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13 Best Off-Grid Water Systems

Living off-grid is more bearable without electricity than without water. Thus, we have provided the best off-grid water systems to choose from.

As humans, we are made of 70% water, meaning one of our most significant necessities is water. Studies have proved that we can live for a week without food but not without water.

Water sources are easy to locate. Nature has provided that, and we have been improvising ways to make it more convenient for us.

The constant modernization of our civilization privatized the water supply and made it available in our homes. Still, enjoying rivers, lakes, and seas will be fun.

Some people still desire the peace of living remotely or away from urban life. However, it will not be as easy because everything will not be as comfortable as before, especially the water situation.

Let’s keep reading to learn about different water systems and their sources. We may find that living off-grid is challenging.

What is an Off-Grid Water System?

Water is available to us through water systems. With today’s technology, potable water is distributed to our homes via a grid water system provided by the government.

Having an off-grid water system will secure your water supply in case the municipal water system doesn’t work or if it is contaminated. You’ll have private control over your water consumption with an off-grid water system.

Water systems need proper sources and disposal before it is distributed to a community or municipality. The same goes for an off-grid water system.

If these factors are unchecked, a water system may fail. It may run out of supply or the source could be polluted.

Some of the best water systems for off-grid living won’t require complex methods. Some sources are just sitting somewhere waiting to be discovered.

See Related: Types of Water Pollution You Need to Know About

Different Kinds of Water Systems

1. Natural Bodies of Water

River

The simplest system with the most abundant source is our natural bodies of water. If you’re planning to live off the grid or build a summer cabin, it will be wise to consider having it close to a river, a lake, or a stream.

To utilize these water sources, a grid water filtration system is needed to make sure that the water we’ll be using is clean. There are a lot of microorganisms in natural sources that have accumulated over the years.

Due to our negligence, rivers, lakes, and streams have become slightly dirty. Most people won’t recommend drinking or taking a bath in these waters.

Studies have shown that our planet’s capacity to provide clean drinking water is 0.3% of all the water we have. Having a water filtration system will help resist microbial growth and produce a drinkable water source.

There are many ways to take advantage of your nearby groundwater. The simplest is to directly take a bath, wash your clothes, cook, and clean your dishes in it.

It will take time, but it’ll be worth it since you can exercise along the way. The distance between your home and the nearby water supply will be a factor of course.

A more favorable way is to set up a pump. This way, you will gain access to an abundant water source at the convenience of your home.

Installing a water pump could be difficult. You can always hire a professional, but that defeats the purpose of living off the grid.

If your water needs are more than just necessities, it is advisable to connect your pumps to water storage tanks. This will help you save money and effort.

We will elaborate more on pumps and tanks as you continue reading. For now, let’s check out another natural source. 

See Related: Ways to Conserve Natural Resources

2. Springs

Spring

Springs occur naturally but are very rare. It forms when a certain pressure forces groundwater above the earth’s surface.

Natural springs can provide water depending on their size. Like our first water source, you can also have a private water system connected to a natural spring.

The best thing about springs is the water they produce. It is the most drinkable among all-natural sources.

Before choosing springs as your main source of water supply, make sure that they are consistently running. Some springs dry out in time, especially during hot seasons.

A natural spring can supply basic household water needs if you are lucky enough to find one near you. We recommend having a backup water supply or a water tank in case the water flow is slow. 

See Related: What is Lake Erosion? Here’s What to Know

3. Rainwater

Another smart choice for water supply is rainwater. Rain comes from time to time and is also a sufficient water source.

However, collecting rain is not sanitary. Most people collect rainwater by using the house gutter and pipes and connecting them to a storage tank.

In time, these gutters and pipes will gather dirt that will blend with the flowing water. It is important to use a filtration system before using the collected rainwater.

Another way of collecting rain is to open your storage tanks and let the rain fill them. It will lessen dirt in the water, but we still recommend filtering your collected rain. 

Some houses design their rooftops with a rain catchment system to lead rainwater into a water storage tank. This is a brilliant option to maximize rainwater collection.

On the other hand, the rain catchment system will not clean the rain. It is not as clean as we thought.

There are areas where rain is rare. If you decide to use rain to supply your off-grid water system, make sure that your chosen area has at least moderate rainfall.

See Related: Best Rain Barrels for Water Collection

4. Atmospheric Water Generation

Collecting water has caught up with technology. There are now ways to generate water by gathering moisture in the atmosphere.

Unlike the first three water sources, atmospheric water generation requires a few steps and special devices. The process is like magic but a bit complicated.

What separates it from other water system is that it doesn’t require a water source. As long as moisture is present in the atmosphere, your device will create water with less filtration needed.

Atmospheric water generation is also being looked at as a potential water source during emergencies and natural disasters. The technology is up-and-coming and reliable, not only in times of crisis but also as a long-term water supply.

Atmospheric Water Generators

The device used to generate water from thin air is called an Atmospheric Water Generator(AWG). A basic AWG used in homes can produce up to 20 liters of water a day, while commercially-used AWGs can produce up to 10,000 liters per day. 

How it works

AWGs use the process of condensation or the conversion of vapor or gas to liquid. The condenser and cooling coil technology of the AWGs pull the water vapor to the collection chamber when it reaches its dew point.

Clean water will be available for dispensation as it increases over time. It may take a while, as AWGs depend on atmospheric factors like air temperature and humidity. 

AWG’s operation requires a substantial amount of electricity to operate, which is a bit of a disadvantage. However, developers have invented ways to enhance water collection while regulating energy consumption.

Solar Water Generators

Solar water generators are the passive version of AWGs. It uses solar power to generate condensation and collect water.

It has different designs that correspond to its water production. A typical solar water generator can supply 2.5 to 5 liters of water a day.

How it works

The solar bed will absorb the moisture of humid air at night and desorb it during the day. As the solar power evaporates the water, it will condense into droplets of water collected in a storage tank.

The process is known as Hygroscopy where water is pulled from the air through absorption. It has a lower operational cost with consistent water collection efficiency.

Radiative Cooling Condenser

Radiative cooling is a natural phenomenon. Earth’s atmosphere is nearly transparent to infrared thermal radiation, thus creating dew or frost in some places.

The radiative cooling condensation idea was derived from darkling beetles’ technique to gather water. Their body orientation serves as a coolant that generates dew from humid air.

It rarely happens during the day, but modern technology has taken care of that for us. Engineers found ways to make it work under direct sunlight.

The concept is also evident in the dew formation of different plants and objects. The heat exchange in ambient environments influences the effectiveness of radiative cooling condensers.

How it works

Picking the materials for a passive water system is the crucial part. Many studies are made to find ways to make it more productive.

Aluminum ranked first among condensation surfaces in terms of dew collected. It reported 3kg/m² per hour of dew collected.

The coolant is the planar panels made with high-emissivity insulated plastic films. The condensers are tilted to minimize the wind effect.

What happens is that the cold atmosphere will cool the condensation surface and condense water vapor from the air. Technically, it is more effective during the night, though modern technology has created a daytime radiative condenser. 

See Related: Top Most Endangered Plants Around the World

Fog Collection

You can also harvest water from fog. Fog is a visible cloud of water droplets or ice crystals floating in the air. Some can say that it’s a reachable cloud.

Fogs are mostly visible in high places like mountains. These are where most people place their fog-collection devices.

How it works

There are two ways of collecting fog, the traditional and the modern. The traditional process is to trap fog using a mesh or a net and drain the collected water droplets into a container tank.

For maximum efficiency, the mesh must be perpendicular to the wind current. The size of the mesh will also influence the amount of water collected.

The modern approach is inspired by biomimicry. The idea is to mimic animals and plants with the unique aspect of collecting water from humid air.

Engineers constructed devices based on the different elements of these plants and animals. The technology gave birth to various fog-collection devices used in countries with water shortages. 

See Related: How Do Animals Adapt To Their Environment?

5. Desalination

A desalination Plant

Though our planet is surrounded by oceans, seawater is not drinkable. It can be used in other ways, like washing dishes or watering plants.

Thanks to the process of desalination, seawater can now be used as drinking water. This process will stabilize our water supply for the next thousands of years.

Desalination is the process of removing salt and other minerals from seawater and converting it to fresh water. There are many desalination methods, but the two main ones are distillation and reverse osmosis.

Distillation is the traditional method of desalination. It is done by boiling or condensing seawater to remove salt and other components.

There are many ways to perform desalination via distillation. It can be done by solar, vacuum, membrane distillation, and many other methods.

Reverse osmosis uses a partially permeable membrane to separate salt and other components from seawater. The process is used in industrial settings and water production because of its ability to remove chemical and biological species.

It uses a thin-film composite membrane to transport properties and provide mechanical support. Reverse osmosis uses less energy than thermal desalination but needs maintenance.

See Related: Important Pros and Cons of Natural Gas to Know

6. Private Well

Private well

Wells are like springs in the sense that they could be everywhere. The only difference is that wells don’t occur naturally.

Wells are either dug or drilled. Most people prefer wells as their off-grid water systems. 

A well must be at least 100 feet deep for the water to be drinkable. Others use filtration systems to be sure.

Water pumps power most wells. But if you want to be more traditional, you can build your own manual well with a bucket and a rope.

Since we’ve already said water pumps, let’s check out the different water pumps we can use to power our wells. It will be more convenient than the traditional one. 

7. Manual Pump

A hand water pump by the road side

Pumps work with wells. A manual system for a well pump is perfect for the overall aesthetics of living off-grid.

Manual pumps will require a lot of work. But it will be more reliable compared to other well pumps that require electricity.

We say this because if a well is powered by electricity, the pump will not work the moment the power goes out. You have to ensure that you have stable electricity for your well pump.

A manual well pump will save the day if all else fails. Some people use it as a backup to their installed water pump.

Another advantage of manual pumps is that they are more affordable than other water pumps. It is the best choice for your off-grid water system startup.

See Related: What Are The Effects of Overharvesting?

8. Electric Pump

orange water pump in a garden

A more conducive way to collect water is to connect your well to an electric pump. It is more stable with better water pressure.

Instead of pumping manually, electric water pumps will use energy to gather water into a pressure tank. A pressurized water tank is often partnered with an electric well pump.

However, stable electricity may be a problem with an off-grid lifestyle. We recommend finding a more stable energy source in an off-grid setting.

The next off-grid water system is an example of a more fitting energy source for off-grid life. Let’s look into that.

See Related: Best Energy Efficient Electric Heaters for Large Rooms

9. Wind-Powered Water Pumps

Wind powered pump next to a water well

Energy companies have considered wind power for many years. They have used it to gain and distribute electricity in different countries.

With the technology already in existence, why not use it to make our own wind-powered water pump? The wind-based energy system is a brilliant solution to power an off-grid water pump.

Wind-powered devices’ main component is a turbine or windmill. It is one of the earliest inventions of man.

In this case, we will use windmills to generate electricity to power a water pump. You can build an improvised windmill or buy a wind power kit.

A simpler approach to wind-operated water pumps is mechanical. The process will not require electricity.

The windmill is connected to a manual pump. Water is pumped manually in water tanks as the windmill turns.

Between the two, the powered pump is more practical. It will require less effort and maintenance. 

However, we still recommend keeping the mechanical setting of your wind-powered water pump. You’ll never know when it will be useful.

See Related: Home Wind Turbines You Can Buy Online

10. Solar Powered Water Pumps

If we are targeting a stable power supply for our well pump, solar energy is a clever choice. It is more reliable than water pumps powered by the wind in many ways.

We say this because the sun is a more reliable source of energy. By connecting a solar panel to your pump, you’ll have a permanent water system without adding weight to your electric bills.

Solar panels need less maintenance compared to windmills. Windmills wear out over time, and they are vulnerable to typhoons or hurricanes.

Its only downside is that it is not cheap. Solar-powered water pumps are a long-term investment.

Its price will be justified by its durability and performance. Your solar panels will power your pumps for the next 25 to 30 years.

As long as the sun still shines, water will flow out of your pumps. A solar-powered water pump is a dependable off-grid system.

See Related: How Solar Land Developers Can Benefit from Going Solar

11. Portable Impeller Pumps

We know that you are wondering how a pump can be portable and movable. To be fair, most pumps are fixed because the wells are immovable. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the pump should be fixed as well. We admire the innovators of these devices.

Because of this technology, water pumps have broadened their water usage. Water pumps can now be used in firefighting, filling tanks, cleaning cars, the portable water system in an off-grid cabin, and many other applications.

For a portable pump to be used in firefighting, it must guarantee high water pressure. This is how portable impeller pumps are designed.

Portable pumps are constructed with two hoses, one for the water source and the other for the water output. You can customize its settings according to your needs.

With all that promising performance, a portable impeller pump will need an energy source. Other than that, they are very easy to install and store.

See Related: Best Portable Greenhouses to Buy Today

12. Gravity-Fed Water System

elevated water tank

Before all of these water systems came to light, our ancestors used gravity to apply pressure to water systems. People nowadays are still using the idea, especially those who live in areas with little to no electricity.

Relying on gravity to run a water system sounds simple, but it could be complicated. There are a few factors to be considered if you decide to have a gravity-fed water system.

Distance from the source to the water outlet

The first is the distance between the water source and its destination point. With gravity as our pump, we can only expect what it can provide and the distance it can reach.

Pipe inclination

The connecting pipes must be inclined enough to add more pressure to the water flow. Most people put their storage tanks higher than their houses to let water flow naturally.

Pipe sizes

The size of the pipes will depend according to the terrain and the inclination. The size of the pipes will also affect the water pressure.

Pipe Distribution

The number of pipeline extensions will affect the water flow. You have to make sure that your storage tank can accommodate the diversion on your water system.

Terrain

The terrain will dictate the overall system and the water line. For a gravity-fed system to work properly, the terrain must be studied carefully to avoid problems or to detect them easily.

There could be other factors that will determine the effectiveness of gravity-fed water systems, but these are the major ones. If all of these are planned perfectly, you’ll have a reliable water system that won’t require electricity or other factors.

See Related: How to Build a Hydroponic Greenhouse

13. Water Storing from Water Dealers

Some consider purchasing water for off-grid living to be cheating. But if you think about it, who wants to go through all that hassle if a call will solve everything?

Water suppliers can provide a sufficient amount of water for your every need. All you have to do is provide enough storage for water.

A cistern tank is the best type of storage to use for large amounts of water. Cistern tanks are food-grade plastic barrels applicable for a long-term off-grid system.

They are also used for collecting rainwater because, why not? They are large enough to be used as a rain catchment system in your backyard.

The problem with it is that we will have to wait for the rainy season to collect rainwater. Good thing, a purchase of water will solve this.

Customarily, cisterns are installed underground. However, people have also used cistern tanks to run gravity-fed water systems and started using them as above-ground tanks.

To maximize space above ground, below-ground cisterns are still used today. The tank size is space-consuming, and it will be hard to deal with if you decide to put it underground later on.

Some people install pumps in their cisterns for the convenience they offer. Overall, cisterns can adapt to many uses, powered or unpowered.

Purchasing water is acceptable in terms of off-grid living. It may have originated from a grid water source, but because it is used in an off-grid property, it is no longer considered city water.

See Related: Best Greenhouse Ideas: Backyard, Garden & More

Benefits of an Off-Grid Water System

Private Water Source

Grid water is shared by many communities, and as it grows, the system gets more complicated. We don’t doubt the ability of our government to accommodate every inhabitant’s need for a clean source of water, but if it does fail, everybody will be greatly affected.

Having your private water system will save you from these kinds of possibilities. There are many reasons for a city water system failure to happen.

Water contamination is one of the worst things that can happen to a grid water system. This will shut down the whole operation until the water is safe for everyone to use.

If you’re living in the city and depending on the municipal water system, there’s nothing to worry about. Rest assured that our water providers have foreseen these possible issues and have planned countermeasures.

Given that city waters are clean, I still don’t recommend drinking from them. There are water providers that concentrate on supplying drinking water, which gives a more complacent intuition. 

With that being said, an off-grid water system must have a filtration system for it to be drinkable. There are plenty of options online that you can choose from.

Stable Water Flow

There are places where water systems are not as developed compared to cities. Rural areas that are slowly establishing their operations may have setbacks in different areas of their lives.

As their community grows, the demands get higher, and sometimes it is hard to keep up. One of the usual affected areas is the water supply.

There will be a time when the water pressure is weak. Having a personal water system will stabilize the water flow according to your desired pressure.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t experience weak water pressure. As water runs out in your tanks, you will notice that the water flow will be thin.

It is now your responsibility to keep your water tanks full, unlike others who rely on a centralized water system and wait for them to fix the issue. The stability of your water flow is in your hands.

No More Water Bills

You are now independent of municipal water suppliers because you have your own off-grid water supply. This means that you are free of any bills regarding water.

However, you have to maintain your water system to keep it running at maximum efficiency. This will cost you every once in a while.

Starting your own water system is pricey, but it will get cheaper as time goes on. Maintenance fees don’t come regularly.

If you take good care of your water system, it will need less maintenance. Your expenses will depend on how you use your water system.

FAQs

What size water tank do I need for off-grid living?

Water tanks have many sizes that will vary depending on usage. Many factors will influence the size of the tank that you must acquire in an off-grid setting. 

Water usage will depend on how big your family is. For a standard family with 3–4 members, at least 400 gallons of water storage is recommended.

If you have a bigger family with more than 6 members, it is better to invest in bigger tanks of at least 1000 gallons. The water needs will surely increase as the children grow, so better to be ready.

How long can water be stored before it goes bad?

The length of freshness will be determined by how the water was stored. The purity of the water is another factor. Water left in the open can get contaminated in 1–3 days.

Water stored the normal way with a decent cover usually lasts for at least 6 months. The drinkability may be compromised, though.

Commercially packaged water is still drinkable after 5 years of storage. This is possible because they manufacture according to protocols made to extend their product’s shelf life.

How many solar panels does it take to run an off-grid water pump?

The number of solar panels needed to run a water pump will depend on the pump’s horsepower. It is recommended to buy two solar panels with 100 watts of power capacity.

You can try buying one first for testing, given that you have an average pump. You can add more as you upgrade to a better pump.

How do you shower in an off-grid cabin?

The most basic way of taking a shower is by using a bucket. It is what they did back in the old days, and it will never get old.

There are other ways, of course, if you want a more convenient approach. The use of solar power is very broad, it can also be applied in showers.

A natural way is to do it in rivers or lakes. Aside from taking a bath, you can add a bit of swimming for fun.

How can I pump water without electricity?

Hand pumps are still in existence, and the best contingency plan is if the electricity is out. It is simple to use and reliable 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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