How Do You Survive Without Running Water?

Three and a half days in and I can tell you it’s hard! I feel for the pioneers and I haven’t even tried to clean house yet. Camping is one thing but try and clean house, take care of livestock, a garden, wash clothes etc. Of course it was a holiday weekend when our well pump went kurplunk. I get the fact that it is 23 years old and worn out but this is three years in a row when something has caused us to go without water from the well for days at a time. Throw in a few power outages that last for thankfully only hours and I’m feeling really unsettled about water security.

That was written before the well pump came undone and fell along with the pipe and everything else. Got that fixed and now the pressure pump is failing. I spent hours today trying to find a new one that we need. Plumbers are booked weeks out and only two places in town sell the pressure pumps. I finally had to buy one from the plumbers who get theirs from a wholesale store and they had only two options of what we could use and now to pray Kirk can put it in.

One never really knows how unprepared they are until you are having to deal without. Now we aren’t hurting badly of course, just inconvenienced as we had some 5 gallon water storage containers full but in the back of my mind I kept wondering what if? What if we really had to do without for a while. We know people who have had to go 9 days or more before their well is up and running again. What if it was a wide spread emergency and many were doing without? This would mean our neighbor wouldn’t be there to fill our storage containers again which we needed.


As the company came to pull our pump the first time, below us the creek had overflowed its backs washing out our bridge. It was much worse elsewhere and more is expected in the future. It reminded me of the story of a gal in Australia who wrote about the month in which high water cut off access to their community and surrounding landscape. No supplies in or out. Luckily it was summer she said and once a week the area residents met to barter. She gave thanks for her garden, chooks or chickens as we call them, and basic skills that they had wisely acquired.  A month without supplies in and out. How well would you do? The wells were working thankfully but it shows a long term problem. We had 4 granddaughters, dishes to catch up, cooking, drinking, livestock needs, and toilets, etc. We employed the old saying, ” if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” and still the water usage was frightening.

It became super clear just how horrible our toilets are, “pieces of junk that don’t flush well and take 4 gallons of water to do so.” It sent me to the internet looking at building a outhouse, quite a job but boy, I’d love to have one! Winters aren’t fun with one but I’ve done it for short periods of time. On the ranch our septic system went down and mellow yellow could go in the house facilities but brown had to be taken to the outhouse. I was just glad we had one.

So when the rains began on Saturday we gathered up all the bucket we could find, we have quite a few, plus those of our nearest neighbor. The rain barrels filled almost faster than we could fill buckets from them. We figured we had enough to flush the toilets for a a while with the mellow yellow and brown routine. Plus we had filled the 50 gallon stock tank and several 10 gallon rubber livestock pans so the stock was good for a while. But what if it hadn’t have rained? Our water storage containers would not have gone far. How long would it take before we had water once more especially if the highway road’s bridges went out and there was no help coming in? We weren’t the only ones in a flood and ours was minor compared to many others in the surrounding area. This time we could depend on the neighbor’s wells but what about next time? Had it been a long term power outage, we would have all been sunk.

Had we built the place like we would have liked, one of the things we would have had is a cistern in the crawl space. Too late now as we’d have to cut the cement walls to put one in. What about a water bladder tank? The internet told me that indeed they have them up to ginormous sizes. We still have to get the deflated bladder through the opening to the crawl space making size an issue but more than one could be had for a price. I’m going to look further into it. Just how to pump the water out is my question if the power goes out but I’m liking the idea. A water tank above ground is not an option as it freezes in the winter. A cistern underground would have to be below 6 feet as the frost line is over 4. The last hole that large was over a thousand bucks for backhoe and a plumber. That is a big expensive hole and then you still have to buy the cistern and pump the water out. Not so sure about that idea.

I’m still going to talk to our nephew about putting in a generator to run the well if the power goes out. That would be the easiest option as long as the well system was working. It would not be long term though.

I’m thinking levels of back up is what we need.

That led to the conversation with Zach, the well puller about if we could drop another pipe in the casing to install a hand pump. Not large enough. Bummer!! We’d have to drill another well. Ouch again! That would be great but not happening for a long time.

That leaves us with a few options to look at:

  •  More water storage in 5 -gallon containers so it’s portable.
  • A generator back up system for the well fueled by a propane tank.
  • An outhouse.
  • A water bladder or two for the crawl space.
  • Much larger water storage tanks for water run off from the roofs.
  • Save for an underground cistern.

Now we sit without water for the fourth time. It will need more than one option to bring a greater sense of security but the well pump quitting had us thinking once more. Who would have thought that hundreds of gallons of water poured through our rain barrels. Yes, it was an unusually large amount of rain that fell for a few days but the potential is there for irrigation of trees and such on a regular basis in summer until the skies dried up. Before this time we had not paid close attention to them. We also learned which down spouts flowed the heaviest and just how large a containers were needed where as the output was measure by bucket fulls. It would not resolve all our livestock and plant needs but it would ease the pressure slightly and save on the wear and tear of the pump in the well. Of course it is not a winter option.

What about winter? My mind was thinking of the addition of melting snow but our present wood stove has an extra layer on top to lower the temperature of the surface metal. I do not like this stove as you can’t cook on top and along with the water guzzling toilets, they will have to go when money allows.

So what is the best options? It is different for each family depending on their situation. We have learned a great deal and gray water became important to use. I brought out my grandmother’s dish pan and like her put boiling water in it to rinse my dishes in after washing. It opened my eyes to how little I know about saving water. I’d love to see the nitty gritty of how others from different countries do.

I struggled greatly as my breathing is still pretty bad and those water buckets became a challenge to haul. What do you do to save water? I need to be prepared. We are vulnerable. How vulnerable are you?







One thought on “How Do You Survive Without Running Water?

  1. A creek flowed through my garden. There was plenty of water running. I only needed to go catch it. Actually, I could only use water from the well. It is illegal to take water from the creek. However, pot growers upstream have not compunction about taking water from the creek and sucking it dry. That is really annoying when the rest of us would get fined just for gardening too close to the creek.


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