As humans we have a few basic needs, including air, food, shelter, and water. No matter where you’re staying in the world, you’ll need access to drinking water – this isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential need. The average human can go up to three weeks without food, however only three to five days without water. This highlights the importance of the precious liquid.
Depending on the location of your cabin, the task of obtaining clean drinking water is either extremely easy or can be very difficult. For example, if your cabin is connected to the grid then you’ll be able to pump water straight into your cabin for a fee. Another alternative would be acquiring your water from a water source shared by other cabins.
However, many people will find that their cabin is off-grid and isolated from other cabins. This means that they’ll have to obtain their own water. If you’re unfortunate enough to be in such a situation, there’s still plenty of ways for you to supply your cabin with clean water. In this guide I’ll be explaining how you can get clean drinking water at your off-grid cabin.
Setup On-Site Water Storage
It’s vital to set-up an on-site water storage. Regardless of how you obtain clean drinking water, you’ll need to store it somewhere. There’s a variety of ways in which you can store water at your cabin. It really depends on how you obtain your water and the location of your cabin.
For example, it’s important to keep the weather and climate in mind when deciding how to store your water. You don’t want to leave your water storage outside if you’re in a cold climate which may result in your water storage freezing. Imagine if you had to go through the trouble of waiting for your water storage to defrost so that you can have a drink. If this is the case, then It’d be a good idea to store your water somewhere warmer or underground.
If you plan to store your water underground, you should remember to keep your storage below the frost depth. If you don’t do this, then you defeat the point of storing your water underground.
You want to have it below the frost depth so that it doesn’t freeze. The frost depth varies depending on where you are in the world, so you should find out what your local frost depth is. To find your frost depth, you can either contact the appropriate authority or search for it online (There are many frost line map available).
Another thing which you should keep in mind if you the climate your located in is extremely cold, is the insulation of your water pipes. If you’ve stored your water tank below the frost depth, then the water in your storage wont freeze. However, there’s still a risk of water freezing in the pipes if not insulated properly. This makes it important to use insulated pipes when storing water in a cold climate.
When storing water underground, it’s not a good idea to use a normal water tank, you’ll need to use an underground water tank. These underground tanks tend to cost a little bit more than normal tanks. This is because they’re manufacturer to withstand the harsh conditions of being buried into the ground.
If you’re lucky enough to not have to worry about freezing, then you can simply use a normal ground water tank. I’ve produced a guide in which I discuss how you can get 275-gallon water tanks for cheap. In the guide I also explain how to properly use and maintain your water tank. I’d highly recommend that you read it if you plan to store your water above ground.
Collect Water from a Stream or Spring on the Property
Storing your water isn’t too much of a problem, in many cases – collecting water can be the most difficult task. In this section, I’ll be explaining how you can collect water from a stream or spring on your property. Having a stream or spring on your property can be a blessing when staying in an off-grid cabin, this is an awesome source of water.
The most effective way in collecting water from a stream or spring is to use a pump.
This is a very simple process. Simply, dig out a small hole in the water and place your pump inside. I’d recommend that you purchase this submersible pump. I’ve always recommended this pump, it provides amazing value for money and won’t need to be replaced for years if used correctly. In my case, I pump the water from the source straight up to my water tank storage and into another tank further uphill using another pump. You don’t have to do this, but I use two tanks so that I can get a stronger water pressure. This also allows me to store more water, which comes in handy due to the seasonality of the stream I collect my water from.
You won’t necessarily have to use two water tanks or two pumps – but in my case I enjoy the extra storage and water pressure. The first submersible tank is used to pump water from the stream to the water tank and the second multipurpose pump is used to transfer water from one tank to another.
Though, not as easy as drinking directly from the stream. It’s not very clean and can be harmful to drink directly without filtering or purifying. I’ll be explaining this process later in the guide.
Despite this, if it’s moving then it’s likely to be clean enough to use for cleaning without having to purify/filter the water. I wouldn’t recommend you use it directly for cleaning dishes however it will work very well for cleaning clothing or bathing. Especially when used with cleaning products or soap.
Spring water is water which comes out from an underground source and is often the type of water used in bottled water. Because of this, it’s often a very good water source and can be better than water from a stream.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have a stream or a water spring, there’s alternative ways to acquire water at your cabin.
One alternative being rainwater. Depending on your location, this may be a viable method of collecting water. Obviously, if it barely or doesn’t rain in your location then you’re out of luck and will need a different method. Though if you get enough rain then this may be a great way to obtain water free-of-charge. In this section of the guide I’ll be explaining the process of capturing rain water.
When collecting rainwater, it’s important to use items with a large surface so that rain is more likely to fall onto it. The surface should then guide the water to your storage. Many people install gutters onto their roofs so that water fall into it. It’s important to install gutter guards to prevent debris from falling into your gutter. I’d recommend these gutter guards. They’re inexpensive and easy to install.
When water falls into the gutter, you should guide it through your filtration system and then into your water storage. It’s up to you how complexed you want your rainwater collection system to be.
There are rain water barrels designed for collect rainwater, the rainwater from your gutter is guided into it and the barrel will filter out any debris or bugs which had also been collected. I’d recommend this rain barrel. It’s designed to be very appealing yet effective. It features an Anti-Debris screen to keep garbage out. It has a 50-gallon capacity, so it should can hold anything that mother nature throws at you without any water wastage.
It’d personally recommend that you keep the barrel slightly elevated. Connect a hose to the brass hose bibb and pump the rainwater into a slightly larger water storage with the use of a transfer pump as I had recommended previously in the guide.
If you don’t want to purchase a filtration system or you want to have it filtered on the spot, then you can use a series of water barrels to filter your water. For example, you could have three barrels, one filled with gravel to filter out debris, another filled with sand to filter out smaller debris and a last barrel with an active carbon filter to make the water drinkable.
Purify Water for Consumption
Regardless of your water collection method, you’ll need to ensure that you purify your water so that it can be drank. Drinking unpurified water straight from your water source can cause you to consume bacteria carried in the water. Your stomach may not agree with the bacteria and you can become ill and sickly. Therefore it’s important that you filter/purify your water.
There are many ways to purify your water. As I had mentioned previously, you can purify your water by using a series of this water storages which screen out all the nasty stuff that you don’t want to drink. This method is often very bulky and requires a fair amount of work initially, as well as maintenance. I’d recommend this method for water intended for cleaning purposes. I would not recommend this method for drinking water.
Instead you could purchase a filtration system which will filter your water properly, allowing for consumption without harm. These water filter systems come in many different shapes and sizes. Depending on your needs and preferences, you could get a cheap basic filtration system or a more expensive, sophisticated system with more features.
Filtering Your Water
One thing you must remember when deciding on what water filter you’ll buy is that the water you’re collecting is likely to be very dirty. Many water filters which you’ll find at your local grocery store are manufactured to be used on water which is already clean. This means that they’re likely to not be powerful enough to filter your water to a drinkable standard. You’ll likely require a larger, more powerful filtration system.
I’d recommend that you use a Big Berkey Water Filer System. This is probably one of the best water filtration systems you could purchase for off-grid use without spending a fortune. Capable of filtering up to 15 gallons of water every day, it will get the job done. This is a very powerful water filter system which is capable of filtering both treated and untreated water. This does a great job in removing harmful bacteria and chemicals. It does this whilst keeping the integrity of beneficial minerals which are useful to our bodies. I can’t think of a product as solid as the Big Berkey Water Filter. It’s a great all-around filtration system. If you haven’t already got a water filtration system, I’d highly recommend that you investigate this one.
This is a very unpopular method of cleaning water as it will leave a distinct chlorine flavor which will remind you of a public swimming pool. Though, it is a very effective way in cleaning water for consumption. The use of chlorine for water intended for cleaning isn’t a bad idea, this way you won’t notice the nasty taste which it leaved behind.
Treating Water (Water Storage Maintenance)
If you notice a strange taste in your water, then it’s likely that bacteria have contaminated your water storage. This is a problem that many people run into when they don’t use a water filtration system. One way to treat your water and make it safe to drink again is to use bleach. Yes, bleach. It can be done in a safe manner as recommended by the University of Florida.
Simply add a teaspoon of bleach to your water for every gallon and mix it into your water storage. You should then let is sit for about 40 minutes before you drink from it. This should kill any bacteria in your water. You should also notice that the weird taste in the water has been eliminated. It’s important that your bleach is 5.25% – 8% sodium hypochlorite and unscented.
Boiling water is an effective way to make water safer to drink by killing viruses and bacteria. Though one thing you should keep in mind is that boiling water won’t eliminate any particles which are in the water. For example, if there is smalls particles of sand or gravel in the water- boiling the water won’t be enough. This makes it important that you filter all particles out of the water first.
You can heat your water by boiling it in a pot over a stove. I’d recommend using a propane stove to heat your pot of water. This is probably the easiest way to boil your water.
Another thing which you’ll need to keep in mind when boiling water is the fact that the water will be boiling hot. Though, this may sound stupid – it’s important that you take this into consideration. Before you’re able to store it into a water-tank, you’ll have to let it cool off. You will then have to let it cool off further so that you can drink it. None wants to drink warm water.
This is a very basic yet effective method that works very well. I like to use this method for cleaning water as I don’t have to wait too long for it to cool down.
Bring Water to Your Cabin
The easiest way to obtain clean drinking water at your cabin is to simply bring it with you. This solution is only viable if you don’t intend on staying at your cabin for a long time. You also need to be able to carry the water there.
The most effective way to transport water to your cabin is to use a pickup truck. This is because you’ll be able to bring a lot of water to your cabin. If you don’t have a large vehicle such as a pickup, then you’ll only be able to bring a few weeks’ worth of water. Once you’ve got the water at your cabin you’ll only have to treat your water storage every now and then.
Dig A Well
One of the most effective ways of obtaining clean drinking water at your off-grid cabin is to dig a well. This is perfect for the long-term, once it’s dug; it doesn’t take much maintenance. The main problem with digging a well is that is can be costly depending on your location. For example, if you live in the mountains then you’ll have to dig deeper which would be most expensive. The extra cost is worth it as you’ll be able to obtain water whenever you want. This will save you a lot of time in the long-term as you won’t have to be working with water tanks and buckets.
There are a wide variety of ways in which you can get clean drinking water at your off-grid cabin. Depending on your circumstances you’ll have to choose the most convenient method for you. If you have the money, then digging a well would be the most effective long-term method. If you have a stream or spring on your property, then you may want to utilize that to get clean water. For those who can transport a large amount of water then it may be best for you to bring water with you when you go up to your cabin.
If you have any concerns or questions which you’d like answered, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m also always open for constructive criticism which I could use to improve my guides.
My name is Eugene Thornhill. I'm an outdoor enthusiast who loves nothing more than being one with nature. I've lived in numerous outdoor homes and even constructed my own. Living off-grid is something I'm very familiar with, more so than living in the city. For many years I've dealt with the many problems of living off-grid. It's time to pass on my knowledge through Cabinguides.