
Nine months of carrying water to our property has given us a good sense of our weekly consumption (roughly 70 gallons per week) so we knew we needed to build a system that could fit that capacity. We settled on a 625 gallon Ace Rotomold above-ground cistern tank placed on a hill roughly 70 feet above our home. Because there isn't any water delivery in our area, we've been filling the cistern with municipal water from town that we transport in a 275 gallon IBC tank that fits great on our utility trailer. To get the water from our truck into the cistern, we rely on a ½ horsepower 110 volt 8 Amp ¾” transfer pump that we power with a small generator.
This water system has proven itself up to the task, and we are happy to report that we now get clean water out of our faucets whenever we turn them on!
Finding What Works for You
Our gravity-fed water system definitely isn't the right option for everyone. Some people will have better luck collecting rainwater or even digging a well. Heck, nine months ago that's what we thought we would do to! And for that reason, we are so glad we took our time to really learn about our property and our water needs. Coming up with a sustainable water system is a journey that will look a little different for everyone, but we are so glad that we've come to a solution that works well for us.
Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects, getting started with solar power, building a wood-fired hot tub and milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill. Follow Alyssa on her blog Pure Living for Life, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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