How to get water in an off-grid house?

This is one of the most basic, yet pertinent question that comes to our mind when it comes to off-grid living. If you are planning a trip for a weekend, you may carry portable water with you. But what if you are planning for a long stay away from the hustle of cities and towns?

Getting water in an off-grid house typically involves utilizing alternative methods to access and manage water sources, be it for general use or for drinking purposes. So, there are two parts to this problem:

  • Getting water of decent quality that can be used for general purposes, such as washing clothes, bath, etc.
  • Getting good quality drinking water, or methods to improve the quality of the water gathered by us to make it consumable.

Let’s have a look at the several ways we can obtain water in an off-grid house, and then make it drinkable, if needed. The water source that we use must be safe, reliable, and preferably independent.

Table of Contents
  • Various ways to obtain water in an off-grid house
  • Various ways to improve the quality of water to make it drinkable

Various ways to obtain water in an off-grid house

You may get water basically from three types of water sources:

  • water found at the surface, such as rivers, streams and ponds.
  • water found below the surface
  • precipitation in form of rain or snow.

Living near a good water source

Well, the easiest way to solve your water problems is to install your off-grid dwelling near a decent water source. Such a water source may be natural or man-made.

  • Surface Water Sources: If your property has access to surface water sources such as rivers, streams, natural springs, or ponds and lakes, you may be able to pump water directly from these sources, or utilize gravity to bring the water to your doorstep (by making small water channels). However, it’s important to consider water quality and obtain any necessary permits or permissions before using surface water.

Out of all these, probably natural springs may provide you the best quality pure water. But not many of us will be lucky enough to have such a spring nearby. If you are, oh man! you are going to enjoy your off-grid living a lot. Nothing tastes as good as an uncontaminated spring water.

  • Community Water Sources: In some off-grid communities, residents may come together to establish communal water systems, such as shared wells or water collection infrastructure. Collaborating with neighbors can provide additional options for accessing water resources. However, it may not be an option if you prefer to live in solitude, far away from human society.

Utilizing Underground water

  • Well Water: If your off-grid house is of permanent nature and you intend to use it for a long time, you may drill a well to access groundwater. Ensure that the well is properly constructed and maintained to prevent contamination. This is a method that is utilized widely even in traditional houses and provides us with almost unlimited supply of good quality drinking water.

    A well pump can be installed to bring water to the surface, where it can be stored in tanks for use in the household. Such a pump may be run on solar power. Or you may just install a manual handpump to bring up the water. If the groundwater is not too low, you may even use the simple rope and bucket method to get the water you need. However, if you have an open well, it would be preferable to cover it using a lid when not in use. This will avoid the water from getting contaminated or becoming a breeding ground for various bugs and mosquitoes.

In most of the cases, you will find that underground water is generally pure and safe. It’s also rich in natural minerals and salts. However, you may still use a filter to further purify it. An added advantage of underground water is that it doesn’t freeze in winters. So, if you are in a temperate climate zone, it may prove to be a perineal water source for you.

Rainwater Harvesting

If you intend to live in a place with good amount of rainfall (on a continuous basis), you may consider installing a rainwater collection system to capture and store rainwater from the roof of your house. This water can be collected in tanks or cisterns and used for various purposes such as drinking, cooking, etc. after proper filtration and purification.

For example, the Bruny Island Cabin in Tasmania collects rainwater from its inclined roof and collects it in underground water storage tanks.

However, ensure that the material used on the roof is not contaminating your water. For this purpose, metal roofs, slate roofs, untreated shake roofs, tile roofs are preferable. Asphalt roofs and treated wood shake roofs may leach chemicals into the rainwater you are collecting. If you are unsure, you may just use rain barrels, IBC totes (intermediate bulk container), or cisterns to collect the rainwater directly.

Most rainwater harvesting systems are easy and cheap to install, and the water collected is perpetually free to use. Though on the downside such systems may work as primary water source only in areas having regular and heavy rains. In most parts of the world, such systems become more useful only in the rainy season, and hence can only act as a supplementary system to your main water supply.


In some areas, rainwater collection is restricted or banned. So, kindly check the local laws before you install a rainwater collection system.

Water Delivery Services

In some cases, off-grid homeowners may rely on water delivery services to transport water to their property. This can be a convenient option for obtaining bulk water supplies, especially in remote areas. However, this is only possible if your off-grid house is not too off-grid.


To be doubly secure, you may diversify your water sources, i.e. rather than relying only on one water source, make use of multiple water sources.

Water is a very essential part of our daily lives. No matter how reliable your primary source of water is, it still makes sense to keep backup plan in place. For example, you may be relying on underground water for most of your daily usage, but even then, make sure that you install a rainwater harvesting system. It will not only reduce the burden on the groundwater, but will also come handy in case the water motor or your handpump breaks down.

At least, have a couple of water delivery services ready in case your water system breaks down for a day or two. Such a delivery service may be a shop a few kilometers/miles away, or just another off-grid neighbour that lives nearby.

Water Conservation, Recycling and Efficiency

When we live in an off-grid setting, we are basically embracing a minimalist lifestyle. We need to carry the same spirit when it comes to our water usage.

We need to implement water conservation measures to minimize water usage and maximize efficiency. This may include installing low-flow fixtures, repairing leaks promptly, and practicing water-saving habits. For example, instead of using water-intensive traditional toilet system, you may use composting toilet system, which is odorless and waterless. Instead of using a shower, you may switch to using bucket water or even just getting sponge baths on alternate days. And yes, no washing machine anymore; get used to hand washing your clothes.

You may also think about implementing Greywater Recycling in your off-grid adobe. Such a water recycling system can reuse wastewater from sinks, showers, and laundry for non-potable uses (if not for drinking). For example, we may make use of the used dishwater to flush the toilet. This can help in reducing strain on your water supply. Such a system will be much more useful if you are living in a water-deficient region, e.g. a desert. However, do not store greywater (i.e. the water that has been used) for more than 24 hours or else you may be providing an adobe for bacterial growth. If possible, use it as soon as possible and be done with it.

Various ways to improve the quality of water to make it drinkable

Water Filtration and Purification

Regardless of the water source you use, it’s essential to invest in water filtration and purification systems to ensure that the water is safe for drinking and other household uses. This may involve using sediment filters, carbon filters, UV sterilization, or reverse osmosis systems.


Though in case of certain water sources, you may be getting pristine clean water, say in case if you are using underground water. But even then, it’s essential that you check the quality of the water you are consuming on a regular basis.

For this purpose, you may carry with you a portable water quality checking instrument, such as PPM (Parts-Per-Million) meter. Water borne diseases can easily be avoided with proper precautions. Make sure you check for not only biological pathogens (bacteria, parasites, etc.), but also for chemical impurities (such as heavy metal contamination, e.g. arsenic, cadmium, etc.).


If you live near the coast, desalination systems can be used to convert seawater into freshwater. While desalination requires specialized equipment and consumes energy, it can provide a reliable water source in areas with limited freshwater availability. However, this endeavor may be too cost intensive for a single person.

Winding Up

When planning your off-grid living arrangement, always give top priority to water supply. Consider factors such as water availability, quality, sustainability, and regulatory requirements to ensure a reliable and environmentally responsible water source for your household.

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