Before we moved, I was adamant that we be completely off-grid with water. I believed what one of the Russians who lives in a small off-grid community about twenty miles away said, that when you do not depend on the grid, you have more freedom.
I mainly wanted to be free of all utility bills. And when it comes to water, I didn’t want to have to depend on a source that contained any chemicals.
As I recently wrote, this summer was a wake-up call when it comes to water usage and growing food. Besides steering me to find a way to garden that used less water than what I’m doing now, it propelled us into buying yet another water storage tank. We already have two 1550-gallon tanks, one of which is almost full and the other of which is completely full. We bought a 2500-gallon tank, located down the hill from the others so as to be able to feed it from them with a hose.
But would that really be enough for household use and watering a variety of garden and orchard plants during a drought? I finally did the research I should have done two years ago, and discovered that the answer might be no.
Might be. We won’t know for sure unless we go through a drought with forty-five fruit and nut trees (including grape and kiwi vines) – we have twenty-six of them right now. During the fruiting season, even berry bushes are thirsty, all the more so when temperatures soar into and above the mid-nineties and the soil dries up for four or more weeks.
We are on the water grid now – had to get on it to build our earth-sheltered house – and will stay on it at least through next summer to test the watering waters, so to speak. Of course, we plan to eventually have an extra several thousand gallons in the pond behind our house, so that may tip us over to the side of disconnecting from the water grid.
However, I have come to the point where being self-sufficient with food is more important than being completely off-grid. If we have more water, we can grow more food and sell the excess. We have a lot more flexibility in what we can do.
We have a lot more freedom.
GASP! Did I just say that being tied to the grid can actually be more freeing? Write it down in the history books!
Look, if you’re bound and determined to be completely off-grid with water, you can do it if you live in a rural area and:
- are content with buying most of your own food, or
- are content with eating mostly meat, because raising a few rabbits and chickens requires a lot less water than growing productive trees, or
- have easy access to a never-ending supply of water, such as a well, lake, river, or year-round stream. (We have access to a lake, but it’s not close enough to be easy. Having a well drilled is several times more expensive than buying water storage tanks.)
The first option is kind of silly when you consider it logically. The growers of the food you buy are more than likely hooked up to the water grid in order to provide you with your food. So in a sense, if you buy food you are still “on the grid” in an indirect sort of way.
Kids and summer
There is another kind of freedom that being hooked up to the water grid brings: freedom to let your kids play with the hose or have squirt gun fights in the middle of a blistery hot day. I am starting to feel guilty for having to scold Benjamin for dipping into the rain barrel to play with water.
I am all for the conservation of water, but come on. Kids and water go hand-in-hand in the summer. I don’t see an ethical problem with letting my son blow a few hundred gallons during a two-month period for the sake of having fun and being able to play outside in the heat.
Issues to consider
We’ve already paid $900 to hook up to the local municipal water system. It would be nice to get some return from that investment, don’t you think?
The monthly water bill, even during a drought, will always be much lower than we what currently pay every month for fruit. Therefore, staying hooked up to the grid makes economical sense. Rather than being a financial bondage, it actually can increase our financial freedom.
Should we stay hooked up to the grid, of course rain and pond water will always be our first usage choice. But if we ran low on our stored water, we wouldn’t have to go into panic mode. And sacrifice either the lives of any trees, or their potential harvest, by having to deprive them.
In a couple of years, we will probably have chickens. They need water, too. So it goes for any other livestock, large or small, we should decide to eventually acquire.
We will stay on the grid for at least another full year. We will monitor how much water the garden and orchard use during the summer. Based on that, we will estimate how much more water would be used should we add more trees into the mix.
And if we have to stay on the grid just in case, so be it. We will have a chemical-free source of water, and if we have to resort to grid water, buy a filter for the hose and go ahead and use it.
In any case, we will work it so that we have the freedom to grow as much food as we want. No more agonizing over having to limit the number of strawberry or raspberry plants we have, or eliminating the possibility of a potted lime tree.