The oceans hold 97% of all earth’s water, but don’t bother moving your homestead to the coast if you’re looking for a secure supply for you and your family.
Desalinating sea water requires tons of energy, (and money, on a large scale), so even in regionally water-stressed areas it’s impractical. Of what’s left, 2.5% of earth’s water is unavailable, meaning too deep, too frozen, or too dirty. That leaves only 0.5% of usable fresh water on this planet for people and land dwelling organisms.
It should be no wonder then that our utility bills are so high. From such a limited resource, the average person still uses 3,000 gallons of it a month without hardly a thought. This is literally flushing money down the toilet. What’s even crazier is when there is an emergency and the whole town stocks up on bottled water, like that’s going to do much of anything. There is only one way to bring utility costs down AND have enough water on hand in an emergency, and that is by being water independent, not dependant on public works.
When you are responsible for your own supply of water, you’re also more conserving with it, too. The good news is that there are plenty of untapped sources of freshwater on your property, and with the right system of conservation and ingenuity can help you become more independent and prepared for hard times.
Each of these off-grid water systems are best when combined. Depending on one alone opens you up to more risk of not having enough water on hand, but using two, three, or more can ensure there is plenty for you and your homestead.
The Most Simple One
Some good things do actually fall from the sky. Rain barrels can be set up anywhere beneath the heavens, and provide a huge supply of clean water with one torrential downpour.
An easy way to make one in five minutes is with a 50 gallon plastic trash can with lid, some landscape fabric, a ¾” garden spigot, a double threaded bulkhead fitting with an internal thread size of ¾”, some Gorilla Tape and teflon tape, a pen to trace a hole and a razor blade to cut it out.
The spigot will go near the bottom of the trash can, so trace a hole around the bulkhead there, and cut it out. Insert the bulkhead and screw the nut on back. Wrap teflon tape around the threading on the spigot a few times next, then screw the spigot into the bulkhead until it’s facing down and is tight. Cut a wide hole out of the trash can’s lid.
The landscape fabric will be pulled tight over the top of the can and secured with Gorilla Tape, and the lid with a hole placed back on top of this. That way, debris and mosquitoes won’t contaminate the rainwater, which should filter through the fabric and into the barrel.
The Second System
Hand pumps require drilling down into an aquifer and using manual labor to pump it to the surface.
Electric pumps can be used, but if it went out during an emergency you’d wish you had the more strenuous option.
There are established companies in the U.S. that could build and drill for you, but expect to pay a couple thousand dollars, at least.
Another Idea For Your Property
A great way to prevent rainwater escaping downhill as runoff and soak into the soil of a garden, instead, is by creating a permaculture swale.
This will take planning and observation of water flow and drainage on the ground you build upon, but can make a planting area more productive and less maintenance.
You need to watch which way the water runs when it rains, then dig a trench along those contour lines evenly to slow and retain the water, typically 6 inches to 1.5 feet deep, and 18 inches to two feet wide. The dirt removed will be built up as a berm along the downhill side of the trench.
In desert areas the trench is then planted, and generally the berm is in non desert climates. The water pooled and slowed from draining off will drain instead into the immediate soil, making it healthier as organic matter grows over time.
A Water System For Huge Supplies
A cistern will give you peace of mind knowing you have a huge supply of water on standby.
These can range in materials from made out of stone or metal, and can hold 10,000 gallons or more or less depending on what you and your property can handle.
Something to be aware of is their potential weight when full, though, and where it’s built. It will sink if the ground isn’t sturdy enough. Also, if it freezes where you live, burying it in the ground might prevent it, too, from doing so.
An Underground System
A natural or man-made pond can hold lots of water, and organisms to prevent stagnation or possibly be eaten, too.
The water will have to be cleaned thoroughly before used for drinking or cooking, of course, but it’s always a viable option if need be.
Stocking it with fish provides a bonus food source. A pond dug 8-12 feet will allow them to survive if it freezes. A lot of consideration should be made before you dig, but lining the pond with a tarp and some geotextile material will reduce seepage after it’s done.
Another Idea For Your Backyard
A well on your property will be a relatively stable and clean source of water. They are typically anywhere from 20 to 300 feet deep, which means being protected from freezing in the winter.
If your property doesn’t already have a well, however, it will cost at least a couple thousand dollars to dig and implement one. But the money saved will outweigh the cost.
I’m sure you’ve seen the Romans harness the power of gravity through aqueducts on all those National Geographic documentaries. If you have any elevation change on your property this will be easier to construct, and gravity is a good way to add water pressure around the homestead.
Most modern showers use around 80-100 psi, but if you can be comfortable scaling back to about 20 psi, a basic water system using gravity can be very accommodating.
A Natural Water Source
If you’re lucky enough to have a spring bubbling out of the rocks on your property, then you might already have a natural source of clean, delicious water.
The hard part is building the infrastructure to harness it around the homestead, but with the help of gravity, it is possible.
“Cascade” or Water Flow
This is more of a system of procedure than a mechanical one. But you will save and maximize water with it. There are generally 3 types of water: clean, gray, and black. You don’t need water that’s safe for human consumption to do laundry, wash dishes, or even water gardens and livestock. Using a proper water flow, you can “cascade” water from one level to the next.
If you boil water for food, that same water can be used to clean the dishes. The water you use to wash your hands can then be used to flush the toilet. Once you start becoming more aware of where your water comes from, and more proactive in attaining it, the more ideas will come to you of how to preserve and use it to its maximum potential.
The Last Off-Grid System
A water filter will help out a lot.
You can buy a popular but expensive, heavy duty one from Berkey, or you can make one from materials on your land called a Biosand Filter.
Check out a website from a Canadian charitable organization called CAWST to download a free manual on building it, but the gist of it involves a barrel full of sand and gravel, and a top layer of micro-organisms which all eliminate harmful pathogens through a process of predation, trapping, absorption, and natural death.
There are many more systems possible, and some of these might not be possible for every homestead. Researching what other people have done on properties similar to yours is a good way to get some ideas. It is important not to have just one system, but as many as possible in case something happens. Water can run out or become contaminated, even poisoned. If SHTF, having a secure source of good water will be the first step to surviving and flourishing.
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