- I’ve learned that water is precious. When I lived with running water, I never thought about where the water was coming from our how much of it was available. I simply would turn on the faucet and have access to as much as I wanted. I took water for granted. That’s pretty easy to do when it feels like there is an unlimited supply and it’s available at the turn of a knob. Unfortunately, the consequence of taking water for granted is that it is easily wasted. Water usage automatically goes up when it is so easy to obtain. A friend shared with me a quote from Joel Salatin (remember Food, Inc.) recently. He says, “When you have to carry all your water, it becomes precious. You don’t waste it. You shepherd it and reuse it.” Because I do this on a daily basis, I know that pumping or drawing water and then carrying it into the house causes me to be aware. It makes me want to conserve! And it gives me very beneficial knowledge about the amount of water my family really needs.
- I’ve learned how to conserve water. This point is so important that it is an entire subject in itself. From dishes, to laundry, to showers (no baths!) using a camp shower-bag, I’ve learned how to use water most effectively. Look for an article devoted to this topic soon.
- I’ve learned how much water my family uses on a daily basis. I have heard the suggestion that a good rule for storing water for a disaster is one gallon of water per person per day. This is a bare minimum for survival, just cooking and drinking. Because of my experience, I know that this is not enough for my family, especially in the summer. Our Big Berkey water filter holds 1 1/2 gallons of water. During the heat of the summer, I usually fill it three times a day for my family of two adults and two small children. That’s 4 1/2 gallons of water that is only used for drinking. Of course, we need much more for other daily necessities. On an average day, my family uses between 10 and 15 gallons of water for drinking, cooking, cleaning (other than laundry), and shower-bag showers. I believe that it is essential to understand your water usage before storing water. When a disaster happens you will be aware of how to use that water and how long it will last. If you need help in learning how to determine your own water usage, look for an article on that subject soon.
- I’ve learned that water is heavy! Before moving off grid, I did not have a clue about how much water weighed. What stay at home mom needs that information?! Now I know that a 5 gallon bucket full of water weighs almost 42 pounds. That’s pretty good exercise when you are carrying one full bucket in each hand! Who needs to go to the gym? Carrying water has made me strong.
- I’ve learned that water hauling is a woman’s job. When we first moved off grid, my husband helped me pump and carry our water. I was still healing from a recent c-section and needed his help. But as time went on, the job naturally shifted to me. What I realized is that women are the ones who use most water in their daily work (cleaning, dishes, laundry, cooking, etc). I’ve realized that women have always been responsible for hauling water. Many times as I’ve pumped water, I’ve recalled the Biblical story of the servant looking for a wife for Isaac . He went to the well in town because he knew that was where he would see all the women when they came for water. “He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.” (Genesis 24:11) I imagine that they had completed their other chores for the day and this was the last chore before the sun went down, to get water for the next day. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I am doing the same thing as millions of women throughout the centuries before me, as well as many women living around the world. I guess I feel a bond to these women that I would have never understood without my drawing and carrying water experience.
- I’ve learned that water is a daily need. This may seem obvious, but living without running water has taught me that water doesn’t take a day off. I don’t have the luxury of deciding to just do it tomorrow. With the exception of one day off a week, I pump and carry water every day. It usually takes me about 30 minutes to pump, draw and carry all the water for our daily needs.
- I’ve learned that pumping and carrying the water is only half the work involved. The rest of my water chores involve putting the water where it needs to be used. We use a Big Berkey water filter for all of our drinking water. I fill our shower bag for our showers. I fill a pitcher next to the bathroom sink that we use for brushing our teeth. I fill pots on the stove reserved for heating hot water. I carry buckets of water into the bathroom where I do our laundry. A crate of water bottles sits on my kitchen floor all the time. When they are emptied, I take them out to our well and fill them again.
- I’ve learned that I get tired, but that I am resilient. When we first moved off grid, I expected that my water hauling days would be very short. We planned to hook up our travel trailer to a water tank and the problem would be solved. Things didn’t work out as we planned. And when the glamorous newness of off grid life wore off, I had to find it in myself to keep going. Currently, the plan is to wait until the spring when we will hook up a solar powered pump to our existing hand pump. The water will be pumped into a tank behind our well. From there, it will be pumped to holding tanks on our roofs where the water will then be gravity fed to our faucets. As time has passed, I’ve had good days and bad days with my attitude about water. Recently, I spoke to a friend who also lives off grid. She and her children also carry all their water into their home. They get the majority from rain barrels and supplement from a spring on their property. Talking with her gave me the boost I needed to continue for the long haul, if need be. It always helps to get encouragement from others!
- I’ve learned that many people think I am crazy for pumping and hauling water like I do. I think they really believe that I am punishing myself by doing something that it completely unnecessary. I don’t see it that way. I mentioned above that I am grateful to have a link with the women of the past who worked hard for their water and understood its value. Not to mention women around the world today who go much further for their water than I could ever imagine. Having one well (not to mention two) right outside their backdoor would be such luxury for them! I don’t think I’m crazy. I think that I’m living a normal life. I just have a different definition of normal. I think the way people have lived for thousands of years is normal. My family is trying our best to live what we consider to be a normal life.
Water is so precious! Without it, life cannot be sustained. Why do we waste something so valuable and take for granted that it will always be there when we turn on the faucet? I’m grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned by carrying water. Running water is not a necessity. It is a privilege. I believe that we should all begin to try to see water more realistically and be grateful for the precious gift that it is.