Your Homestead Water System 101

Published by: Nick Meissner

Water Usage

How much water does the typical family use? Probably a lot more than they need to. What sort of things do you need to consider for your homestead water system? Lets start with how much water you need.

Here are some estimates of the typical water usage:

  • Average Adult or Child = 50-100 gal./day
  • Clothes Washing Machine = 30-50 gal./use
  • Shower/Tub = 25-60 gal./use
  • Toilet = 4-7 gal./use

(source: USDA Water Systems Handbook)

These are probably rather high estimates. But water is not something that you want to underestimate. One thing to decide when setting up your water system is, how conservative are you willing to be with water usage. The largest offender in water consumption is the irrigation of one's garden and lawn. While watering your lawn could be something you are willing to give up, a garden is very critical, and irrigation is key for good productivity. Information on low water consumption irrigation systems. If one is careful with water usage, the figures above can be improved upon. Using the minimum figures from the USDA, 3 adults would empty our 1,200 gal. cistern in approximately 4 days or less. In actuality, it usually lasts three of us 5 or 6 days. PLEASE BEAR IN MIND, though, that this is only domestic use. Irrigation for agriculture can be quite vital to success in many climates. Depending upon your needs and the climate you are in, this could take 2,000 gallons per day or more for an orchard, garden, and domestic use combined.  Please do not overlook this important consideration.  Water truly is "liquid gold"!


Another topic to consider is how to conserve water. A few very simple ways that do not affect your lifestyle are switching to a conservative toilet, using a shower head that that yields a good shower with less water, and using a Staber Washing Machine. Also, making sure that the washing machine is on the "large load" setting only when it truly is a large load. And as mentioned above, low water consumption irrigation is very critical. That is where you can experience some major water savings.

Understanding the Gravity Principle in Dealing with Water (PSI)

This is the principle that makes a waterfall work. Let's assume that you were to hold a pipe vertically in the air. This pipe is 10 feet long. Now you hold your hand over the bottom end of the pipe to seal it. Then someone climbs up a ladder and fills the pipe with water. Taking our principle, let's figure out how much pressure has built up. For every 2 feet of rise (or "head"), .87 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure will be formed. So 10 feet of rise (or head) will form 4.35 PSI.

How to Measure Water Flow (or gallons per minute)

If your water source is small enough for this to be feasible, the easiest way to check for water flow is to divert the water into one small stream and catch it in a bucket of a known capacity (usually 5 gallons). Then keep track of how many times the creek fills the bucket in one minute. Now multiply this number by the capacity of your bucket (in gallons) to find out how many gallons per minute your water source yields (Example: the creek fills the bucket 2 times per minute. The bucket holds 5 gallons. 2 times 5 equals 10 gallons per minute.) If your creek is too large for this method to work, use the Weir method described on under the "ram pumps" section on the "information requirements" page.


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