A dry homestead, or one that relies on municipal water lines, is not a sustainable homestead. When creating an off-grid water system, whether it is for primary or backup use, it is wise to set up multiple options in order to maximize your self-reliance.
Rural homesteaders and preppers have more options for creating an off-grid water system and using unconventional water sources. Generally, rural towns and counties have fewer restrictions when it comes to off-grid living and livestock keeping.
In rural counties like mine, there isn’t even a zoning office or a permit office of any type, outside of septic tank standards governed by the health department.
Before buying or building any off-grid water system, make sure you know for sure that constructing the system won’t result in massive fines being levied against you.
Top 5 Off Grid Water Sources And Systems
1. Underground Well
This is one of the most expensive water systems you can develop, but it is generally considered the most reliable. Having a well dug professionally will typically range in price from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the cost of services where you live and the terrain of your homestead.
Once the well is dug and begins to fill up with water, you must install a pump to move it out of the ground and into your home. An electric water pump is standard issue for this type of water system, but that will not be of any use if the nation’s power grid fails or you are determined to live entirely off the grid.
Purchasing or making a well dipper is simple and cheap, but you can usually only garner a gallon or so of water at a time after dangling the manual tool down 250 to 350 feet. Making or buying an old-fashioned manual well pump is a bit more costly, but will provide a substantially higher degree of flowing water than a dipper.
Solar and wind-powered pumps can also be used to power a well pump, but relying on the weather to have access to water deep underground can vastly reduce the sustainability of the homestead and your chances of surviving a long-term disaster. Getting a reputable well digger is essential to the success of your expensive project – and even then it might fail.
I have never known a well digger to guarantee they will find water or offer a refund in case they do not. If the skills of the well digger are not superb, the chances of he or she missing the mark increase.
If water is not found after the first hole is dug, you would have to fork out another 10 grand or so to dig another one… and cross your fingers while hoping the digger actually hits water.
There simply is no substitute for having a pond on your homestead. Whether the pond is natural or man-made, it can be used as a constant water source for the property. A large pond, like the one shown in the photo above, can be used to water livestock, crops, for bathing, and for human consumption (once it’s been purified).
If you have not yet purchased your homestead, look for a piece of land with a natural pond, and a spring fed pond, in particular, to better protect your land during times of drought.
A creek or stream that remains wet for the majority of the year is quite the boon for your homestead. In addition to using the water for drinking, you can also harness the water in a DIY hydropower system.
The easiest and least expensive way to collect water from a creek is to place a compact submersible pump into the water and simply turn it on — using power from a portable generator, if necessary.
To avoid clogging the pump and slowing down the water gathering process, set the pump inside a bucket that allows free flow of the water but helps deter the sucking in of dirt and other debris.
It will take a stronger pump to move the water uphill or over rugged terrain and into a home or storage tank. Typically, creek water is far more clear than pond water or even collected rainwater because it is constantly running through grass and rocks, and sometimes sandy dirt.
4. Rainwater Collection System
This tried and true method of off-grid water systems can provide a steady supply water… as long as the weather cooperates. It is both simple and inexpensive to set up a rainwater collection system on your home and outbuildings.
Since rain is inconsistent, this is not a reliable option if you want to be completely self-reliant. However, it is a great supplemental option. All you have to do is collect the rainwater and store it in food grade plastic barrels, plastic storage bins or tanks.
These barrels or tanks are typically connected to gutters attached to a building via PVC pipe. In some towns and states, collecting rainwater might be illegal or limited to specific amounts, so be sure to check local ordinances.
5. Cistern or Water Hauling Tanks
This is less of a water generating option and more of a storage option. Paying to have water hauled to your homestead is neither economical nor sustainable, but it can still be a valuable backup option in case you have trouble with one of the options above.
If you are using a rainwater collection system, storing water in an underground or above ground water hauling tank once they become full would prevent the loss of the valuable resource.
If you are using a manual pump to power an underground well, you can schedule pumping chores as time allows and fill up a cistern to store water so it is more readily available. During an SHTF style disaster or when the person usually tasked with the strenuous task cannot engage in the chore, there will still be potable water for use by the family.
Below-ground cisterns are typically recommended for colder climates because they can be placed beneath the frost line to prevent freezing, which would cause the tank to crack and allow the water to become exposed to contaminants and spill out of the tank and back into the earth. This type of tank is generally more expensive than an above-ground tank and is made of a far more durable type of plastic.
Above-ground tanks are typically more portable and smaller than underground cisterns and are often used for and referred to as water hauling tanks. A good grade tank of a decent dimension that can hold enough water to service the needs of two people may cost around $200 – placing the cost of water at about $.72 per gallon. A tank in this price range should hold around 275 gallons of water.
If you decide to use an underground cistern, you must also invest in a 110-volt pump to extract the water. A pump is also highly useful when stockpiling water in a large above-ground cistern, as well. This type of pump generally ranges in price between $85 to $130 each.
Living off grid does not mean you have to take a cold shower or spend a lot of time boiling water in pots on the wood stove just to have a sponge bath.
Solar water bladders are inexpensive, durable, and great to have on hand. The hanging black bags collect and retain heat when they are placed outside (even in the winter, but of course more hours of sun exposure are required to create heat) and then taken inside for use.
There are multiple ways to purify water to make it safe for human consumption, but some are more sustainable than others.
Purchase a commercial filter, like the Big Berkey water filter, which is capable of processing up to 15 gallons of water per day. The filter can store approximately 2.5 gallons of purified water. Typically, the filters on this system and similar varieties can last through about 3,000 gallons of processing.
Heating water to the boiling point will not remove all of the minuscule particles in it, so the water will need to be strained through a cheesecloth, DIY activated charcoal filter, or similar type of fine strainer before it is consumed.
This is not the best or most natural way to purify water, but it will work in a pinch. Will the water have at least somewhat of a chlorine taste to it? Yes, but it should be safe to drink. Add approximately 1 teaspoon of typical household bleach that has a 5.2 percent to 8 percent sodium hypochlorite content per gallon of water. Allow the mixture to settle for at least a half an hour before consuming.
The type of off-grid water system and water sources you use, and how you use them, will depend on both the terrain of your land and your budget. No matter how what type of system you choose or already have, be sure to create or purchase a secondary backup water source for your survival homestead.