Living Off Grid – The Cost Of Water

Reader Contribution by Ed Essex
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As most of you know I’ve been defining living off grid as someone who provides their own sewer, water and power. It all costs money whether you live in the city and use government provided (public) water, private water association, or your own water.

We provide our own water from deep water well. It was here on the property when we bought it. The well is 300′ deep and has a 6″ diameter casing most of that depth. The thing I like most about this water is that it is everything you would imagine fresh mountain water to be. Clear of anything harmful, full of minerals, and very good tasting. We don’t need a filter for our water so we are very fortunate.

If you have access to either public or private association water you either pay a monthly fee or have a water meter which keeps track of the actual quantity of water used and you are charged accordingly.

Having your own private source of water from a spring, creek, or well doesn’t let you off the hook for having to pay for it. In my case you would have to drill the well, put a pump in the well, provide an energy source for the pump, and a system for pressurizing the water you pump.

Here, we have a 300′ deep well. You are charged by the foot for drilling. Just a few years back it was about $35.00 per foot to drill (high) and for casing to line the hole. In my case that would be a total bill of $10,500. A pump would run about $1200 installed and I still have to power the pump and pressurize my water.

My solar power system runs my pump. It provides me with 220V required for the pump I wanted. The whole cost of the solar system was $22,000 but that is for a complete electrical system that runs everything I need to live including my water pump. I’ve calculated about $2,000 of that money would go towards the pumping of water based on average wattage used.

I installed a 1900 gallon holding tank 700′ away from the well up the hill. The pump pushes water out of the well and up the hill into that tank. From there it gravity flows down to the house and ends up being about 63 psi for pressure. My other choice would have been to install a pressure pump and tank which would have required another pump, tank and more electricity. It was a tossup for price. I decided to keep the mechanics and electrical simple so I chose the gravity system

The gravity system complete was almost $8,000 for hundreds of feet of pipe, wire, a holding tank, and excavation and backfill.

In summary the cost for my water system would have been almost $22,000 new. Fortunately I didn’t pay near that because the well was already in when I bought the property and I got a really good deal on all of it. Some will pay more and many will pay less with different circumstances like depth of well, choice of pumps, choice of pressurization, distance from well and so on. There are many factors. I’m just sharing this information with you to give you something to consider if you are thinking about how great it would be to go off grid. It can be very expensive. It just depends on your individual circumstances.

Once all of this is done it is permanent. My wire, pipe, and holding tank should last as long as I do. A pump should last around 10 years, plus. I just had mine replaced. It was the original pump that came from the property. It cost $1200 to replace.

If I live here 20 years it is going to cost me about $90 per month for water (if I paid full price for everything new). Your situation could vary greatly either way. More or less money. If I last 30 years it will go down to $60 per month. I have a friend who spent less than $1000 total taking water from a spring on his property. I also know of wells that go as deep as 1500′ located 100 miles from here.

It can be very expensive to provide your own water  –  or not –  but there is a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing once it is done, it’s done and I can drink all of the water I want.  If I want to grow a lawn and water it I can do that too.
It’s kind of ironic that now that I have the freedom to use water any way I want, I choose to conserve it. It seems to be a natural byproduct of living off grid.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and