The Homesteader’s Guide to Understanding Water Sources

Reader Contribution by Kacey Bradley
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Water is essential in any home, but it’s especially crucial on a homestead. Plants and livestock need fresh water every day to grow and stay healthy. But water isn’t free — a family of four in the U.S. pays an average of $70.39 in water bills each month. Luckily, when you live on a homestead, you have options for harvesting natural water sources and cutting down on your reliance to local hookups.

How to Find Water

Thriving on a homestead is about using the natural resources available to you. Luckily, there are several sources of water you can look for and gain access to on your property.

Well Water

One option for sourcing water on your property is to build a well. A well is a hole dug deep into the ground, low enough to collect groundwater. In the U.S., 10 percent of people get their water from a private well. This water collection method can be a simple set-up where you lower a bucket with a rope and manually pull up water. But you can also build a modern well with pumps and pipes to direct water indoors.

Standing Water

Standing water is any non-moving water you see above the ground’s surface, including lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Standing water might not be as useful as flowing water, as it can contain mud, algae and germs, but it can still be filtered and used on your homestead. With a lake or pond, you can easily scoop out a five-gallon bucket of water, something you can’t do with moving sources as quickly. You can then use the water to flush toilets, wash animals, soak the compost and much more.

Rain Water

If you live in an area where you experience rain, consider a new method for collecting water. Rainwater is great for watering flowers and crops in your garden. It can also be a source of drinking water. Be aware that rainwater contains possible pollutants, meaning it is not safe to consume until treated. If you are looking for a potable water source, consider purifying your collected rainwater. A rain harvesting system captures water from rooftops, road surfaces, rock catchments and other areas and stores it in tanks and basins.

Flowing Water

Flowing water, also called live water, is any natural water source flowing on your property, like a spring, stream, creek or river. Since this type of water is continuously moving, it’s readily accessible and quickly replenishing. Flowing water is typically cleaner than standing water as it doesn’t allow algae and bacteria to build up over time. Depending on your homestead, you might be able to divert flowing water closer to your home or a pond for storage.

Collecting rainwater from natural sources is an easy way to reduce your water bill. Remember almost all collected water will need to be purified before it’s safe to consume.

How to Purify Water

It’s hard to know what’s in collected water. Some of the most common pollutants in rainwater include nitrogen and phosphorous, which are found in fertilizer as well as pet and yard waste. Plus, during periods of heavy rainfall, certain sewage systems are designed to flow excess into nearby rivers or streams. To ensure your water safe to drink, you will need to purify it first.

Some popular ways to purify collected water include

  • Boiling
  • Filtration
  • Bleaching
  • Distillation

Boil water for one to three minutes to kill germs invisible to the naked eye. Once boiled, keep the water covered and allow it to cool before use. Similar to boiling, distillation is a technique where you heat water and collect clean vapor droplets.

Another effective way to purify water is with a filtration system, a combination of chemicals and filters designed to remove harmful particles. Or use a powerful compound like chlorine to bleach water and make it safe to consume.

Don’t rely on your local water network to take care of your family and homestead. It’s likely there’s a water source on or near your property. Search for streams, rivers, pond and lakes — all of which you can collect water from. You can also harvest water as it falls from the sky and store it for later use. If you plan to drink, cook or bake with the water you collect, it’s important to purify it beforehand to remove harmful germs and chemicals.

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