How does one live without running water? And why would anybody want to do that? Well, since we’ve been living without a shower, flush toilet, or faucets for more than three years now (including in our earth-sheltered house), I think I’m qualified to tell you, don’t you?
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When we first started developing serious plans about moving, my plan was to be completely off grid. But not to be without an unplumbed house. We did plan not to have a plumbed kitchen, and to use a composting toilet (neither of us could stand the thought of spending thousands of dollars on a septic system, and then having to deal with future problems with it). However, our original plan did include a shower in the bathroom that would use water from the rain tanks. It would be a simple setup (at least, as simple as plumbing can get): a pipe running from one of the rain tanks, into a tankless water heater next to the shower, then into the shower. Ideally this would be run by a solar-powered pump. The drain at the bottom of the shower would empty into a pipe that would flow outside and water whatever was growing in that area.
To fill up the spigoted container in the kitchen that we would use for washing hands and dishes, and brushing teeth, we would use shower water.
But the more Jerry thought about it, the less he wanted to A, plumb the house himself, and B, deal with any leaks that happened in the future. When he finally told me that he’d just as soon not have any plumbing in the house, I was already fine with that. I had not wanted the house to be plumbed, but it wasn’t a big issue for me so I was perfectly willing to let him have his hot shower.
But we don’t have a shower. Or a regular faucet that pumps out water. Or a flush toilet or septic system.
Are we crazy??
It’s funny that Westerners today can’t conceive of living like that. Sure, millions of people live without running water every day because they don’t have any other choice, but why would you choose to live that way when you could have running water?
Simplicity. Save money. Reduce stress.
See, while we were living in our big house in Plano, we only ever had one electrical problem, and that was because the circuit breaker box was getting old. That fix was only a couple of hundred dollars. However, we spent thousands of dollars in repair on plumbing during our eight years in that house, rivaling the cost of all the A/C repairs we had to have done! Since we were moving to an area where we would not be forced into following arbitrary plumbing (or any other) codes, we decided we would not add any more stress or cost to our lives than necessary.
So we decided to live without running water. Here’s how that looks.
Kitchen water, drinking water
In the kitchen, we use the bottom of a Berkey filtration system (the water-containing part) as the faucet (the only faucet in the house). It empties through a bonafide kitchen sink into a five-gallon bucket waiting below. We have two five-gallon water jugs that we keep filled up with water from the rain tanks, and pour the water from those jugs into the sink Berkey.
The actual Berkey top, which contains the black filtering elements for purifying the water, is against the south interior wall in the bathroom. Instead of using the “official” Berkey bottom to capture the water, we use five-gallon Home Depot buckets (they are food-grade). J keeps this system humming by refilling the Berkey top several times a day with rainwater from one of the five-gallon jugs.
Using rainwater from a jug, we put a couple of gallons in a tub and take sponge baths. I wash my hair by dipping my head into the water and getting it thoroughly wet, scrubbing it, then rinsing it. No, we don’t take sponge baths every day, nor wash our hair every day. Neither is a necessary or even healthy habit.
Without running water, you can’t use a washing machine. I will admit, it took me some time – months – before I stopped dreading the morning chore of doing laundry by hand. I do a small load every day to make life easier on myself. Now, it’s just a thing I do. I don’t enjoy it, but neither do I loathe it like I used to in the beginning.
So, there you go. How to live without running water. It’s not as inconvenient as you probably think, and it helps us (especially Jerry, who is in charge of burying the humanure from the composting toilet) get some extra exercise.
Of course, you can simplify your life to a great measure without going to such great extremes. How would you like to know about 307 ways – many of them well within your reach – to make your life simpler? And save money and get healthier in the process?
If you would, check out my book, Crazy Simple: 307 Ways To Save Money, Your Health, And The Planet. Click here for more information.