4 Tested Methods To Collect Water Off The Grid

Access to clean water is one of the most fundamental human needs, which makes considering your access to water an important step when planning your off-the-grid lifestyle.

Having a plan for accessing water will ease the sometimes-stressful process of adjusting to your new lifestyle and increase your chances of success.

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The following are four tried-and-true ways that successful homesteaders collect their water without relying on access to state-regulated wells and water supplies.

1. Harvest Rainwater

Harvesting rainwater is a relatively easy method for collecting water that can be adjusted according to your needs and capabilities.

There are various systems you can use to collect your rainwater, including plastic barrel collection and storage, as well as tarp and underwater cistern collection.

Plastic barrels are the easiest and most effective way to harvest and store your rainwater safely. The barrels come in various shapes and sizes to suit your needs and can be purchased in food-grade plastic for those who plan to ingest the water they collect.

The barrel is attached to your existing gutter system to easily and efficiently collect rainwater. Most barrels hold over 55 gallons of water and are entirely closed off to the possibility of external contamination, making this method an excellent choice for larger homesteads that plan to solely rely on their water collection system for their water needs.

Tarps aren’t the most effective or convenient collection option, but they will do in a pinch. If you live in a particularly dry area and see a storm coming your way, you can take the opportunity to erect a tarp and make a pocket of sorts for the rainwater to pool in.

After the rainfall, it will be necessary to transfer the collected water to an additional holding method to protect it from contamination.


  • This system is mostly free, and the only things you must pay for are your collection tanks.
  • Rainwater collection requires little to no construction.
  • Assuming you already have a gutter and pipe system installed in your house, all that you need to do is reroute your gutter system to empty into your container. This cannot be said of other methods, where it is necessary to dig or drill into the ground.
  • Some states offer incentives and funding for rainwater collection to encourage eco-friendly water use.


  • On the other hand, there are also states that place bans and limitations on rainwater collection, and it is best to check with your local authorities for any restrictions that may pertain to you.
  • The success of this method is also dependent on the amount of rainfall that an area receives, and it may not be the best option for individuals who live in areas that typically experience drought.

2. Drill a Well

Drilling a well is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of accessing water without tapping into a city water system. This is because drilling a well is one of the best and most traditional methods for accessing large amounts of fresh water.

With that being said, drilling a well can also be incredibly costly, both to install and to maintain.


  • Wells can be run by both electrical and manual pumps. Keep in mind that if you have a power shortage, you won’t have access to your water if you are using an electrical pump, and it is best to install a manual back-up pump or get a generator in preparation for the unexpected.
  • Wells can hold huge volumes of water, which makes them an excellent option for larger homesteads and farms.


  • It is quite uncommon, but wells can run dry. Remember to check your area’s underground water table and rainfall levels before drilling, as these would heavily influence the success of your well.
  • Underground water sources are not immune to contaminants and chemicals, and your well can become contaminated. If you decide to install a well, it is necessary to have your water regularly checked by a professional for bacteria and lead.
  • Before you seriously start considering a well, check with your local town hall or department of public works and make sure that drilling a personal well is allowed in your area. Generally, drilling a well is almost always permitted in rural areas that cannot be served by utility companies, but it is always best to double check before starting to drill.
  • If you do decide to install your own well, keep in mind that any mistakes made during construction can be incredibly costly down the road. If you do need to repair your well or any pipes, it is likely you will require professional help to do so.

3. Humidity Collection Systems

Using technology to lock in humidity and collect water is a relatively new concept that can only be utilized in warm and humid areas.

Humidity collection systems use a turbine to pull moisture from the air that is then cooled to a temperature that is below the dew point, allowing water droplets to form. Those water droplets then collect in a water storage compartment.


  • This system pulls water from the air and instantly cleanses it, eliminating the need for a purification system.
  • Humidity collection systems are the cutting edge in water collection technology, making them one of the most efficient and technologically advanced means of doing so available to homesteaders.


  • That relative newness, however, means that there is also much room for improvement, and the technology itself is still in the development stages.
  • Since this method is quite innovative, it is relatively expensive and finding a cheap alternative is difficult. However, as the practice becomes more popular, more information and DIY techniques will become available.
  • Humidity collection systems do require a power source, whether that is solar or traditional power.

4. Water Delivery

If the other collection methods listed above are not possible or too costly in your area, you could consider a water delivery service.

This is an excellent option for individuals who are looking to live full-time on a rural property but don’t want to be burdened with upkeep or cannot commit to the physical demand of maintaining a water collection system.


  • Water delivery services require no effort on your part.
  • Unlike some of the other options on this list, they also guarantee a consistent and reliable water supply.


  • Electing to pay for a water delivery system, while the lowest maintenance, may also be the costliest option available to you, depending on your water needs.

The Takeaway

There are many different systems to choose from when it comes to accessing water off-the-grid.

The method you choose typically comes down to how much money you are able or willing to spend on the development and use of your device as well as your source of electricity. If you don’t plan to use any electricity for your water collection system, you are better off sticking with natural collection methods such as rainwater harvesting.

After considering these factors, take a look at the logistics of your home for your final decision. If there are any issues regarding the climate or amount of rainfall, they may limit the options that are available to you.

No matter which method, or combination of methods you choose, water collection can be a worthwhile endeavor for your off-the-grid lifestyle as long as you do your research and take the right precautions before making your final decision.


Written by

Cory Levins serves as the Director of Business Development for Air Sea Containers. Cory oversees the development and implementation of ASC’s internal and external marketing program, driving revenue and profits from the Miami FL headquarters.

Latest comments
  • A critically important source of water here on our homestead is our creeks: they serve as a backup source of large amounts of water for doing laundry, washing floors, and especially for keeping our sheep and other farm animals alive. We discourage our livestock from using our two creeks as their primary source of water by keeping their troughs filled from the well, although we also have the pipes and a non-electric RAM pump that can automatically pump water uphill from either creek to their troughs — plus the gardens and orchards — in case of a long-term emergency.

    For those of you considering the purchase of land for homesteading or a SHTF retreat who haven’t already, make absolutely sure that there is at least one creek running through it. If extra money is required for a smaller plot of land than a larger one, then please realize it’ll be well worth the peace of mind in the long run. The best food storage scenario of all is the capacity to have vegetables growing throughout the year, plus meat-on-the-hoof in addition to small flocks of poultry for eggs. All these basic assets all require far more combined water than humans do.

    While I’m not a great mathematician, our 30 sheep alone require 50 gallons of fresh water daily on average (variable according to season of course, yet that’s the average). The ducks actually provide the most nutritional value daily for us and the livestock guardian dogs via their extra-rich prolific eggs, yet we need to maintain at least 10 ducks at a time with the predation factored in (hawks are a serious problem since dogs can’t fly), and each duck can barely get by with a 5 gallons of fresh water daily — yup, that means another 50 gallons of water just for the minimal number of ducks. The combined number of 30 chickens and turkeys require far less water, only about 5 gallons for all 30 daily, although it’s hard to tell since they are willing to drink from the duck kiddie-pools that actually turn into mud-puddles by each evening. The four dogs that protect the sheep and birds by driving predators away require another gallon each daily, for another 4 gallons. 109 gallons so far and counting daily, according to my weak math. Add another 10 gallons for simply washing out the various troughs, waterers, and other animal water dishes for minimal sanitation purposes.

    Call it 120 gallons a day average just for the minimal requirements of the farm animals on our small homestead. We do fine with the water from the well while we have electricity, but also thoroughly understand that our arms would probably literally drop off pumping all that water by hand every day even with the finest ~$1,200 stainless steel Bison hand pump from Lehmans — not to mention all the time involved with hand-pumping all that water on a daily basis. AKA, it’s critically important to make sure any land you purchase has at least one year-round running creek.

    Even if you don’t intend of having animals or small poultry flocks on site, there’s also the vegetable gardens situation. With rock-hard clay-bound soil typical to this region we now have 16 raised garden beds measuring 8’x4’ each (this is 32 square feet of growing space each) that require an average of 1” water each week just to keep the vegetables alive and growing over roughly six months… i.e., 20 gallons per bed average weekly. Now my math skills have quit entirely, maybe someone else can add things so far up better than I can. Anyways, piping up creek water for not just the animals and birds but also the vegetable gardens is within reach with two things: 1) a creek, and 2) a non-electric RAM pump with all necessary water pipes.

    In short, the government standard advice for one-gallon-of-water-per-day-per-person makes absolutely no sense at all for a homestead or bug-out property. Extensive rainwater collection systems are already in place over here… but they are for people-only purposes; even soaking a single cup of dried beans in a mere gallon of clean filtered water overnight really adds up (let alone rinsing them in a couple more gallons of clean water to remove most of the harmful but naturally occuring phytic acids). Washing the floors each week takes at least 5 more gallons that can be done with creek water. Flushing the toilet 3 times daily with 1.1 gallons of water each time can also be done with creek water.

    Anyway, in the end, I guess my point is that this article may be wildly off-target regarding even the minimal unfiltered raw water requirements for running even a small homestead with farm animals and/or vegetable gardens on it. Despite us spending horrible amounts of money in the early days on a 500 gallon commercial water collection tank, a much cheaper 250 gallon recycled tank, a fabulous 350 gallon portable water bladder, and 10 55-gallon drums, we finally realized that while all that investment for very-short-term water storage is OK, it sure can’t amount to the even trickle-volume of fresh water generated by a single creek.

    A running year-round creek is the most valuable water source of all, at least if one intends on having farm animals after a SHTF scenerio. Just take extreme pains not to ever pollute any creek downstream from you, and to establish and maintain grey-water natural filtration systems (mini-marshes) to clean the water before it reenters the creek.

    Well, I guess I’m never a fan of the minimal water requirements that are discussed in 99% of most prepper articles is all. I guess that most prepper-authors either don’t want to scare people by telling the truth, or simply don’t know the real truth for themselves from actual experience. Well. It’s a fact, we run through at least 200 gallons of water a day over here just caring for the animals and birds that sustain us, and that’s not counting any of our personal human needs for water each day.

    • I would suggest IBC aquaponics to increase food production and save water. A quick search online will give you all the information you need for free. I have grown cucumbers and cabbage this way and it is easy but time consuming to set up. In the long run it would be worth it and provide fish as well as produce.

  • Think about all the birds s itting on your roof.

    • And rotting leaves in the gutters.