Water is life but you already know this as you are here. Let me tell you a little about our own water situation when we first moved to France. you might not realise it but water is everywhere so that off-grid water source might not be that far away!
We moved to France during the global recession of 2009 and money was tight. This lack of Dollar made us as a family start to think outside the box! We had to be creative during our French Farmhouse renovation.
Water is not something you can not do without!
Water was a key problem and obviously not something we could do without. We found a solution amongst all the options out there and it was simple.
What options do you have for water?
Ever since Adam and Eve, man has sought water and developed civilisations on the location of a solid water supply. Today some underprivileged communities are not so lucky to have a clean source of drinking water and many charities are doing good work to rectify this.
Searching for water
It is not good enough just saying you want to find water but you have to look for it and sometimes water is not to be seen.
Hidden water sources are often not far from sight so we will need to do a little recce to find suitable sources of H2O. There are some techniques and lateral observations which could point you in the right direction.
- Local knowledge
- Existing sources
- Streams or rivers
Local Knowledge of water sources
Living in France it is very apparent that our friendly local elderly population has an acute knowledge of local water sources. In our small French hamlet, they are a wealth of lived information. Ask the right questions and you will get quality local knowledge just come equipped with a good bottle of wine!
Existing water sources
Finding existing water sources can be easy if you have an old stone well or spring to view. But sometimes water sources are hidden or degraded over time. Our land has an old stone Well but frankly, it was unusable.
But this old well told us that there was water on our land at some point. Luckily after digging a few feet down water was showing so it confirmed that my water table was high.
Water divining or witching
Wikipedia says, “Divination, or “to be inspired by a god”, is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual.”
So if you want to consider this as a black art then call it ‘water divining’ but otherwise we call the searching for water as ‘Dowsing’! I am not going into too much detail here as I feel this subject requires its own article.
Dowsing is an ancient art and a fascinating subject. I have known people to find water with repeated success using the dowsing method.
Geology is the science behind our Earths physical structure and what makes this planet. Geology is an interesting yet locationally different subject.
Your local geology will affect the strata of your land. Understanding the makeup of our land is the first step to finding invisible water. The strata are made from layers of rock and have a grain which water can pass and be filtered. Geology can present us with visual spring or hidden water source.
Streams or Rivers
Physical water in the form of a river, stream or even a lake are all potential water source but not without risk. All exposed water sources have the potential for human contamination. In third world countries where clean drinking water is a valuable resource for life, we take our knowledge and availability of water for granted.
The danger is that ignorance has polluted their water. Urination and the surface runoff of chemicals are poisoning the inhabitants.
Western civilisations have the education to make good judgements and as a result, we understand that we must value what is available. We must not pollute our own water!
Think of a spring as a leak from an Aquifer which we will explain soon. This leak could be the results of pressure that is induced by the sheer weight exerted on the rock or a lesion. Spring is considered as the purest source of H2o but most springs have been with us for millions of years already so the idea of making a new one is unfeasible.
The Aquifer is the water storage that supplies the spring. If you want to understand via an analogy, think of a bath of water as the Aquifer and the overflow as the spring! When the bath(aquifer) is full and you add more water then the excess will go down the overflow (spring)
What are your options?
Luckily because of centuries of learning about water and where it comes from has given us the information we need to source our own water.
We can get our water from:
- Surface water capture
The well is a great old way to capture and store water but it is not without problems. Our property has a well but it was too far from the house and it had collapsed. But because there was a Well we were confident there was water down below.
Check your local code
The idea that you can dig a Well anywhere is not something you can do in the suburbs without checking it is legal for it. I know that many remote locations have their water supply on the Hush Hush!
So if you want to dig a well by hand be prepared
Digging a Well by hand is no mean feat. Believe me, I know. We dug our well by hand and just dug and dug and still there was more to dig.
When digging a well you will need to be prepared to take precautions to prevent collapse. Depending on your local strata your safety precautions will differ. Our situation was our strata was shale or some kind of soft stone. This helped support the walls of the Well. Be careful as yours might be sandy loam which will need support.
How to dig and construct a Well
Traditionally digging a well is actually very easy to understand the principle. A Brick built Well is constructed in stages.
How to dig a traditional well safely
Okay, you now know where you want to dig your new Well. The below method works well for non-supportive strata.
- Mark a circle on the ground
- Dig with a Matlock and spade to your height so you can still get out
- Mix some strong bricklaying mortar
- Line the hole with hard-fired clay bricks such as flettons
- Leave a couple of days so the new brick tube is strong
- Sounds odd but start digging again to 3ft or one meter being careful not to undermine the brick wall
- Now start to dig just under the wall and scrape away the soil evenly.
- The walled tube should start to slide under its own gravity, bit by bit to the new level.
- Once settled, carry on laying bricks onto the wall and allow to set hard.
- Repeat the above process until deep enough for a reliable flow of water
- Each day you will find water in the well so you will need to pump it out so you can continue to work
Mechanical Well Drilling
After digging a Well with a spade and bucket. The idea of getting a ‘Well drill’ is a dreamy prospect. The process of drilling a well is fast and clean. Basically a drilling rig consists of an Archimedes drilling rig and concrete tubes. You might find a farmer with the appropriate kit.
Tapping a Spring
The tapping of spring is like the capping an oil well. If you have an obvious source of water you can tap into it. How I would do this as a practical man is by using the spring to fill a sump so you can pump the collected water in the sump. The sump is continuously filled by the spring and the availability of the water is as proficient as the spring itself.
Drilling for water
The borehole is a method of seeking water that my Great Grandfather did in North Walsham of the UK. There are many different ways of drilling form water but I will elaborate in another blog. Here I will just give you the concepts. My great grandfather drives his well using a 2” gas pipe and a block of wood and a big hammer. There are other ways but this will give you an idea. The Gas was threaded so it was easy to connect together.
First, he made a length of pipe into a drill and water drawing gauze. Mr Kett flattened the end of the pipe and tempered it to harden the edge 3 feet up he drilled lots of holes for the water to be drawn.
Starting with the drill section he impacted the drill into the ground until the top was almost flush with the ground. He then screwed on, another length of pipe. He repeated this until he met a sustainable source of water. The tapped water was under pressure and flowed until it resided. At this point, it was possible to prime the bore and connect a surface pump.
Water sources such as Rivers and lakes
These sources of water need serious treatments as they can carry toxins. Rivers and lakes are basically water runoff from the land. Either via groundwater or spring. Using this water is ok for us but should not be considered for drinking
Seawater is salty and we are not built to drink too much salt. We can tolerate small quantities of salt and process it without a problem. Our kidneys can process a certain amount of salt which leaves our bodies our urine. Because of this if we consume too much salt we will dehydrate and potentially die.
The salt can be separated from seawater through a variety of processes. Water desalination can be performed with processes such as:
- Reverse Osmosis
- Membrane Distillation
- Electrodialysis Reversal
- Forward osmosis
You can also create drinking water from seawater by boiling it and condensing.
Ground and Surface water Capture.
The capture of rainwater from our roofs or hard landscaping is another opportunity to capture and reuse otherwise wasted water. This water could go through a filtration process but I have seen many systems where the water is used to flush toilets or washing.