Water Off the Grid

Water Off the Grid

By Bev


When I was a little girl we used to go visit my great-grandfather, Harry, on his farm in Trout Valley.  We would carry buckets of water from the fresh water spring that bubbled out of the base of the bluff in the pasture to the house for drinking and cooking. But my grandmother, Marge, would tell us of a time, when she was a young girl, on the farm when the boom of the ram water pump would lull her to sleep. A time when there was no need to carry water and the spring was fenced off from the cows.



Hydraulic ram water pumps have been used for at least two hundred years to deliver water to homes, farms and even small towns bordered by a small creek or river,



 “In 1879, The People’s Cyclopedia included the hydraulic ram among the 55 most important inventions in the history of mankind. It defined the hydraulic ram as: “A simple and conveniently applied mechanism by which the weight of falling water can be made available for raising a portion of itself to a considerable height.”



Generally, you need at least two feet of falling water to operate a ram pump. Most creeks and small rivers you would have access to on the homestead do not have a natural two foot drop.  The spring on Harry’s farm gently meandered down to feed a larger creek. When Harry was a young, successful farmer he created a two foot drop by building up the small stream of water with rocks and mortar which created a natural pool at the base in which to sit the ram pump. Metal water lines ran a continuous stream of water to the summer kitchen of the house and to the stock tank that overflowed and created its own stream back to the stream below the pump. There was always ample water for the house, stock, and to irrigate crops if need be.



A quick and fairly easy way to create a pond/waterfall that I have used is to fall a fairly large tree across the creek and cut a V in it with a chainsaw. Instant waterfall! Silt and rocks will build up behind the log and the V focuses the water into one spot where you can put your ram pump. Or if you don’t want to pump water, just create an area where you can dip water, bathe, wash clothes, etc. the force of the water will carve out a small pond that will usually stay open even in traditional Minnesota winters. And on a hot summer day, it is a little piece of heaven to sit on the log, dangle your feet in the water and watch the kids play in the pond, jump across the V in the log and just laugh and play in the sunshine and clear water.



A solar water pump is an option if you don’t have the drop to create a narrow falls and have more money and a significant amount of sun. Any time you can get the water closer to the house, stock and garden, life becomes so much easier! This is the same principle as any electric pump, except that the power is supplied by the sun. If you pump the water into 50 gallon rain barrels and water the individual plants at their roots the water will last a lot longer than traditional overhead watering.



For more information about ram and solar pumps, a good site to access is: http://www.theramcompany.com/index.html there are also plans on the Net to make your own ram pump.



If you have water on your land, it probably slopes.  Thoughtful placement of your garden, stock pens and home can make water access as simple as a gravity feed. Create a “mouth” in the creek of PVC or some such attached to inexpensive plastic water line and you have instant water! At least until it freezes.  🙂



And then there is snow… also known as poor man’s fertilizer. It too can be thawed to create water for cooking, dishes and even bathing. Just so you know, the ratio is about 10 inches of snow to 1 inch of water—that is a lot of melted snow. But you do what you gotta do J and just be grateful that you have the heat to melt it with!

20 survival items ebook cover

Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these innocent little items!

Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link. This will also subscribe you to my newsletter so you stay up-to-date with everything: new articles, ebooks, products and more!

By entering your email, you agree to subscribe to the Modern Survival Online newsletter. We will not spam you.


  1. It the simplest ideas like felling a tree and cutting a v-notch in it that will always elude my imagination! Thanks for the ideas.

  2. Great idea with the V. The Amish have a simple swall paddle that diverts the waterfrom a creek into another pipe that comes close to a house or barn. Arlene
    PSI felt like I was right there on your relatives farm-we live on a farm and we have always cherished the rural life.
    Hard work, little pay but deep satisfaction. I dont know how you folks in the west deal with the water wars.

  3. I’ll be looking for a piece of property to buy next year that either has water rights to a river, creek or spring; or ok to drill for water. But recently Im concerned if I’m going to be able to do that when the time comes … re http://cnsnews.com/news/article/man-sentenced-30-days-catching-rain-water-own-property-enters-jail cuz recently a man in Oregon (where I live) has been sentenced to jail and fined for collecting rain water and water from a creek thru his property. 🙁 Its so wrong on so many levels.

  4. Thanks Arlene! In the panhandle of Idaho we had a place where we had to haul water in a tank on the back of a truck from a spring/sleu system off the mountain to a cistern–What a nightmare!
    My homestead of 25 years where I raised the kids and built my house (husband left after the kids were born) had a nice little creek with fresh water cress.
    The homestead I have now has a trout stream on the border.
    We have lots of Amish in SE MN. Most have deep wells with gas run pumps for the barn–no water in the house…

    Yeah, let’s make it easy on the men and livestock and make the women carry water….

    Sorry, I don’t hold with that, being a woman and all 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.