Learn Water-Management Strategies for an Off-Grid House

One family’s off-grid journey to self-sufficiency explores the complex issue of a clean, sustainable water-management strategy.

| April 4, 2012

  • Rain Barrels
    Cam Mather and two of his raised rain barrels filled from the roof of the horse barn. 
  • Off-Grid House
    Off-the-grid homesteading has fewer sacrifices than you might think after erecting two solar panel trackers, a wind turbine, a huge garden and an organized, efficient water management system. "Little House Off the Grid" by Michelle and Cam Mather is a self-sufficiency story of a city-dwelling family that longed for a simpler, quieter life in the country. Twelve years later, their life may not be as simple as they envisioned, but it is more peaceful. Follow the development of their off-the-grid lifestyle as they describe the details of their journey to self-sufficiency. 

  • Rain Barrels
  • Off-Grid House

The Mather family knows off-the-grid living can be as difficult as it is rewarding — especially when it comes to safe and plentiful water. That’s why the family’s off-grid house utilizes a successful and self-sufficient water-management system along with an extensive vegetable garden, a wind turbine and two solar power tracking systems. Check out Little House Off the Grid by Michelle and Cam Mather (Aztext Press, 2011) to follow the family’s full journey from the city to the farm as they acquire the modern homesteading skills to live off the grid. You can also follow Cam Mather’s Homesteading in Canada blog on our website. The following excerpt is from Chapter 13, “Water.” 

Water is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, especially if you live in a city. You turn on a tap, out comes the water. You flush the toilet, clean water instantly appears to fill up the bowl. You have a shower, clean water cascades down on you from a fixture on the wall.

It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Dug Wells vs. Drilled Wells

In the country, water is a whole other issue. You have to know where your water comes from. You have to go out and find it. Some people have to dig for it, and end up with a “dug well.” Dug wells are usually fairly shallow and often have concrete walls. When you think of “wishing wells” from cartoons and literature, these would be dug wells.

Many country dwellers go with a drilled well. This is when you bring in a large drilling machine, mounted on the back of a truck, and you start drilling into the ground until you hit water. If you’re lucky, like at our house, after going about 50 feet, you’ve hit lots of water so you can stop. Some people aren’t so lucky and have to go hundreds of feet down, often through rock and at great expense.

Most drilled well holes are about 8 inches across. After you’ve drilled deep enough, you generally will put in a casing, which is a piece of perforated material that you slide down the well. This prevents dirt and materials from falling into the well and plugging it up, while still allowing the ground water to seep back into the well after you remove some, for a shower for instance or to flush the toilet.

Joel Carnefix
4/26/2012 6:52:44 PM

Sounds like you have things pretty well covered. Back in the early 70's when there were 3 girls in my home , I heated my hot water in the winter by a water jacket in a wood stove. If you do this you must install a pressure relief valve on your hot water tank for protection. This wood heated water system will cause steam in the system and could be dangerous. Convection will circulate the water in the system. When I was growing up on the farm in the 40's & 50'S water jackets were available commercially to install in the firebox on the cooking stoves. Most farm homes had them once they had a water source to keep water in the system. You could simply wrap the stove pipe with 1/2 copper tubing to capture heat from that source. Once the heat gets to the stove pipe it is usually lost up the chimney. My best wishes go to you in staying off the grid. Another thought about the steam that can be produced with the heating of the water could possibly used as a power source to generate electrical power to charge your batteries. Do be extremely careful as steam is very dangerous. Joel


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