How to Supply Water to an Off-Grid Homestead

Reader Contribution by Bobbie Peterson
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While it’s not a concern that many people consider, a steady and reliable water supply for your home can become an issue if you live an off-grid lifestyle. The abundant access to sewage services and freshwater in the 21st century has made water a utility that gets taken for granted, with farmers and homesteaders the concern becomes very real and more urgent. A completely self-sustainable lifestyle does not after all include the city utility department.

Going Off-Grid

Also known as dry cabins, homes aiming for full self-sufficiency are built without any indoor plumbing system, but can get reconfigured if the owners decide to tap into the local utility company or a generator. This change does not necessarily make you less environmentally friendly, but for the purposes of our topic here we’ll focus on homesteaders that choose to remain disconnected.

Off-grid homes and buildings will often generate their electricity from solar, wind and rain elements — which factors into the method of water production. This type of lifestyle, while difficult in the beginning has significant benefits. For yourself and your family, you reduce the financial burden of public utility costs as well as a greater control over your physical health. Environmentally, this lifestyle leans heavily on natural, green energy — helping you reduce your carbon footprint.

Finding Your Very Own Water Supply

Whether you’re building your dry cabin from the ground up or working with what you have available, you’ll need to identify where you get your water and make sure there’s enough to work with. If you have a nearby river you can divert a portion of the flow to your area of land, if you live in a rainy climate region then rain catchers may be a better option. It really all depends on the area you live in and the dependability of the resources around you.

River Water Source

Rivers are valuable to off-grid homesteaders because it usually takes a serious drought to affect the water supply. If you build a waterwheel or install a water pump in the area then you can divert as much water as needed for both personal use and irrigation for your fields. Meanwhile, if you construct a weir across the river you’ll head off any problems pertaining to fluctuating water levels.

Water Purification Needs

Before going any further, let’s address the necessity of protecting your health while living off-grid. It’s important that we address water purification because it can become a serious problem if left unaddressed. You need to make sure that your method of purification can handle the multitude of impurities that can surface in your water, no matter the source method, as there are multiple dangers that can surface.

From heavy metals and microorganisms to contamination via human activity, your water purifier will be a necessary and valuable appliance towards your off-grid life. Whether in the form of a smaller, easily portable device or a more natural process such as solar water disinfection, it’s all about choosing the process that meets as many long-term needs as possible.

Excavator digging a trench

Digging a Water Well

A water well can serve as another reliable water source. If you have the time, preferably before you transition completely off-grid, a land survey and visit to your state geological department can help you decide how deep you need to dig, help you estimate the layers of earth you’ll encounter, and whether the underground water’s even worth tapping into. After deciding to create your water well you need to choose how to breach the earth.

A water well can come from drilling, driving, bored or the traditionally dug methods. All versions will produce the same result for your homestead — a functional water source for both your residential use as well as your crop fields. Additionally, if constructed correctly your well and the irrigation system attached will revitalize or further fertilize your local landscape. As long as you properly line the walls of the wells interior, contamination and salinization issues will not become a problem.

Final Tips & Suggestions

Rainwater barrels are very effective for wet climates but you’ll need to account for freezing temperatures as well as evaporation. Because of this, water storage plays a significant role in your off-grid water supply and you’ll need either a water tower, reservoir or some other collection item nearby. If you have water flowing freely into your land, you’ll want to construct some sort of covering to protect the water from contamination. Either that or install a filter in the water’s path that you check and clean on a regular basis.

Photo by Getty Images/schulzie

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