Without water a person can only survive three days. With bad water, much less than that. On the homestead, every plant, animal and person needs free access to clean water.
That’s why it’s number one in our homestead blueprint series! If you’re just building your homestead or wondering what projects to work on next – water should always be number one!
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The whole goal behind homesteading, in my mind, is self-sufficiency. It involves stewarding our resources (money, time, water, energy, love) in such a way as to depend as little as possible on any outside forces.
To begin to take control over the water in your life, you need to understand what level of water self-sufficiency you’re at now.
Levels of Water Self-Sufficiency
The first level is not being in control of your water source at all. Perhaps you live in the city, on city water. If you lose electricity, your city water stops and it could be days or weeks before it comes back. Don’t be caught without!
There may be nothing you can do about that at this stage in your life (no judgement here! I apartment-homesteaded for years) but you can make moves to establish more control.
Identify a local source of water like a creek or a pond and buy a water filtration system like this awesome on from Berkey.
Even if you lose city power, you can always bring back buckets of lake or stream water and filter it for drinking.
Also think about buying a bathtub bladder. If you know a storm is coming and you might be out of power or water for a few days, you can preemptively fill up this bathtub bladder for showering, brushing teeth, flushing toilets, or again – to use in your water filter.
The next level of water self-sufficiency is a well. If you are on well water, you may be able to control the access to water, but not the pump – unless you have a generator. Learn how to use connect the generator to the well pump in cases of emergency.
Also if you’re on a well, get the water tested regularly. Your local health department and sometimes hardware stores will test it for you for free. (They want to sell you a whole house filtration system, but the test results will be accurate.)
Level three for water self-sufficiency is having full access to year-round water and can pump it at any time. This could mean a nearby creek or river or pond, assuming you boil your water or have a filtration system you can run it through like this awesome Berkey Water Filter.
Or this could be a well that is pumped with power from a solar panel or windmill – something that doesn’t require a resource you could run out of like gasoline in a generator.
No matter where you are right now in your water self-sufficiency, the goal is always to move up to the next level. Before we talk about ways to generate and control your water, though, we have to reduce our dependency on water:
Ways to Save Water
Now with everything, my first recommendation is to reduce your dependency on water. The less water you need, the easier it is to generate your own or gain control of it. It’s much easier (and takes less resources to pump 20 gallons of water out of a well than 100).
Of course you need to drink and bathe and wash dishes, but there are still ways you can reduce your water usage:
- using a dishwasher saves more water than hand-washing
- if you do handwash, use a dual-sided sink or buckets – one for dirty soapy water and one for a clean rinse
- use a car wash instead of washing your car at home (car washes have water recyclers)
- save your pasta water to water your plants
- catch your shower water in the tub to water your plants later or flush the toilet (bucket flush)
- test your toilets to make sure they’re not leaking
- make sure none of your faucets drip
- plant drought tolerant (or even better – native!) plants
- use drip irrigation in the garden to deliver water only where it needs to go
- capture rain water for your animals and gardens
- put a plastic bottle in the back of your toilet to reduce the amount of water used for each flush
- baths use less water than showers
- mulching your garden a la Back to Eden garden method helps increase water retention where you want it:
- check your monthly water usage for hidden leaks (if you’re on city water)
- use a composting toilet
- buy less stuff – consumer products all have a water footprint
- water plants during the early morning to allow it to soak into the ground before evaporating in the heat
- use a soil moisture meter to gauge exactly when your soil needs watering, instead of guessing
- use a low-flow shower head
- add an aerator to your faucets
- weed your gardens – weeds use water too!
- when bathing your babies, bathe them in the sink or a tub to avoid filling up an entire bathtub of water
- while washing babies, throw other things in the tub too! Make a game out of cleaning their toys in the bath (for toddlers).
- for little babies, wash them with just a washcloth and bucket
In the next part of these series, I’ll go over a long list of projects you can do on the homestead to capture, preserve, control and steward your access to water so that you’re never without.