Obviously, water is a REALLY big deal when planning to live off the grid. It’s amazing what we take for granted in this country, as it relates to everyday necessities. And there’s no reason we shouldn’t… we’ve worked hard, as a collective society, to create that ease of living. But when you decide to go it alone, replicating those conveniences becomes quite the challenge.
SIDE MINI RANT… It should be explained here that I’m not going off grid to “save the earth.” I’m doing it because it’s just really cool to challenge one’s self and shake life up a bit in the process. And it’s kind of important to know HOW to live without modern conveniences in case the world goes to hell in a hand basket and we need to rely on ourselves to survive. And it gives my kids an experience they’ll never forget. And last but not least, I get to build a cool place to come on the weekend when I’m not swimming in my larger-than-necessary pool, back here in the valley, when we move back to the grid.
Yeah, yeah… I love the lump of rock we’re spinning through time and space on as much as the next, long haired hemp lover… and yeah, I try to be kind to it by NOT peeing on it’s historical parade. Okay? But you’ll never hear me blathering on about how we’re destroying mother earth by taking long showers, blah blah blah. The earth isn’t a woman. It’s a lump of dirt with things crawling on it. It was here before us and it’ll be here LONG after us, humming right along, quite nicely. And what cosmetic scarring we do to it during our relatively short tenure here, will be repaired to a “like new” condition by our future selves, through advanced methodologies and technology. Someday, humans will have a good laugh about the ruckus some of us made about taking 50 gallon showers.
Just in case you’re a Birkenstockers reading this blog. I have mad love for you and your craziness. Our different conclusions to the same observations is what makes this 80 year ride on this ball of dirt, so fun. But if you’re aghast at what I’ve said and you MUST leave in a tizzy since I’m obviously stupider than you… ta ta and cheers. Wish you well. Remember to not hate. Tolerance is key to your chi… um… or… whatever.
If you’re staying… congrats!! You’re practicing what you preach… diversity. Kudos. I promise to dance with you later.
Anyway, where was I?
You would think, living in one of the driest regions on earth, that water would be our hardest problem to solve. Surprisingly, it’s not.
To put some context to what I’m saying, we’ve lived in our current home for 13 months. It’s 5100 sq ft on about 1/3 to 1/2 of an acre, with a lawn, larger pool and shrubs everywhere that need watering, all the time. I’m not counting the bigger anomalies like emptying our pool and refilling it and we replanted grass for winter…etc. Taking out those anomalies, we’ve averaged approximately 3400 gallons of water usage per month for the past year. Here is the graph:
That’s about 40,000 gallons a year (give or take.) For that water, we’ve paid a whopping $850 for the entire year. That’s about 2 cents a gallon. (These are rough estimates, but close enough for government work.)
For the move off grid, we have three options. Dig a well, truck it in or catch it from the sky when it falls as rain.
Digging a well will cost a BUTT load of money. Approximately $35 a foot and you go into it blind. Having no idea how far down they’ll have to dig. I’m not willing to risk thousands of dollars at this point, for a well. Just not worth it, considering the viability of the other two options.
Trucking it in will cost about 16 cents per gallon. Minimum delivery is 1000 gallons. So, that’s QUITE a bit higher (8x) than I’m paying here in the valley. But it’s doable, considering our usage will be much, much less at the ranch than it will be here. My guess is, we’d use about 1800 gallons a month (maybe more if we have a lot of animals). So, if we trucked every ounce of it in, that would be about $288 a month. Seems like a lot, but when you factor in all the money we’re saving living on the ranch compared to the valley, it’s chicken feed.
Rainwater catchment is the neatest and cheapest way to get all your water supply. If you haven’t heard about this, do a google search (or youtube is even better) for rainwater reclamation, harvesting or catchment. They are all interchangeable terms. I figure, based on the total average rainfall at the ranch in the past 12 months of about 7 inches, I can “catch” about 75% of our need for water, for free (the cost of getting storage tanks and catchment supplies, notwithstanding.) When we fall short, we’ll just have a truck come out and top us off. Easy peasy.
What WILL be one of my biggest challenges is building a large enough catchment system to keep our supplies going through even the driest of seasons, yet not scar the beauty of our ranch with a big whopping “thing” that is designed to catch water. Anyway, I have an idea on how to do this without a visual eyesore on the property. I’ll blog more on this as I experiment with some unorthodox ways of doing this. The way most people do it is to catch the rain from their roof via a gutter system and divert it into a barrel or some other large water container or cistern. However, for us, even with our future larger cabin, that will provide a good solid 2% of our needs, not 75%. Because the roof area is not large enough to capture what we need based on the average rainfall now a days, of 7 inches. Incidentally, the normal rainfall for our ranch area is 12 inches a year, but with the drier conditions recently, it has fallen to 7 inches. I do anticipate that will come back up closer to normal at some point, and we’ll then be able to catch all our water needs.
Sooooo… on the list of problems and their solutions…
Piss Off Hippies?… CHECK!!! (jk, hippies. I love ya!)