Going off grid is the desire of many Preppers, and some have successfully done just that. It requires planning and hard work however, and furthermore, it requires you keep an eye on the future.
Some Internet bloggers and self-proclaimed survival experts predict a so-called golden hoard. Some believe, and possibly there is some credence to the theory, that a mass exodus of people from urban areas will flow across the land once the SHTF. People, according to the theory, will migrate mainly into rural areas seeking solace and a safe haven from the apocalypse.
The untrained and unprepared will swarm like locust trampling wheat fields, fouling fishing spots and shooting Bambi. The woods will ring with pleas for help, for food, and medicine and did we mention pleas for water. Yes your water will be at risk. Will it be safe?
Whether you believe in the golden hoard or not, is not really the point. The point is that water is a precious commodity even during times of peace and prosperity, and it needs to be protected at all times.
The early settlers in this country banded together behind the walls of forts for protection, and in the middle of the enclosed settlement there was usually a public well protected by the fort walls.
The well was cased with stone, and generally had a small well house built over it to keep animals out, to prevent contamination from ground runoff, and to keep humans from falling in as they stumbled about in the dark after too many pints of ale at the tavern. The well house was usually set up so a bucket could be raised and lowered.
Today, however, your well needs to be properly cased to prevent contamination, and to prevent tampering. If your cabin comes under siege, do you have access to water from inside the structure? Can your well be purposely or accidentally contaminated, can the flow be disrupted by anyone trying to force you out.
Typically, the deeper the well the cleaner the water, and the less chance of the well going dry, but this requires drilling. Drilling is expensive, but once the expense of it is out of the way, you would have a sustainable and renewable source of water likely for the rest of your life.
Of course you would need a pump and the means to supply that pump with power, by either solar, wind or hydro energy. A well 20 or 30 feet deep in the front yard is simply not secure. It can run dry in a minor drought, and essentially can be commandeered by anyone if you come under siege.
Along with the well, you can collect rainwater and the most efficient way is by utilizing a cistern, so water runoff from your roof can be collected in sufficient amounts. A cistern is nothing more than a water container.
Native Americans and others took advantage of natural formations that could easily be converted into a cistern. It is much easier to collect water from a natural spring, for example, if the water is allowed to collect in a cistern. Once collected it can be dipped out or pumped to another location.
Cisterns today are typically manmade and they can be under ground or above ground. Typically runoff is collected off a roof. If you plan on this method consider clay tiles or a metal roof, because there would be less contaminates than if you used typical architectural shingles.
For security the cistern should be buried well under ground. It can be concrete or fiberglass or even other materials, and it has to be buried below the freeze/frost line for your area. The piping to the home would have to be buried to the proper depths as well, to prevent freezing, and to prevent tampering that would disrupt your water flow. A filtering system would have to be put in place and you may even need a system for water purification.
A cistern underground will require a pumping system, and this means a power source. A cistern aboveground would have to be higher than your faucets so gravity could feed water to the user points in the house, so a pumping system in most cases would not be needed.
For a cistern to make sense you need to be in an area that gets enough rain and the cistern would have to be big enough to supply your needs. Smaller cisterns could be used in conjunction with other water sources, and if for nothing else the water collected could be used for irrigation of crops, toilet flushing and for livestock, saving the well for drinking water, bathing, laundry and for cooking.
An Eye on the Future
That bubbling brook that flows close by the house is ideal right now as a backup source, but what happen if others move into the area. Do you own the water up stream? What if some other homesteader buys or occupies land 10 miles upstream and decides to dam the stream for his or her livestock or diverts the stream, or otherwise disrupts the flow.
Surface water will become a public source, a public commodity, in which everyone believes he or she is entitled to in a crisis. People will pollute, disrupt, try to take over, and may even purposely contaminate the water during a calamity. It will not take a mass exodus of people from the cities, all it will take is a family living upstream that has goats, sheep or a herd cattle or other livestock to pollute, disrupt, or even stop the water flow.
Backup, backup, and another backup system, you always have to be thinking about what ifs. Solar powered pumps are wonderful inventions, but what happens if it malfunctions. What happens if someone tampers with your solar panels, what happens when the creek runs dry, and your hydro power stops? Stockpiles of water are always recommended regardless of the situation, and the stockpiles must be secure.
A thousand gallons of water in the basement is a backup plan that would get you through an extended crisis. You cannot move it but you can draw water from it if you feel you had to abandon your homestead. Large water tanks outside the home, not buried can be damaged by nature and by humans. Backup water sources and backup power sources are critical and they must be protected.