One question we often get about living off the grid is "what about your water?" Lucky for us, we get access to all of our water from the lake behind our house. That's because we have a one-of-a-kind off grid water system.
We don't have to worry about water delivery, water hauling, or water shortages. We face many challenges living off the grid. Yet this is one area where we've totally lucked out! Here's how our off grid water system works.
Our Off Grid Water Supply
So we have a better off grid water supply situation than a lot of our homesteading and off grid friends do. We live right on a lake. A big lake.
Yes, many other homeowners and seasonal cabin owners also have off grid homes along the water. And there's even a large territorial park next door. Yet there's more than enough fresh lake water for all of us.
We know of other families living off the grid in the area who aren't quite as lucky as we are. They haul water to their cabins in jugs, tanks, etc.
Some of them even have truck bed plastic water tanks to make the best use of space in the back of their pick-up trucks.
Our Lake Provides Fresh Water
When we first moved off grid I couldn't get my head around the fact that when we were out fishing, our neighbour simply dipped his cup in the lake when he was thirsty.
I spent a lot of years living in the Toronto area. And the idea of drinking water from a lake (think Hamilton Harbour - ugh) was jaw-dropping.
A few weeks later, I talked to a chemical engineer who lived on a property a few miles from us. She ran tests every spring, and said the water was perfectly safe. So there's a lot of water, and it's clean.
Even so, we filter our lake water for drinking. Over the years, we've tried a few different water filters. Recently, we've been using the Big Berkey (affiliate link) countertop filter and it works very well. You can read our full Big Berkey Water Filter Review here.
We Pump Water Year-Round
Though our off grid homestead backs onto a lake, it's a steep and very rocky descent down to the water. Yet we don't have to haul our water up over the rocks in buckets, thank goodness.
Instead, our off grid water system depends on a permanently installed submersible water circulating electric pump. It's 14 feet underwater in the lake. We've never had any issues with it.
In 2017 we returned to our off grid home after three years away. During these years we had shut down and winterized the property.
We were anxious to find out whether the pump and all our off grid home systems would run after all that time. Thankfully, everything started up without a hitch.
Well, except our hot water tank. So we just warmed water on the stove for baths or swam in the lake - it was summer, after all.
Above Ground Water Pipe
We pump water uphill through 225 feet of insulated water line protected by 3- inch PVC pipe. For our family of four, we only need to fill our 1500 gallon water tank about once every three weeks.
In the summer, when we're ready to pump we simply switch on the water pump. Then it takes about a minute to hear the water coming up the line into the tank.
A 1500-gallon Off Grid Water Tank
Our off grid water system works so well that our tank fills up pretty quickly. Of course, it depends on how low we've let the water level go.
We usually fill it in under one hour. Especially considering that we're pumping 1000 gallons, give or take, through a water line uphill over the rock! (We never let the pump run dry. Unless we're winterizing the house.)
We Have a Really Loud Horn!
We have an extremely loud horn that sounds like an air raid siren. It lets us know once the water level reaches a certain point. Then we have a couple of minutes to switch off the pump so it doesn't overflow.
A Circulating Hot Glycol System Heats the Water Line in Winter
We live in Canada's subarctic, at about 62 degrees north. So our off grid water system includes a propane-fired line-heating glycol system.
During the winter, after the lake ice begins to freeze, our water pumping routine includes turning the glycol heater on to warm the glycol line. It runs alongside the water line in the insulated pipe.
Usually, we heat the glycol for about 30 minutes. Next, we turn on the pump (there's a switch right in our water tank room), to let the glycol pump for about 20 minutes to melt ice in the line. Dan wrote an extensive winter water off grid post, with pics, on how we do this.
When we lived in the city (and in the suburbs) we rarely gave any thought to our water supply. We just turned on the tap and there it was.
Now, however, as with so many other aspects of our off grid life, we're far more aware of food, water, and shelter. We know exactly where our water's coming from, how much we're using, and how safe our water supply actually is.
Are you're dreaming of a move to the nearby countryside? Or maybe to a really remote location like we live in? Either way, do some research on your off grid water supply system options early on in your planning.
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