Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Obtaining water off the grid is one of the most valuable activities on any self-sustainable homestead. The value of water is so important that without it, self-sustainability can be severely hindered. From watering our gardens, our livestock, and ourselves, to washing clothes, doing dishes, and taking showers, water is a staple of life. As Americans turn on their facets and take their long showers, wash their cars, and frolic in their swimming pools without a thought, many of us living off-grid shriek!
If you are new to off-grid living and just starting your quest,you will appreciate the focus of this article. For many newbies, habituation to their old lifestyle can be difficult to break away from.
Thus, when planning for your homesteading needs, when it comes to water, a whole new set of skills, thinking, and habits need to be formed. Here are some simple tips to get you on your way to getting off grid water right!
Mental Preparedness: Breaking the Habit
Mental preparedness? Sounds a lot like some psychological mumbo-jumbo, right? Not really. Going off-grid, even on a modern homestead, does require a different set of mental skills and thinking.
If this lifestyle is new to you, one of the biggest water obstacles may be your habits! It's easy to become habituated to easy water access. But the reality is that off-grid homesteading dictates that water can easily become scarce and can affect your daily life when it's difficult to obtain or becomes unavailable.
Here's reality for us in our region: We have forest fires and very dry hot summers. Last year, the temperature rose well past 100 degrees for weeks on end. Along with the forest fires, wells were drying up and springs were down to a dribble.
Talk about water being liquid gold! There was no filling up kiddie pools for frolicking or water for the decorative fountains in the flower garden! Gardens were dying off and literally abandoned.
Learning to rethink water consumption starts with basic changes: Take shorter showers, turn off the water when brushing your teeth or washing hands, do dishes once a day, and get your car washed when you go to town. Longer-term planning should address giving up a big lawn and choosing a garden method that doesn't require watering everyday.
Every facet of water planning needs to start with changing the mental habits we have created over time.
Water Preparedness: Backup Water Systems
Depending on the region of the country you are located, water may be readily available and a back up system isn't needed. When we lived in Wisconsin, we had water everywhere. But not all regions are this blessed. If you are in a dry area where water is such a commodity, let's consider some practical preparation for preservation. and storage.
Aboveground tanks. Aboveground tanks are a very viable solution and are widely used for the collection and storage of rainwater, backup water use, and fire-protection reserves. These tanks are easy to handle and can be filled using your own well water, spring water, or by hauling water from a municipal source or a lake or river.
Sizes range from anywhere to 20 gallons up to thousands of gallons! Keep in mind that water tanks on a homestead should be used as a sensible backup. They can be used for drinking water, but on most homesteads, these are utilized for garden, livestock, laundry, showering, etc., during dry times.
Truck tanks (portable water tanks). These tanks are manufactured in one piece with seamless construction and are designed to fit both full-sized, American-made and "mini" pickup trucks.
Many homesteaders that do not have abundant water at their fingertips will haul water from another source. Your municipality is a option, but even the local river, creek and lake (which is free) and more readily available is a great off-grid source.
Getting a 12-volt pump or a sump pump connected to an inverter is a solid backup plan for pumping the water into your truck tank.
Rain catchment. Rain catchment can be a cheap and easy way to harvest free water. Any roof can be turned into a rain-harvesting system with few pieces of gutter strung together, and your set.
Even roofs such as on the chicken coop, the tool shed, and the woodshed can be used. All can provide you with downspout ability. In addition, the more barrels you have to catch the rain, the more gallons you will have for off-grid use. Scour Craigslist for free or very economically priced barrels.
You don't have to create a elaborate rain-catchment system. Keep it simple — when it rains, it will pour for you!
Developing water (seeps, spring and ponds). Don't overlook the very doable possibility of developing a seep spring or even a pond. If you have any of these options on your off-grid property, this can be a very valuable investment for your water preparation needs.
We know many people off-grid who have actually spent the money to just rent a excavator and dig a pond. Our property was owned by a fellow who had the very same idea and, lucky for us, had already began developing the pond. Now we reap the benefits as our underground water tank overflow spills into the pond and keeps it well feed — a brilliant idea that gives us water year round!
Be creative. Springs don't need to be elaborate, either. Our neighbor has a spring high above his off-grid cabin. He simply placed a black water line hose at the source with some screen and used gravity to pipe the water down to his cabin — more than 450 feet of line!
It is amazing what one can achieve for backup water preps. The bottom line is that off-grid water is indeed a precious commodity. Turning those preconditioned habits from our old water-wasting lifestyle into a greener, more conservative attitude will increase your future success on your first off grid homestead.
Starry Hilder and her husband, Mark, live off-grid on a 13-acre self-sustaining homestead in the stunning mountains of Northern Idaho. Unique in their approach to homesteading, they rely on working with nature and utilizing their skills and knowledge with a back-to-basic outlook. From hunting and fishing, to gardening, composting, canning, and trail running, paddling, and hiking, there is never a dull moment on their property. Starry enjoys sharing her journey and all their life skills on their YouTube channel. Read all of Starrys' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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