People everywhere are hunting down two things–toilet paper and bottled water. Many states are on lockdown for the Corona virus, and those are the two things people are frantic to buy. I watched lines that made Disney lines look amateur in the warehouse store. I put down my two unnecessary things and took notice. In almost every cart, there was a pile of bottled water, with the “Limit two” bypassed because there was a family member–spouse, senior, or kid–in tow.
That was the moment $%^ got real.
Water is key to any Poser Homestead.
Clean drinking water isn’t just for emergencies. Water defines your homestead. It’ll tell you where you can plant, what you’ll grow, how big it’ll be, and which animals you can have. Before you get even one chicken or plant a single leaf of lettuce you need to know you’ve got a quality source of water you don’t have to shlep from the mountains.
Trust me on this. My water pump broke two years ago.
Year one, I watered everything by hand with two five-gallon buckets and a couple watering cans. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. I called the buckets, “The gym.” It was a healthy workout but took forever.
Last year, we got the pump running again using creativity and a big, “Please…” Now, I can turn it on for a while, water with the hose, fill up the chickens, and turn it off before it depressurizes. It’s a short-term solution but just the sort of thing that a poser homestead is all about. This year or next, we’ll have to take care of this (very big) project the right way.
We need a source of water.
All about water
There are three keys to water you need to know: where it’s located, do you have enough, and the water quality and characteristics
Water quality and characteristics
All water isn’t created equal. Depending on where it comes from, it could be treated or untreated. It might be mineralized, or it might be fairly pure. If you’ve ever cleaned green or orange rings from your shower, you have “hard water” filled with minerals. You’ll see this most often with aquifers and wells in areas with mineral deposits. If you have city water, it’s been treated and probably has things like flouride and chlorine.
Hard and soft water
Hard water may contain minerals like copper, zinc, and iron. It won’t kill you more than turning your bathtub and clothes orange, it can mess with your water-connected appliances like dishwashers and heaters. They’ll die faster.
Your soap won’t bubble the same as in the bubble bath commercials, either–the calcium and magnesium in the water stop it. If you already have red hair, wear dark clothes, and don’t mind water that tastes like a zinc lozenge, this is your water.
If not, you need to purify or filter your water drinking water.
If that’s not your style, you can condition your water to make it softer, or you can get a reverse-osmi water Water straight from the sky to the rain barrel–that’s soft. Once it goes into the ground and comes back up it has the chance to pick up minerals and become hard water. Soft water’s good drinking water.
If you’ve got water that’s murky, stagnant, or looks good but makes you sick, you’ve got crappy water. Whether it’s bacteria or chemical leaching, it’s a problem. Crappy water can be life threatening. This is no joke. I lived by a state wasteland for a while. The landlady had five-gallon bottles brought in. It was probably a code violation. We got to carry up to the second floor.
I’m in New England. This is where the Industrial Revolution began. We’ve got “brownfield sites” with 200-year deposits of heavy metals and toxins, but they look clean today. Some are–others, not so much.
The City of Providence moved three rivers and put a fountain and park in downtown. One day, the fountain was gone. Turns out, it was spraying tourists with heavy metals from Providence’s early jewelry industries.
If you’re choosing land to start your poser homestead, think “water source” first. Stay away from crappy water sites. The water will be tested as part of the inspection. Make sure you pay attention to the results.
Water supply problems
Supply issues, droughts, logistics issues, and water rights issues are giant problems for farmers and homesteaders in some areas of the country. If there’s a creek running through your land, make sure no one can dam it up on you. If you rely on a dug well, make sure it’s reliable. You need enough water for gardening, livestock or whatever you’re doing.
Drinking water pitchers
We have well water. It’s perfectly fine to drink, use for animals, and use for the garden. But, it tastes like minerals and I don’t like it. I’ve evaluated several water pitchers over the years–I don’t feel the need to spend thousands on a system for the house.
This is the cheapest water pitcher I tried. We’ve had two or three because when people drop the lid it cracks. If the lid doesn’t crack, the pitcher with the spigot did after some time. Brita filters aren’t too expensive, and they’re easy to find.
- Pro: The refill cartridges are easy to find. You can probably get one at a yard sale or from a neighbor. “Can I borrow a cup of sugar and a Brita pitcher cartridge?”
- Con: This doesn’t filter out microbes and every mineral known to man, but it will get large chunks of iron and calcium out of your water for you. It’ll taste better but not always 100%.
- Rating: 💧💧💧
I didn’t have one, but they were on the shelf next to the Brita, which means they must be legit.
- Pro: Looked nice on the shelf. Price was comparable to the Brita. I didn’t buy it, though, so I won’t comment on taste.
- Con: I bet I could break this one, too.
- Rating: 💧💧💧
I get generic everything so I’m not sure why I passed on the generic water pitchers. They looked like unlabeled Britas and were in every big box store and on Amazon.
- Pro: Really cheap.
- Con: I have no way of knowing if this will break, but really cheap things probably do. And it’s probably leeching plastic into the water. But I can’t say for sure.
- Rating: 💧💧💧
ZeroWater is a five-stage filtration system. The other pitchers are two. ZeroWater says it filters out five times the nonsense, which I could tell when I tasted the water.
The cartridges are about a million dollars, but they filter out a lot. If you poured your coffee into that pitcher, it’d be water by the time it was done. As far as countertop water pitchers go, this one’s the best, and the price reflects it. I’ve had three of these, which is not a compliment–it breaks. The tops don’t stay on, and the spigots break. It’s also not quick to filter. Someone will be thoughtful and fill the water, I’ll pick it up to pour a glass, and it’ll dump all over the kitchen.
I could’ve solved the breaking and dumpage issues–they now have many more ranges of pitchers. I had their cheapest.
- Pro: Great water–best tasting I’ve experienced from a pitcher. There’s a large selection of pitchers and refrigerator square units with spigots.
- Con: expensive, pitchers break. Somewhat slow to filter. If I put a unit in my fridge, I wouldn’t be able to fit food. This could be a “pro” if you need to eat less junk or stop drinking beer or something. When someone fills this, and I go to pour too soon, I dump water everywhere. If I fill it last minute, I wait for a calendar year for the water to filter.
- Rating: 💧💧💧💧
This is my personal favorite system. If you have one of these, you have clean water through the zombie apocalypse. Why would anyone want a water “keg” that costs anywhere from $150 to several hundred dollars?
Because. It’s that much better. I first ran across this system on prepper and homesteader sites. I kept hearing homesteaders and zero-wasters race about these. Then, I looked at the price and walked away. A year or two later, I researched again, The spigot on the Zerowater pitcher had broken again, and I can’t tell you how many times I spilled gallons of water trying to pour glasses when someone else filled the pitcher to filter.
I decided to give Berkey a try, but it was hesitating over the cost. Many homesteaders and water fans said they found theirs at garage sales. I didn’t, but I found one on Ebay, reconditioned or returned–there was no damage, and it’s steel so there isn’t a contamination risk.
You can choose from the gallon pitcher to a six-gallon. I got the 2.25 gallon. Filters are $120 but last around four years, making the price per gallon pennies. Not changing the filter means less waste for the environment, and less need to stock up on nonsense.
Berkey pitchers filter out microbes and contaminants, making this the one you want in the zombie apocalypse or emergency.
There are some quirks with the Berkey. The cartridges need to be primed. They sell a syringe device for this, but I didn’t have one, so it was a bit of a pain–my spray faucet wasn’t the right shape. It only needs to be primed once per filter unless you let it dry out–so plan on filling it every few days, to the top.
The YouTube reviews say “Get the biggest one you can afford.” It takes a long time to filter. You’ll want to keep it filled up–but not overfilled. Once the bottom’s full, it looks like it’ll fit another gallon, but resist the temptation–it’ll leak out the side. The pitcher is full when the bottom is full. water once the bottom’s full. It isn’t a watertight seal–if you fill past the bottom container, you’ll be mopping. They have a fancy spigot upgrade which shows the water level like one of those old church coffee pots.
- Pro: Great water–best tasting overall. They have many sizes to choose from, from the “Travel Berkey” which holds 1.5 gallons to a six-gallon beast called the Crown. You can put that in your emergency bunker or use it for your next picnic. Once the setup’s complete, this water pitcher will be good to go for a very long time.
- Con: Expensive. The filters are tough to prime if you have a spray-type faucet or worse, no faucet because you’re off grid. You may want to get their primer tool.
- Rating: 💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧💧
I researched pricy household systems. If water is dangerous or so hard that it’ll ruin your appliances, you can get a full-home system, but it’ll cost you thousands, and still needs filter changes and maintenance.
The bottom line is this
You need a reliable, clean source of water, or you can’t have a homestead, even a poser homestead. Consider this first when you’re buying land, expanding your garden, or getting even a single chicken.