Off Grid Water Supply Decisions
by Rachel Craig, OffGridHomestead.ca
I grew up on a well. Having our own well would be ideal, although with scorched earth policies abounding there’s no guarantee some huge operation won’t set up nearby and destroy the water table. (Seen the movie Gasland?)
At first we thought a well was “THE option” and if we ended up with land that could not have a well, we’d surely die… or not.
How to Spot “Well-ability”
Ask the locals / a council member – it can be as simple as that. Our favored area has both shallow, dig your own type wells and drilled water wells. Also, most residents are on a well. These wells are consistent depths and carry consistent results, which are green flags to look for.
Or use your Internet / phone prowess – water well records may be found online for the area in question. Wells are regulated by MOE (Ministry of the Environment) in Canada. The only online records I could find were in regard to water flow per minute. However, more information was just a phone call away.
If you are going into an especially rural area and have no one to email or call, and you can’t find any well records, asking the few potential neighbors may be worth any awkwardness. Or you can skip that, try to become a professional or hire a pro:
On the very technical side, topographic and geologic maps can pinpoint if and where to drill a well. Learning to read them takes skill and for most it’s probably best left to professionals.
There are water surveyors for hire, if you’re serious about a plot of land and want to check this off the list with a thick pen stroke. (Comparable cost to a land surveyor, hundreds to a thousand dollars.) Hiring a water surveyor can save you the time and money that hit and miss drilling might cost, whether you’re hiring a drilling company or drilling a well yourself. Surveyors can identify the best well digging points you have on your land.
Alternatives to Water Wells
Springs – If you live in on land that is blessed to have clean, abundant spring water it’s essentially a self pumped, natural Artesian well. Sometimes such a source is tapped by a man-made Artesian well, pumping forth on it’s own accord. Since it’s raw water and we live in a polluted world, it is best to filter and disinfect it as tempting as it is to drink refreshing spring water directly.
Cistern / Water delivery – This is clean water delivered to your cistern/tank from afar. The water and delivery charge will vary, and while it is generally cheaper than a well upfront, it will soon lapse the expense of digging a well. The cistern will also need cleaned occasionally to avoid contamination. (I would mark this option as worst case scenario! But at least if you want to move to an area that is risky in the well digging department or if you’re taking risks like buying land that someone else has mining rights to, you can make sure such water delivery is available in the area.)
Cistern / Rain collection – Collecting and purifying rain water can be a viable option in areas with adequate rainfall. Purifying rain water for drinking is important, especially if collected from a roof and/or stored in less kept barrels. The general rain water guidelines are 1) the cleaner the air, the cleaner the rainwater 2) collect straight from rain if you can vs. roof collection. Standalone rainwater collection can look like this, as one example: http://pinterest.com/pin/549791066980286718/. To back me up on this (I’ve heard “you can’t drink rain water” so many times!), here’s “Can Water Collected in a Rain Barrel Be Purified to Drink?” from National Geographic.
*Making sure the area gets enough rain (and having a back up plan for drought?), and making sure your set up is large enough are things I plan to get into in another article. Including both calculations for roof collection and stand alone.
Other water collection – If you live by a lake, river, etc., this water can also be used if you filter and disinfect it.
Purifying Raw Water
There are a multitude of filtering options out there. And a multitude of disinfection options, including ultraviolet light (UV), which is a chemical free method of disinfection. There are systems that are a two-for, such as the one we use: Aqua Rain (The AquaRain Water Filtration System has been specifically engineered to provide safe drinking water from raw water sources: www.aquarain.com/).
Two Strikes Against Wells: Uncertain Future and Hard Water
If the Man sticks a water pipe line down your road, what has been known to happen is wells being condemned and households being forced onto public water. Depending on how remote you are, this may be something to consider. You may want to check if a plan like this is on the immediate horizon.
Water from the aquifer may be hard, which is hard on appliances by causing build up of minerals. City water and therefore water delivered to a cistern may also be hard, so if you have to use a water delivery service and you have more than one company as an option, it’s probably worth asking how hard their water is as a factor in choosing which company to use. Rain water is naturally soft, so if you live in an area where rain water collection for your whole supply is feasible, it has this perk (no extra equipment, de-scaling agents, maintenance costs…).
Because of these two concerns, I can see how some are favoring rain water collection. Then again, I don’t underestimate authoritarianism-type’s tendencies to ban things like rain barrels. Rain water collection bans already exist in many states. (Bah! Humbug!) While doors seem to be opening for alternative power, like hooking up solar, it seems off grid water is going a bit in the opposite direction. What do you think?by