How to find out if there’s water on your off-grid property

How to find out if there's water on your off-grid propertyIf you plan on buying country property you must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh, potable water before agreeing on a down payment.  To find out if there’s water on your off-grid property there are a few things you should look into.

Many of the people I know have bought a country property in the last five years due to various reasons. Some wanted to have a peaceful retreat where they could spend their free time to connect with nature, while others just wanted to try the off-grid living and test their abilities to survive. Regardless the reasons behind their country retreats, they all agree that without water their properties would be worthless. You have to consider that with a good supply of water everything is possible and both humans and animals need this precious resource in order to survive.

Assessing your future country property is imperative before singing the papers and it will help you discover if there’s water on your off-grid property and if you made a good choice. Sure, you might develop a water system, but this can be a time-consuming effort and it will cost you, more or less, depending on where your property is located.

Look for existing water systems

You should start your search for water by looking at the existing systems available on the property. If there is a well along with plumbing in the house or at the fields, you might be in luck. Even so, you need to test the system out as completely as possible. Start by trying the taps one at the time and then let them run all at once. Observe if the water pressure drops significantly when you leave all the taps on. Regardless the type of water systems already installed on your backcountry property, you must test the water pressure and let the water run for a few hours. Even more, you must make sure that the water has been tested for minerals, especially salt. You can take a water sample with you and test it, just to be sure that the water is potable. You should keep in mind that even water with a low salt content can be useless for drinking and irrigation. You will have to install a desalination plant and that won’t be cheap.


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Look for existing aboveground water sources

It took us more than a year before we bought our backcountry property because we wanted to visit the property in different season before purchasing it. This is highly recommended if you want to know if there’s water on your off-grid property throughout the year. There might be a fast flow of water on your off-grid property in spring, but are you sure that it will last during the scorching days of summer?

If you want to use the water source for recreational purposes such as swimming or fishing, a river or pond on the property may be ideal, but even so you must be certain it won’t dry up during the summer. A close friend of ours bought a property with freshwater spring bubbling up from the earth and it provided him with drinking water for 3 years before drying out. This is why it is important to assess your property and identify the available water sources before going forward with the transaction. Even more, the water should be tested for pollutants, because if a logging operation or other type of facility is dumping their waste water upstream, your water source will become unusable. Checking with the local authorities regarding the water rights is also imperative because if the property has water either aboveground or underground is not necessarily a guarantee that the owner has the right to exploit the water. Ask your lawyer to look into the water rights and if you can use the resource, you have to establish what is permitted and what is not. This will help you figure out if you can get water to your house and crops from where the water source is positioned. If the water is located below your living site, you would require a pump system to get your water needs. Even if the water is above the areas where you live, you may still need siphons and a piping system to get a constant flow.

If a marshland or a swamp is located on your country property, it will obviously provide you with a good amount of water, but there are some downsides to it. First of all, the land is not suited for construction unless it is drained and filled. Second, a marsh can’t be properly controlled and it provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and various other insects. The insects and the pests it harbors will become a problem for your property.


Suggested article: Questions to answer before buying off-grid land


Look for specific plants to find out if there’s water on your off-grid property

This is a lesson I’ve learned from my grandfather and it’s something that proved useful over the years and made me realize that the teachings of our elders should be kept alive. The plants that grow on your backcountry property can tell you the secrets that lie beneath the ground. I was pleased to find out that elderberry shrubs were growing on our property since this meant that water should be found about 10 feet down. There are many plants that can provide clues and let you know if there’s water on your off-grid property. Look for the following plants before buying the property:

Saltbush – this plant indicates that water may be near the surface, but you have to test it to establish the quality as these plants can thrive with poor water quality.

Pickleweed– if this plant is growing on your property, there is salty water at or just below the surface of the ground.

Mesquite – this tree grows in dry lands and its roots will dig down for any available water. This means that you can find water from 10 to 30 feet beneath the ground.

Black greasewood – This plant indicates the presence of mineralized water 10 to 40 feet down.

Rabbit brush – This plant usually grows in areas where there is water no more than 15 feet below the ground

Reeds– These plants are a good indicator to find water very close to the surface.

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How about public water supplies?

Your rural property can be connected to a utility company or there could be a possibility to connect it to such facility. However, there might be difficult to gain access to the water since some utilities are privately owned by companies or by associations of landowners. Hooking up to their water utilities to get water on your off-grid property can be expensive, unless the owner from whom you are buying the land already has an agreement with them. Make sure the water shares are included in the purchase contract in order to know what amount of water is entitled to you. And you also have to think about the off-grid factor, because if you depend on others to supply you with water, you will have your hands tied when they are no longer able to provide you with the resource.

Before purchasing any property, you must be certain there is a good supply of water available on your off-grid property or at least that you can have access to one without major obstacles. Spend some time to assess your future property, to identify the water sources and put them to the test. It will save you a big headache later down the road if you have water on your off-grid property.

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5 thoughts on “How to find out if there’s water on your off-grid property

  1. Just Had the well tested $285.00 of potential property i’m Buying, property vacant for a # of years . all checked out just fine. water at 12 ft below surface (rural) Bored well 30″ wide bottom 55 ft. Well guy said Nice well. all paper work had to go to county & Bank to get Loan, I had to go Home friend is out there cleaning it up for me. older House 1950-But he’s getting it liveable. no roof leaks, No bugs. replace a few Broken out windows,& appliances, ON grid for now. Temp electric for testing it as safe Etc;

  2. Your reference to mesquite trees is somewhat misleading. These trees are actually capable of sending roots as deep of 150 feet in search of reliable water. Moreover, the amount of water that a mesquite can survive on is far less than what you would need for drinking and domestic activities. Unless there is an underground stream in close proximity, mesquite trees survive on runoff from intermittent rainfall (Southwest summer monsoons and occasional winter rains). This is why they are predominantly found along ‘dry’ washes.

    • I concur with Ben. I live in southern Az. where lots of veg. lives including plenty of mesquite…the water tables is anywhere from 300 to 500 feet down. mesquite live off of incidental runoff and survive much longer than i would without water.

  3. Also a neighbor drilling a well could dry up your spring or well, especially if it’s an irrigation well deeper than your water source.

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