As Philip and I continue the process of building the homestead infrastructure, our goal is to build completely off-grid. That will include solar electricity and possibly wind-generated power. For water, our initial plan was to install a well that we hoped to power with a windmill. However, after getting a sample of our neighbor’s water, we decided that we weren’t so sure we wanted well water. The water has a sulfur taste and smell. A well is a significant investment so to be dissatisfied with the water quality would be extremely disappointing. While there are options for filtering and lessoning that issue, it was still discouraging. Philip suggested that we consider rainwater harvesting for all our water needs, not just for gardening and animal needs.
We investigated the costs of bringing municipal utilities into the property as an option, however, the costs are staggering. When compared to the off-grid options, it just seems to make sense to stick to Philip’s dream of building an off-grid homestead. With municipal utilities, we would have to invest thousands of dollars just to bring the resources to us, and then pay for the services monthly. Off-grid systems are also a costly upfront investment and require maintenance of the equipment, however, it eliminates the monthly bills associated with service. We would also be completely responsible for maintaining the systems, if the power is down, it’s up to us to get it back up!
Why Rainwater Harvesting?
While we do have a creek on the property, it’s not even a dependable source of water for our animals. It ebbs and flows enough that while our animals might have access to it, they will require a dependable water source. One of the best reasons to harvest rainwater is that it’s FREE. However, having said that, the methods to collect, store and filter the rainwater are not free. As with anything, there is an investment required.
While rainwater is theoretically one of the purest sources of water, it becomes contaminated through the air and surfaces that it touches. It’s for that reason that it should always be properly filtered for drinking water.
Rainwater has a naturally alkaline pH and is good for your body. It promotes good digestion and can detoxify the body. Rainwater is also low in minerals. Public drinking water is full of chlorine and fluoride, which many people filter out of their municipal water. Rainwater is also good for your skin and hair. When we froze the valve of the cistern tank last year at the homestead and I had to melt snow for bathing, Philip complimented my soft hair that smelled good. The only thing I had done differently was use the water I had melted from the snow!
Is Rainwater Harvesting Safe?
To be honest, I have been on the fence regarding rainwater harvesting. In many places, rainwater harvesting is the norm and, in some cases, the most reliable water source available to people. It wasn’t until I watched a YouTube video by Joy Mooney from Homesteadonomics, that I finally felt comfortable with the idea of harvesting rainwater for household use. Joe is harvesting water in the Arizona Sonoran Desert that supplies about 90% of their family’s water needs.
I think the other thing that has made me comfortable with the idea is that we have access to affordable filtration to make the water safe. Many years ago, my family and I backpacked in Alaska. We carried only enough water to get started. We had to filter our water wherever we could find it, sometimes that would be a puddle! It was through that experience that I knew it was possible and safe to filter water for drinking. Our rainwater harvesting system will be constructed with safety in mind, using materials that are safe for rainwater collections. One example is to use metal roofing versus shingles.
I have insisted that if we are going to pursue rainwater harvesting, quality filtration systems are an absolute must, this is one of those areas that I have determined we won’t be sparing any expense! Philip has talked about creating a DIY water filtration system, which might be fine in an emergency, but I keep steering him back to purchasing a quality filtration system. In fact, I am eager to invest in a water filtration system now. While we use city water in our cistern tanks now, there is some contamination through the vent system in the cistern tank. I feel most comfortable using a quality filter. Once we make that investment, it won’t be necessary for us to bring drinking water from Florida for our trips.
Is Rainwater Harvesting Legal?
I know this seems like a silly question. Is it legal for a person to harvest the rainwater that is falling in their very own yard? Surprisingly the answer is that it is NOT legal everywhere. This website gives a breakdown of the general guidelines regarding rainwater harvesting in each state. Thankfully both Florida and Kentucky have no restrictions and in fact, are encouraged in the state of Florida. If you live in a state that does have restrictions, thoroughly research the laws in your state.
Always a Backup
Philip’s nature is to always have a backup. With all our off-grid systems, solar and water, there will be a backup plan to supply the needed utilities. At the homestead, we have access to city water that we can haul in if needed. That is currently how we supply water to the homestead, and it will continue to be our main backup plan. Even here in Florida, we have backup plans in case of utility failure. Hurricane season has taught us well, always have a backup (and likely a backup to your backup)! You never know when you will be out of power for several weeks.
The First Rainwater Harvesting Gutters in Place
The bathhouse is the very first rainwater harvesting system that we are setting up. On our last workcation, we installed the gutters on the bathhouse. This was a much-needed task, as the runoff from the roof was eroding the bank. At this point, we have only installed the gutters. To set up a rainwater harvesting system we still will need to install the cistern tank and eventually the bathhouse will have its own off-grid pressure system as well. In the beginning, it will share the pressure system that the RV uses. The water collection tank pictured is NOT our water storage tank, it’s just a temporary vessel to route the water until the cistern tank can be installed.
When we move the RV to the top of the hill we will be able to install a rainwater harvesting system for the RV. We will be building a pole barn garage to cover the RV that will have a metal roof suitable for rainwater harvesting. Everything we do now on the homestead, helps us work out the kinks in the system that will enable us to build the most efficient system for the house. Watch Us Install the Bathhouse Gutter System
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.