For anyone considering an off-grid property, it’s important to know what you are getting yourself into. “Getting away from it all” doesn’t just mean you’re leaving behind the noise, traffic, pollution and the crowds. It means leaving behind the convenience of being able to easily access services such as water, power and gas.

Living off grid doesn’t mean you have to rely on a hand pump to fetch your water (unless that’s your thing). With a bit of work and not a lot of expense, you can have enough water to do dishes, laundry, water the garden, and take a bath. Such was the case with one Gambier Island homesteader I spoke with, who recently set up a solar-powered water system to meet their needs.

Here’s what it took:

Shurflow 9300 series submersible pump. Pumps range in cost from $700 – $1200 depending upon flow (Lowered down the well to a depth of roughly 100 feet)
DC cable suitable for submersion in drinking water source. You’ll need enough cable to run from the submerged pump to the surface, as well as to wherever the solar panels are positioned for maximum sun exposure.
The pump can be connected directly to a 75W solar panel. Or if you are pumping water to a significant elevation, you can use two 75W panels in a series. The pump will operate whenever it’s sunny, easily filling up a large cistern. Or you could connect the pump to a generator whenever you want to fill your cistern, but since the generator outputs AC, you will have to pick up a DC converter to hook it up to the pump.
Half-inch plastic pipe to connect from pump to water storage tank. Budget for roughly 300 feet of pipe, or enough to run from 100 feet underground to a space on your property that is higher than your cabin in order to use gravity to generate water pressure. When you purchase, be sure to mention that you want the pipe for drinking water, as there are different grades of plastic piping. They can also provide you with stainless steel clamps to connect the pipes.
Cisterns come in a wide range of sizes. 5,000 litres is plenty for an average-sized home, but if you want enough water on hand for periods of drought, you could go as high as a 10,000 litre tank. Cisterns cost between $1000 and $2000 depending upon size.
Miscellaneous fittings for water tank, such as pipe fittings and shut-off valve.
A thin stainless steel cable to suspend the pump.
Well cap with pass-thru fittings for the water line and power.

Pro tips for set-up

Shock treat your well by dumping 2 litres of bleach down the wellhead after installing the system. Run the pump for a few hours, circulating the bleached water back into the well and then back into the tank. Drain the tank, and then refill with water free of bleach.

From the water tank, run a 1″ plastic line to your cabin. If you are able to place your water tank 60-90 feet higher than your cabin, you will have plenty of pressure. If not, you will require a pressure pump, which will tie into your cabin’s electrical system.

For a steady supply of hot water, a propane on-demand system is the most efficient choice. These range from very simple models suitable for an outdoor kitchen, to more expensive models that tie into your cabin’s plumbing system.