Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:00

The Cost Of Water

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainable, water pump, As most of you know I’ve been defining living off grid as someone who provides their own sewer, water and power. It all costs money whether you live in the city and use government provided (public) water, private water association, or your own water.

We provide our own water from deep water well. It was here on the property when we bought it. The well is 300’ deep and has a 6” diameter casing most of that depth. The thing I like most about this water is that it is everything you would imagine fresh mountain water to be. Clear of anything harmful, full of minerals, and very good tasting. We don’t need a filter for our water so we are very fortunate.

If you have access to either public or private association water you either pay a monthly fee or have a water meter which keeps track of the actual quantity of water used and you are charged accordingly.

Having your own private source of water from a spring, creek, or well doesn’t let you off the hook for having to pay for it. In my case you would have to drill the well, put a pump in the well, provide an energy source for the pump, and a system for pressurizing the water you pump.

Here, we have a 300’ deep well. You are charged by the foot for drilling. Just a few years back it was about $35.00 per foot to drill (high) and for casing to line the hole. In my case that would be a total bill of $10,500. A pump would run about $1200 installed and I still have to power the pump and pressurize my water.

My solar power system runs my pump. It provides me with 220V required for the pump I wanted. The whole cost of the solar system was $22,000 but that is for a complete electrical system that runs everything I need to live including my water pump. I’ve calculated about $2,000 of that money would go towards the pumping of water based on average wattage used.

I installed a 1900 gallon holding tank 700’ away from the well up the hill. The pump pushes water out of the well and up the hill into that tank. From there it gravity flows down to the house and ends up being about 63 psi for pressure. My other choice would have been to install a pressure pump and tank which would have required another pump, tank and more electricity. It was a tossup for price. I decided to keep the mechanics and electrical simple so I chose the gravity system

The gravity system complete was almost $8,000 for hundreds of feet of pipe, wire, a holding tank, and excavation and backfill.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableIn summary the cost for my water system would have been almost $22,000new. Fortunately I didn’t pay near that because the well was already in when I bought the property and I got a really good deal on all of it.

Some will pay more and many will pay less with different circumstances like depth of well, choice of pumps, choice of pressurization, distance from well and so on. There are many factors. I’m just sharing this information with you to give you something to consider if you are thinking about how great it would be to go off grid. It can be very expensive. It just depends on your individual circumstances.

Once all of this is done it is permanent. My wire, pipe, and holding tank should last as long as I do. A pump should last around 10 years plus. I just had mine replaced. It was the original pump that came from the property. It cost $1200 to replace.

If I live here 20 years it is going to cost me about $90 per month for water (if I paid full price for everything new). Your situation could vary greatly either way. More or less money. If I last 30 years it will go down to $60 per month. I have a friend who spent less than $1000 total taking water from a spring on his property. I also know of wells that go as deep as 1500’ located 100 miles from here.

It can be very expensive to provide your own water  -  or not -  but there is a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing once it is done, it’s done and I can drink all of the water I want.  If I want to grow a lawn and water it I can do that too.

It’s kind of ironic that now that I have the freedom to use water any way I want, I choose to conserve it. It seems to be a natural byproduct of living off grid.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website goodideasforlife.com  and Off Grid Works.

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  • Home Made Deep Well Pump

    In the course of blogging for MEN we have met many people from all over the world. Recently that included Darren and Linda Holliday from Missouri. Darren contacted me to ask my opinion on a water pumping invention he had created. He wanted to know if it might be useful for off grid use.

    Not only would it be useful but it is something I could personally use in keeping with my philosophy of having a backup for everything here. We can pump water three different ways but all of them require electricity. There are hand pumps available but to really get the volume we would like from a 300’ deep well without electricity is something I have never seen before short of a windmill.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableIt seems Darren is an inventor by necessity. He first ran into a problem with his own deep well. When he moved into his new place he discovered that the previous Owner had used the wrong rock down inside the well to help keep the sand out of the water. Instead of pea gravel they had used larger rock which not only didn’t keep the sand out but created other problems as well.

    The only way to fix that was to drill a new hole or re-drill his existing one – both options were going to cost thousands of dollars.

    Darren took matters into his own hands and created a rock extractor of sorts that he used to clean out his existing well. His story in detail can be seen on his website wellwaterboy.com. It is one of incredible ingenuity and well worth reading. There are several homemade inventions in that story besides the rock extractor.

    Now that Darren had cleared his well with his own invention saving tons of money he decided to put his ideas and efforts into a better human powered hand pump. Something that would produce more water volume than anything out there to date.

    The following is their story in their own words:

    During the 2012 summer drought, Darren and I wore ourselves out pumping with a hand pump from a cattle pond (a depth of about 7 feet) for our small trees and plants. At less than a pint per stroke, I had to pump 10 minutes to fill a 2-gallon watering can four times. I spent two hours pumping early every morning so I could be done before the temperature hit 100 degrees. Eventually, the pump broke and was replaced.

    Again, even though industry professionals told him it was impossible, Darren designed and built a hand pump machine this summer that matches the lift of a 12’ diameter (blade length) windmill. No other hand pump exists that can do the same.

    According to one popular pump’s specifications, it takes a 6-foot tall, 200-pound man stroking 60 times per minute to get the maximum water out of any of their pumps – about 4-1/2 to 5 gallons per minute at a 30-foot static water level. At that rate, the man would be exhausted after 10 gallons. At a 78-foot static water level, their pump delivers only 4 gallons per minute.

    I am 5’ 4”, in my 50s, and comfortably pumped almost 5 gallons per minute with Darren’s hand pump machine. The motion was smooth and nowhere near my maximum effort. Darren (in his 50s, height 5’

    10”, weight 150 pounds) pumped 6 gallons per minute in just 18 strokes. With only human power and a mechanical advantage formula, this is already an accomplishment, but it gets even better.

    (Eds note – These numbers are close to the ones my 240V electric/hydraulic pump puts out)

    After making some adjustments, Darren pumped 5 gallons in 30 seconds in 10 strokes, although it took more effort. Twice as much water could be pumped per minute at a 40-foot static water level. Depending on the fitness of the operator (or with 2 operators), 20-30 gallons per minute are possible, enough for irrigating gardens or watering livestock.

    The pump machine uses a 4” cylinder and 2” drop pipe with a 3/8” metal sucker rod. At a static level of 80 feet, the device overcomes about 1,100 pounds of force. The force would be less with a wood or

    fiberglass sucker rod and rod guides like windmills use, but we thought those choices were too expensive for a prototype.

    According to a representative of a company with 47 years’ experience in windmills and pumps, a windmill must be at least 12’ in diameter to operate the 4” pump cylinder Darren is using at 80 feet. And, the 12’ windmill maxes out at 86’ depth with a capacity of 830 gallons per hour (13.8 gallons per minute) in a 15 to 20 mile-per-hour wind. Using only human power, Darren’s prototype can exceed that capacity per minute. Darren pumped 5 gallons in 30 seconds. With another adjustment in the mechanical advantage, a young, fit man could pump 14 or more gallons per minute. Since the water table is dropping all over the world beyond the reach of common hand pumps, we believe Darren’s invention is a viable solution for not only Third World countries and people living off-grid.

    It will also enable anyone to get water from deep wells without electricity or to pump volumes of water from shallow wells. In just a few minutes of pumping daily into an overhead storage tank, an entire household’s water needs can be met, enough for watering livestock and irrigating gardens.

    Darren hasn’t been able to test it yet, but believes because of its proven ability so far, this hand pump machine can reach 500 feet. It has already surpassed common hand pumps in volumes of water and mechanical advantage.

    Unless our well goes completely dry, we will never have to worry again about not having our own fresh drinking water.

    This article with pictures, video, and more, can be seen at their website wellwaterboy.com. It should be noted that this is a new invention in the development stage and is not for sale.

    Ed and Laurie – We hope you enjoyed this type of blog. We sure did. After all, the whole point of our blogs is to create and share an information database for the common good of all.

    Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website goodideasforlife.com  and Off Grid Works.