Water on the Homestead: Is Filtering Well Water Necessary?
Knowledge of Off-Grid Water Systems Helps Keep Your Family Safe
Many homesteads have wells drilled for their water source. But is filtering well water necessary? There are, as usual, different thoughts on the subject.
I grew up on artesian well water. My grandparents had a pump on the well, which we would turn on to fill up the water tank and then turn it off. We did this in the morning and the evening.
The well had a constant drain because of its abundant flow. This drain fed the watering pond for the livestock. Filtering well water wasn’t part of the setup.
Of course, things are different now. In less than 100 years, most of the underground water sources in the U.S. are contaminated by pesticides and herbicides, toxins from nuclear plants and other such industrial projects, fracking and poor waste management. Sadly, filtering well water is a must for many of us.
Today, one of the highest priorities of a homesteader should be to preserve and maintain a good source of water. It doesn’t take long for a toxin to poison a previously good water supply. For ourselves and our livestock, safe drinking water is more of a consideration here in the United States than ever before. This makes it necessary to ensure we know ways to conserve water.
You can go without food for a few days, some have gone without food for 40 days or more and lived to tell about it. However, if you plan on going without water for more than three days you will not only risk irreversible damage to your health, but also death.
The need for water to live a happy and healthy life is only surpassed by our need for oxygen. Today, clean, life-giving water is harder to find than it was just 50 years ago. Deadly toxins seem to be everywhere in our environment.
How to get Water for Your Homestead
There are various ways to supply your family and homestead with a clean source of water. Let’s look at a few ways to obtain water in a clean, cost effective way.
Most people rely on paying a professional well driller to establish a well on their land. When done right, you can have a well which will produce for many years to come. Depending on the depth of the well and the sub-terrain to be drilled through, it may be a very cost-effective way to find a good source of water for years to come.
Some people have dug their own shallow water well using PVC and household water hoses. The great thing about this is it’s cheap and effective. This water well drilling method will work when drilling through dirt and clay. Even if you have a good source of water for your main needs, an extra well for watering the garden or animals can save money and time in the long run.
If you’re living off grid, you need to consider your energy usage as a well pump does take a lot of electricity. This can be worked around by only turning on the pump in the morning or when you have a good supply of energy coming into the house from your off-grid power source.
You can divert water into a holding tank and then use a small pump, like an RV water pump, to pump water from the holding tank to the house. This will help ensure you’ll have enough water and electric to last throughout the day. Of course having a diy outdoor solar shower is a nice way to save precious power.
Some of our off-grid friends use a holding tank set above their house and gravity feed water to supply their daily needs. This functions much like a water tower which has been used by homesteaders and towns for many years to keep the water flowing.
Whatever you do, it’s always a good option to install a hand pump at the well. If worse comes to worse, you’ll still be able to carry buckets of water to supply your needs. The importance of being prepared to care for the water needs of your family and livestock can never be overestimated
Witching for Water
I actually know a couple of people who can find a good source of water by a technique called witching for water. This is done by using a new sprout which comes up under a peach tree or a regular forked branch. The person who is witching for water holds the “wand” in their hands and walks around an area until the twig or branch turns down. The branch should be green and will work, I am told, until it dries out in 2 or 3 days.
I don’t know how this works or if it always works, but I know some people who have used this method of locating water on their homestead many times with success. Other than witching for water, I don’t know of any other way to cheaply find a good place to dig other than guessing based on terrain and other wells in the area.
You may dig in one area and find no water or you may find bad water. Then a few feet away from there, you may find a 30 gallon per minute nearly endless supply.
Always make sure you are looking far from any source of contamination such as marshy areas, cisterns, septic tanks or any other known toxic areas. Stay at least 50 feet away from any sewer line. You always should call before you dig to make sure you’re not going to dig into any underground power lines.
Testing your well water to see if filtering well water is necessary is advised. We regularly test our water supply. The National Ground Water Association recommends well owners test their water at least once a year for bacteria, nitrates, and any contaminants.
If you experience any of the following, you should immediately get your water tested.
- A change in the taste, odor, or appearance of the well water.
- If a problem occurs such as a broken well cap.
- Floodwaters around the well.
- A history of bacterial contamination in the well.
- Family members or house guests have a recurrent gastrointestinal illness.
- Newly installed water-system equipment. This will help ensure proper functioning and effectiveness of the new equipment.
Who should test your well?
Local health or environmental departments often test for nitrates, total coliforms, fecal coliform, volatile organic compounds, and pH. You can find a list of the licensed laboratories in your area with a quick web search. We use an independent lab to test our water. They offer a wide variety of testing packages and we feel more comfortable with them than with a government agency which may have a vested interest in the outcome of the results.
Stream or River
Another way to secure a good source of water is a clean stream or river. Having access to such a water source is a valuable tool on any homestead. It’s pretty easy and inexpensive to utilize this resource. You have to test the water, pump it to storage tanks and filtrate your water for use.
Rivers and streams can be easily infected. You will need to keep a close watch on the water filtration system. This will ensure it’s functioning properly and protecting you and those dependent on you.
Rain Water Systems
My grandparents had a water storage barrel in the corner of the porch where the roof lines met. We would dip water out of it for the dogs and chickens. We used it to wash our hair. My grandmother would heat it on her wood-burning cook stove and pour it over our heads. She also used this water for her flowers and occasionally the garden.
Rain collection systems come in many shapes and sizes. They can be cheaply and easily built. The types of collection systems are numerous and range from simple to complex. You can decide what you need and do it. This is a free resource which any of us can use. We certainly utilize it.
Oddly, some states, California for instance, have made it illegal in much of its territory to collect rain water. The state says the rain which falls belongs to them and would feed their water supply. The law says, in essence, if you catch the rain water or water runoff, you are stealing from them.
Unfortunately, as with all other water sources, our rain water is now filled with pollutants. This means limiting its use in our bodies, filtering or at the least boiling it for consumption. We don’t use rain water for human consumption. It’s just too risky in today’s world.
We know it’s best to filter stream or river water. Once you’ve tested your well water to see if filtering well water is necessary, the next step is to decide on how you’ll get it done.
Top Water Filtration Systems
The Watts 500313 filter is one of the top water filtration systems. Once installed, the only maintenance you have to worry about is changing the filter elements. These elements last around six months. Replacement filters cost around $30.00.
The Aquasana lasts about six months. Because it has three filters, replacing them costs more at around $65. The Aquasana has an audible performance indicator to let you know when it’s time to change filters. I am told it’s an easy job to change the Aquasana’s filters.
Installing a bigger unit like the iSpring is somewhat more complicated. You’ll also be installing a storage tank for pre-filtered water as well as the filter system. Filter replacement is a little complicated. There are three filters which need to be replaced every six months. There’s yet another filter which needs to be replaced once a year. The membrane needs to be replaced every three years. The cost of a three-year kit is around $115. This isn’t much when you consider the necessity for clean drinking water.
Of course, these systems need electricity to pump the water through the filtration. In the days of a failing power grid, it’s always good to be prepared for power outages. This year, many people in Texas and West Louisiana have been without power for extended periods of time because of flooding and storms.
A Few Good Choices for Powerless Water Filtration
We use a water pitcher called Invigorated Living. We purchased it online. We chose it because it alkalizes the water, removes chlorine, odors, heavy metals and filters out 90% of all lead, copper, zinc and other water pollutants. It’s important to us that it also filters out fluoride. Most wells won’t have these contaminants, but better safe than sorry.
What homestead doesn’t want to own a Berkey System? This system may seem expensive, but my friends say it works great and will last a lifetime with good upkeep. I’m impressed with the variety of systems they have from personal water bottles to family systems.
There is also the Lifestraw. This, along with the Berkey system, is on our need-to-purchase list. They are portable, practical and protective.
When you consider the importance of clean, healthy water to your body and to your livestock, a small investment pays immeasurable dividends.
What type of water supply do you have for your homestead? Is filtering well water a necessity for you? Share your water solutions with us.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack