A large-scale home rainwater catchment system may work for some.
Photo by Flickr/aquamechanical
Water: the elixir of life. Don’t waste it, and appreciate it always. This mantra will really come into focus when you live in town serviced by city water, but find yourself in a disaster situation of going without for a couple days. Imagine the faucet of your bathtub wears out and starts streaming water non-stop and your only option is to turn off the water at the city meter to cease the endless money from flowing down the drain.
You check for parts for the faucet, but it is old and can’t be repaired. The only plan is to tear the wall apart to replace the faucet. Not having the knowledge or tools to solder copper pipe, you call your plumber. Because it is after 5:00pm, you get the answering service saying they will call you back. After not getting a call back for 15 hours (it’s now 9:00am), you call again, moving the plumber to assure you that they will get someone there by the end of the day. $1,700 later, the issue is repaired but the plumber has the same problem you do: turning on the city shut off; It is stuck. At this point, you are in after hours, so you leave a message with the city to come turn the water back on. Total time elapsed without water is 41 hours and a reminder that water is precious.
My Off-Grid Ubringing Informs My Views on Water
I remember years ago reading a book by Senator Paul Simon about how water is the most important commodity and that many wars would be fought over this necessity. Indeed, they already have. It is the main component in our bodies, and people have died from water deprivation after a few days. Growing up off the grid, I consider running hot water the pinnacle of modern civilization.
How little water can you survive on say for a week? I keep enough half-gallon glass bottles stored in my kitchen to last me a week and rotate them by drinking from them. So, in the above scenario, I had enough water to drink. I tried to create a habit of keeping the bathtub full to have water to flush the toilet but could never seem to keep the habit going. I do have a 5-gallon bucket full of water that could, with conservation, flush for a week.
I have had the water be out on the farm for over 10 days waiting for the pump-repair company to pull out and replace the pump. I needed to haul water from the pond for washing and toilet flushing. In the city, that is not an option, but rainwater catchment is a good alternative.
Water Storage Options I Consider
Plastic bottles. If you use the expensive plastic water bottles, don’t. The plastic leaches; therefore, it is not good for long-term storage — and it tastes horrible after sitting around. I do keep a few in my car, as they can handle the freeze and thaw of winter. I store and drink from glass, although I hope to be able to one day afford stainless steel water storage (I doubt I will ever be able to justify the cost).
Portable filter. Over than 15 years ago, I did buy a filter-anything water filter for my go-bag, but besides the initial test, have never needed to use it. I have considered passing it on, but I like the peace of mind knowing I have it. Most things I don’t use regularly I give away or sell. It is a good practice to use equipment to make sure you know how it works and that it works. I need to heed my own advice and try to use my water filter more.
Jugs and buckets. It always makes me wonder how we store lots of food but rarely figure out water storage. A couple food-grade, 5-gallon buckets can be easily stored or stacked, or you can get one of those 5-gallon office water coolers (but avoid the electric ones in order to save money) along with some extra 5-gallon jugs.
Cisterns. Once we lived in a house without a water source. It had a rainwater collection cistern and a pump for running water. The rainwater went through a sand-and-charcoal “filter” to remove the worst. We hauled drinking water, as well as hauled water with a big tank in the back of the truck to refill the cistern when it didn’t rain much.
Solar stills. It is amazing how little water a person can live with when knowing how precious it is. I remember learning how to make a solar still but besides practicing while camping have not had to make one. I have read even in the desert, a solar still can make enough water to survive on.
Aur Beckhas lived off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter atThe Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict atOil Addicts Anonymous International and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page, and read all of Aur’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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