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Is it Possible to be Water Independent?

Water independence is something that people come to either because of utility or ideology. Your cozy country cabin might not be near a water line. Some believe that by disconnecting themselves from their water utility line they’re helping the planet by creating a smaller footprint and less waste. But the truth is that water independence, or off-the-grid living in general, isn’t exactly easy or inexpensive to do. It all depends on whether you’re providing water for just yourself or a whole family.


Rain Barrels or Small-Scale Water Independence

Rain barrels would seem appropriate for just one or two people. The first thing you need to consider is if you’ll need water for drinking or for sewage and bathing. For example, you can set up your water barrels in such a way that they provide enough water for toilets and showers. You actually don’t need that much drinking water per person because your main uses for water go toward other things. As for how to set up your system relative to where your house is, there are a number of online tutorials that show you how that can be done.

But in an emergency there are a number of tactics you could use to cleanse your rainwater, which, keep in mind, is not drinkable, especially if it’s coming off your roof and absorbing all kinds of bacteria and pathogens. You can purify this water by boiling or using chemical treatments or water filters. This means complete independence but it’s probably easier just to buy your drinking water at the store. You’re unlikely to drink more than five gallons a week.


Wells, Sophisticated Rain Collectors, and Large-Scale Water Independence

Well drilling methods are for the person who is serious about their water independence. These are systems you would need to sustain a family of four and possibly a small farm or greenhouse. These more sophisticated methods mean using more technical and expensive techniques. If you drill a well, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $3,000 to $50,000 and that’s just for the drilling. Yet 13 million US households use wells, so they are a time-tested system.

Bottom Line: True water independence is hard and can be expensive.

The reality is that your budget determines how water independent you can be. You can be more water independent with $100,000 than with $15,000. And you might even be able to drink the water, which needs to be tested twice a year.

There’s also the telling question of expertise. If you have a well, then how deep do you drill and will the water have a funny taste? Will you be downstream from a fracking facility? Say that you live near a pond, lake, or stream. Do local government codes allow you to draw water from such resources? Say that you want to use a series of water barrels or a large cistern to collect rainwater. Do you live in one of the many states that restrict rainwater collection? Do you have the mechanical aptitude to fix the many pumps and pipes that are tied to either a traditional (coal or gas) or solar/wind energy package that you’ve developed? Will any of these things work in the winter? And, while people might cite the advantages to water independence, it’s probably a good idea to listen to those very same people when they tell you: this won’t be easy.


This article was provided by Charity Bailey, Environmental Studies student and survivalist. If you’re simply looking for water extraction services, Charity recommends visiting

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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