Endless Water Supply For Self-Sufficiency

The ultimate preparedness is being self-sufficient to the extent possible. Although the self-sufficient lifestyle will still rely on the production and services of others, striving towards self-sufficiency can be personally rewarding.

I call it Preparedness Level 4, which began with a safe place to live…
[ Read: Safest Places To Live When SHTF ]

Okay, so one of the most important things maintaining a lifestyle of self-sufficiency… WATER. An endless supply of water. Is that possible?

Well, that depends on your source.

I am lucky enough to have a seemingly endless supply of water on my property. It comes from a natural spring which produces about 5 to 10 gallons of water per minute. It forms a small stream/creek which feeds down into a river just beyond my property line.

The previous owner who developed/logged the property 20 years ago, decided to source his water supply from this spring. So he built a “dug well”, encased in a cylindrical concrete liner right on the spring. It feeds up to the house, underground below the frost line, about 600 feet distance but only about 50 feet vertical.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, just to get you thinking about water sources. My story doesn’t end here. I still need an operational well pump (located at the bottom of the dug well) which pumps water up to the house.

Additionally, I need electricity to power that pump. 240 volts AC.

Given these requirements, can I say I’m self-sufficient in the water department? Not yet… What if the grid goes down?

So, when I moved here I built an Off-Grid solar system with battery bank which is side-by-side with the utility grid system. I can now power that pump (and other essentials) if the utility goes down.

Am I now self-sufficient in the water department? Better, but maybe not completely. What if there’s a span of cloudy weather, especially during the winter with its short days? My battery bank will only last “so long” until requiring enough solar recharge to keep it going…

During the summer months I could haul water from the spring’s runoff and bring it back to the house. Wouldn’t be fun, but I could do it. During the winter? It’s all snow. The only way would be to use my snowmobile somehow. It’s not very maneuverable down there and would be difficult at best.

So, I do keep some emergency water storage at the house. 55 gallon drums. I could get by for awhile. Hopefully the sun comes out by then and recharges my batteries.

What if the well pump craps out? Got a spare? The ability to change it? (not fun!) Or know somebody who could do that?

Again, why am I saying this? To get you thinking about WATER. Do you have an endless water supply? I suppose the ultimate Preparedness Level 4 (in the water department) would be living along the edge of a decent LAKE.

A river? Well, you’ve got to be concerned about flooding I suppose. House far enough back from a worst-case flood line.

Living in a dry desert region? How’s that going to work out? It’s all about the well and the water table…

Anyway, WATER is so very important when considering Preparedness Level 4.

[ Read: Preparedness Level 1 – 4 Series Overview ]


  1. Also Ken given the water needs of the critters, gardens and fruit trees. I found your rainwater collection articles useful to retrofit my roofs into collection areas. Storing that water in painted IBC totes to protect the plastic from UV and reduce algae growth. Here in my area I get ample rainfall April-May-start of June (sometimes) but need irrigation June-July and August if I want a successful garden. So IBC tote storage with hose bibs set UP-hill from my Gardens-critters and fruit trees helps.

    Targeted watering instead of watering the whole garden area saves a lot of water and reduces the weeds issues. Slow watering to avoid run off also helps. My Fruit trees and grapes did much better this last few years because I used a 2/8 inch hole drilled into a 5 gallon pail to trickle water them.

    Winter is the hardest season given snow -ice as the precipitation and yet the critters still need water. When things get Sidewise I can see those currently empty IBC totes being moved into the Basement Apartment to be used as winter cisterns also.

    Knowing how to reduce water usage before critical shortages occurs helps. A GI Helmet batch can substitute for daily showers as to replace all but one or two weekly for example. Not as enjoyable but beats hauling water via snowmobile :-) while awaiting sunny days.

    1. NHM
      I don’t understand, why the heartburn about hauling water with a snowmachine? I used to haul water with a team of sled dogs, no problem…
      Around here most folks are either on city water, or they have water delivered (in bulk by tank truck) or haul it themselves.
      Out at the cabin we have a well point & 12v pump along with rain water. In town we haul water by 6 gallon buckets to our dry cabin. Wife and I are still young yet. Only in our 70’s. When we get old might replace the 6 gallon buckets with 3 gallon ones…
      Then, what’s wrong with melting snow?

      1. Far North a few reasons. First given we are discussing grid down situations fuel for that snow mobile might be limited. Second as I know a bit about Ken’s area, snowmobiles can be dangerously *exciting* given the ungroomed area his spring is. A Preventable Injury when 911 is no longer an option is not good. Third I can Hear Snowmobiles for MILES. I might not want to advertise I have working snowmobiles (Thus maybe more interesting stuff) if things are *ah* Crazy?

        If the grid is up Ken has no issues with his water system doesn’t he?

        I am impressed by your hearty nature at 70+ years old Sir. A pair of 6 gallon pails is 12 X 8 pounds = a solid 96 pound Farmers carry. Half that would be quite a *interesting* walk on icy hillside that us in NH tend to find in Winter. I’m rubbing the wrist scar right now from an icy fall a few winters ago, it reminds me of weather changes.

        I’ve melted snow, much effort and heating fuel (wood or otherwise as snow is an excellent insulator) for very little water. As a rule of thumb 12 inches of snow = an inch of water assuming no loss from the heating process. AND you still have to filter it at least in NH as the resulting water is murky. Personally for bare minimum emergency needs I find 5 gallons of water per person is needed. Allows cooking, drinking, limited washing up, and used water for the toilet (barely).

        1. NHM
          You bring up good points about sno-go noise. Although that would apply to chainsaws and shooting a firearm too, etc..
          Different areas, different snow I guess. Our snow makes fine water… Filter out the birch seeds and good to go. Melting snow on the woodstove doesn’t cost any extra wood. Adds a little humidity to an otherwise dry climate, for us. Pack a canning pot tightly with snow, and we have enough water for some time.
          I’ve only spent a little time in N.H. but have been there for all four seasons and from the coast to Pittsburg. The Sliver Bunnel Memorial sled dog race in Pittsburg. Beagle field trials in Spacetown. And on occasion spent time at Fort at Number Four.
          Here 911, even now, isn’t a given — considering time, distance, transportation & lack of communications. So…

  2. Uncanny timing… I just set up my first rain barrel earlier this morning to catch rain off my metal roof. It still needs some tweaks though, but better to find out now rather than later. I plan to set up more as money allows. The pre-made ones are getting harder to find. I also put water troughs and buckets under the rooflines of the barn and animal shelters to catch run off for livestock needs.

  3. – We have a community group in our little town that is setting up and offering classes on an assortment of things (just finished one on canning and another on LTC for handguns); campfire cooking, soap making first aid for major trauma, and a neighbor who is our well guy will be offering a water acquisition/purification class.

    My PVC hand pump will be one of the attractions of the class, and will be set up and demonstrated as a less than $100 backup means of assuring water availability in a long-term grid-down event as well as a short-term emergency (if you are curious, look up EMAS hand pump on VIMEO).

    We have discussed setting up and demonstrating my homebuilt well bucket as well as my pop-bottle well bucket BOB stand-in.

    Water being an issue in our dry west Texas area, there will be several hand pumps set up and displayed for the interested. Also, we will be discussing sheltering them from flooding and the like.

    – Papa S.

  4. Reducing water usage helps, but if the municipal water supplies dried up I’d still be sunk.

    I can grow all summer under deep mulch if I pick the proper plants–no additional water required. Sorghum, garlic, tomatoes and watermelons appear to be the best so far. Squashes need additional water once they start fruiting, so those go in the catchment areas that get more water when it does rain. But I can’t create drinking water.

    I have a couple of IBC totes, but even if they were just for drinking they’d last what, a couple months? And they can’t be used during the winter.

  5. Ken I know you are smart and probably already thought of this, but am curious, could you dig in higher above the spring? And if the water is coming in higher would you be able to use a ram to get water to the house?

    1. Mrs. U,
      I have considered a ram, given the stream that is created from the runoff from my spring. There is a formula for minimum vertical drop versus distance for a ram pump to work. Not sure if it’s quite feasible in my case. But yes, a ram is an interesting thing. A neighbor down the road utilizes a ram pump to get water to his house into a cistern (an old farmhouse). Slow flow, but, it works! Interesting technology.

      1. Here’s a calculator to let you estimate how your physical situation relates to how well a ram pump might work. Guidance on what each term means is on the website.

        I am not connected to these people in any way. Remove the underbar to use the link.



  6. Mrs U,
    I know your question was to Ken, but I can’t help answering myself, as water is my forte. Yes, you could possibly dig in higher, and use a ram pump. But IMPO, digging in higher would chance you screw up a good flowing spring. “Developing” a spring requires careful consideration and observation. Many a water course has been destroyed by well meaning people trying to make things better without understanding how the groundwater really flows through the earth. Sorry to jump in here. Recently had a client do exactly this, and ruined a nice flowing spring in arid country. Whoops!

    1. Minerjim,
      i have seen that happen in areas of Nevada. it doesn’t take much to upset things. it’s one thing to clean out a spring and line it with rocks, but its another to change the direction of flow.
      i know of many springs in the mountains there that will flow several hundred gallons a min. year round, and go about a quarter mile and just go right back in the ground. just dust behind it. calf canyon on the McDermit ranch outside of Currie NV. is one. i hunted there about 3 lifetimes ago it seems.

  7. Ken, you have a backup generator, right?
    (Charge batteries in cloudy weather plus run the pump if inverter craps out…)

  8. I’ve mentioned this before, but check out 12 vdc submersible pumps. They will work with even DEEP wells. There are various iterations of these pumps; 12 or 24 vdc, float switches, piping, booster pump 12 vdc. Whatever your requirements are, there is a solution. These pumps will function with wind/solar or a combination. They will function without a battery bank. When the sun/wind is available it pumps. No light or wind, it stops pumping.

    It will require some thought and logistics. There are some specific piping requirements; check valve, etc. I encourage folks to figure it out NOW. It’s not rocket science. Yes, it will require some effort and some $$. Many of these pumps are low volume and low pressure, think 1 gpm. We cannot survive without water. This is a reasonable solution for providing potable water without the grid. Having said that, collection of rain water and usage of other surface water for gardens, toilets etc. will be important as well.

    It wouldn’t be as good as we’ve all got now, but it will work. Well buckets will work too, but the time and energy involved is daunting. How many well buckets for each day? How many for a shower? on and on. I ended up purchasing an Aquatech, but there are several brands. You’ll need to determine what ya need, depth of well and so on. I would encourage everyone to at least buy a 12 vdc utility pump. You can hook it to a battery and easily move a lot of water. Even several garden hoses screwed together could save a lot of effort. For example, pumping from a pond into a barrel for transport. Just a few thoughts from a dumb ole country boy.

    1. I buy the chinese stainless steel submersible 24vdc pumps from ebay for about $100, I put them in the river, and I put a 180 watt solar panel on them, sure I blow up one every 2 years or so, and I’ve lost a couple when it floods, but I keep about 3 new ones, and have 3 broken ones for spares. It’s kept my farm in water for years now.

      Before that I lost a $1000 pump when it sucked rocks into the impeller, and the pump manufacturer wanted $1000 for spare parts alone to fix it, and I lost another $1000 pump to a flood (I wasn’t home).

      Those cheap 24vdc pumps have worked out cheaper than any other solution. I could try a ram pump, that might work.

  9. Something of interest on
    Designed after the Aermotor windmill of yesteryear.
    Rugged, durable, and long lasting.

  10. Plenty of Swampwater here, for collecting, screening, and purifying.
    Just have to be watchful for the Gators.
    They tend to be territorial.

      1. Yes. Bait the Gators from around your chosen drinking supply…and put them in your food supply.

        Canned Gator, anyone?

        As Gators walk from place to place, when the pond they are in runs out of food for them…always assume there is a Gator in all bodies of water, as well as assorted snakes, such as Water Moccasins, Cotton-Mouths, & Coral.

        What did not have a gator in it, yesterday…could have one in it…now.

        If you are squatting down by the water…cleaning your fish…do not expect to be able to be quicker than the gator is…because you will not be. Even a six-footer…will drag you a person down.

        1. Croc kebabs in Singapore a while back. Tasted just like chicken (dark meat).

      2. Mmmm, Last had Gator tail in a Creole sauce over at the Montgomery Brew House, years back…..

  11. Dave, 240 volt sine wave inverters. Modern Survival Blog has a search bar on the top of the page for good information about that.

  12. We have a artisan well that’s about 240 feet deep. Of coarse we also live in rural interior Florida. Yes many have problems living in Florida, heat, bugs, ect. But not having water, not a problem.

    1. Otarn
      An artisan water source bubbles up to the surface and runs all year long, it never goes dry.
      Trying to understand why you have a well that is 240 feet deep, when the water should be at the surface. Is this something the well driller told you?

      1. AC,
        Could be that the well was needed to intercept a zone of water under pressure. “Artsian” refers to its ability to be free flowing above the ground surface. Can be a natural spring or a man-made well as long as it is free-flowing, at least that is the classical definition used in the industry now. Confusing at times, I know, not what I was brought up to believe either.

        1. AC,
          Hard to keep up these days with all the terminology. Artesian wells/springs are good to have marked on a local map, for dire times. I can see them in my mind’s eye, in-situ, they actually look different than regular groundwater appears. Do you “see” it different too?

        2. Minerjim
          I do not see it the way you do, but I feel it when I am searching for the water source. Best way to describe it, as if two magnets are being attracted to one another.
          I believe your ability to see it, comes from your profession of being in the mines. It gives you a prospective that us top siders do not see or recognize.

      2. AC, When I was little my grandfather drilled another well closer to the barn for cattle. Hit an artesian layer where water was under pressure. Once the pipes were in all we had to do was turn it on to have a gusher. Made filling up the stock tank so much easier than hand pumping and carrying buckets on days when there was no wind to drive the windmill by the house.

  13. This is my back up solar well pump after researching price vs. durability vs. lift height.
    Made in the US They make them for African villages


    They make 12 or 24v at a good price around $220 for a simple setup.
    MOTOR: Low current draw permanent magnet, ball bearing drive, 2,000 hour brush life.
    PERFORMANCE: Typically 1 to 2 GPM depending on lift height (head) and operating voltage. Maximum head is rated at 230 feet.

    1. WC,

      The NEMO pumps look very interesting, and certainly a better price point than than a Grundfos!
      How do you have yours configured? Is it in place in it’s own well, or co-habitating with your existing pump, or sitting in the box waiting to swap out if the need arises?
      I’ve been looking for something to have on hand JIC, and this might fit the bill….

    2. White Cracker,
      Good find. If the grid goes down, you’ll have water. To me, the price is reasonable. Water=life. I think my Aquatech is similarly priced. Make sure your have the REQUIRED pipe size, check valve, fittings, etc. Obviously, ya need a power source, solar panel(s) or wind turbine. Potable water is a barterable resource.

      A small 12 vdc utility pump would be very useful as well. ($35-40) Garden hoses could be used to move the water, once it was at the surface. Some type of water storage container, cistern, etc. I have a plan to utilize the house plumbing if necessary. I truly hope this pump and supplies were a waste of $. For those who may not know, you can back feed your house plumbing from an exterior hose connection. A handy hook-up for above freezing temps. Ya may have to close a valve, depending on your set-up.

      1. Plainsmedic,
        Good points. Back feeding your house from a hose bibb, good idea, just remember to close off the supply valve from the municipal system or you will be supplying all your neighbors too. Interesting point on water being a “barterable resource”. In this country of plenty we have come to believe that water is “free “. (What person would deny water to a thirsty person who asked for a drink?). But in years past, and even in some rural areas, people still buy water from others.perhaps worth a thought of having two sources of water, one secure and hidden for your own use, and the other out in the open for barter?

        1. Some of my idiot neighbors would be crawling over the gate with their 5 gallon buckets insisting i share my water from my pond with them

        2. Minerjim
          I am ‘not an attorney’, but something that was brought to my attention a few years back. Everyone please do your own research on this matter to make sure this does not effect you.

          I would like to relay a piece of information on water sharing which I had heard. In ‘some states’ if you give water to a party one time it sets a precedence where they are then ‘entitled to any future water from your source.
          Would suggest you look into this subject. I know we all are giving people, so make sure, before you donate your water. You may have to note it as a one time donation when you are giving it to them. Here in this area we do it, but only with those whom we have known for a LONG time.
          Again I am not an attorney, but we all need to do our do diligence on such matters.

        3. AC,
          Very good point! In Kommie-fornia they have 3 types of water rights, Riparian, Appropriated, and Conscripted. I believe what you mentioned might be an extension of Conscripted Rights. (basically set forth with the thought that “if you use water right that is not yours long enough, it becomes yours”, type of thing). One way around this is to charge a nominal price for water, say 5 cents, and document it as a “one time only purchase with no further guarantee of future sales”. So write that all down on a slip of paper and make the buyer sign it before you “sell” them water. Water rights are a very sticky subject in the West.(1/2 the water rights attorneys live in Colorado). Don’t want to give up your rights by an act of kindness to others on your part.(sigh. what a world)

        4. AC

          You are absolutely right. It may not be like that everywhere but it is the case in enough cities/ counties to give me pause.

          We have to be very careful that we’re not setting up a situation we’re unable to legally get out of.

          And you can bet that the ‘victims’ know their rights !

      2. Plainsmedic,
        i have a 100ft well with PVC well buckets, no electricity required. i can pull 3 gallons of water at one time and don’t have to rely on electricity to do it. in 15 minuets i can pull enough water for myself and the DW for a day or more. people did this for a hundred years, all it takes is a little effort, not something that most people will contemplate. people wan’t their conveniences, anything mechanical will eventually break. its the KISS theory.
        ya’ll take care

        1. Nyscout,
          I agree with having well buckets. They’re not difficult to make. “in 15 minutes……” Those well buckets won’t be too handy in the long run. Great for emergency needs. Winter time??? I think we’ll have plenty to do. If I can lighten the known load (water) why wouldn’t I do it? Kinda like, I don’t need a chainsaw because I have an axe.

          Hmmm, 3 gallons = 25 pounds. Lift 25 pounds for what…..65′. Hope to not spill too much. Hope the weather is nice. Hope I don’t have other work to do. Do this several times a day, every day. Just so ya know, I did contemplate. I decided a solar/wind powered pump could be a great thing. I genuinely hope I never need to use it. BTW I do have a homemade well bucket and an axe.

  14. Plainsmedic,
    again , there is effort involved in being off grid. it’s not for sissy’s or the weak in a grid down situation. well pump broken, chainsaw broken,tractor out of fuel or broken, no repair parts or fuel? whatcha gonna do now. think about it, i do everyday.
    good luck with everything 73’s

    1. Nyscout,
      well pump broken: Install the spare
      chainsaw broken: Use the other one or fix it.
      tractor out of fuel: Check out woodgas. It’s a dirty fuel, but it works.

      I know it’s not for sissy folks. I’m just trying to use brain instead of brawn, where I can. I have run engines on woodgas. If there is no more diesel or gasoline, engines will be a dime a dozen. Generators will be almost free because fuel is unavailable. I have a way to generate electricity solar/wind so electric chainsaws are an option. Wouldn’t be my first option, but an option. I too, have thought about ALL the issues. It won’t be easy. I don’t want it to happen, but I try to have alternative solutions for if/when it does.

      I think it’s coming soon. The time for learning ham radio is closing. 73 back at ya.

    1. Juliet Sierra,
      73, Is it a cased well? How large is the casing, 6″, 8″, larger? How deep is the well? How far to water? There are many options. If it’s a sandpoint, buy an extra pump and a way to power it, hand pump? solar/wind/generator? Many kinds of pumps and variety of ways to get the water.

      Around here, we have well houses. Tiny buildings for housing the tank, switch, connections, etc. That creates another issue; keep the well house from freezing. Typically, we use the smallest electric heater you can find. In grid down, we use a tera-cotta heater with a candle. We’re talking 25 square feet of floor space. The well house is FULLY insulated. Most wells are around 250′ so they’re cased wells.

      In a well pit, you don’t have as much concern with freezing, though it can be an issue. Give me some info and I’ll try to help.

    1. Cat6,
      Try RPS solar pumps online, they have a sizing service. They may have a pump to go that deep.

  15. Cat6, you need to know the static water depth and plan for several feet below that.Not my area of expertice.. have one 465 ft in depth w/static water line 175-180.. cheap nada..

  16. You cannot live past three days without water.
    I bought a navigation chart of the water ways in my area. In doing so I found three freshwater springs. I still treat the water before I use it. I have a source that sells 40 and 30 gallon plastic drums with the lock band. Do NOT buy any kind of food storage container that is not intended for food. All food grade only!

    1. WildBill 1889,
      good for you!
      me, i put water on top of the chart before shelter or fire. water first. just me.
      what kind of navigation chart did you use to find these?

  17. Folks might consider dropping their conversation about well hand pumps into this article. That way all the good info and advice will be archived beyond the coming weekend.

  18. Water: #2 on the list of something you can NOT live without.! Precious water, so many take for granted it will come out of the faucet.

    Water, a secure supply. That’s how I broke my hand, working on my 118 yr old well that the casing had rusted out about 2ft down. It was well “pipe” not well “casing”, different outside and inside dimensions, so modern stuff won’t fit. Long story made short, we “Goter done.”

    My well is an artesian well that flows over 50 gal per minute, over 500 ft deep. I had the water tested by a reputable lab, and the owner called me and said he have NEVER seen water like this. So, he brought his lab to the well and it tested even better. It is the BEST water this lab has EVER tested. Absolutely pure.! I had the water DNA tested, so I know where it’s coming from, a mile deep lake about 150 mils north of me.

    Now, with all new plumbing and well pipe fixed and well capped, there is 8psi at the head. I plumbed it so I could attach a hose to the cap. I can hold the hose 8ft in the air and it will fill a 5gal bucket in about 3 mins. Turn off the pressure tank and I have a weak flow in my kitchen and will fill the toilet bowl in about 3 mins.

    I think I’ve got my secure supply of clean/fresh water.

    1. Stand my Ground,
      i’m jealous. we have many good springs and branch creeks in our area but no artesian that i know of. Has that been there for a while or is it new? i have a curb well but it’s a hundred ft deep. great water but deep.
      funny, a neighbor was having a well dug and thought he hit artesian, but it was his waterline going to the house : )

      1. scout

        The well was drilled in 1903. I’ve measured it down to 500ft. how much deeper, I don’t know.

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