How Do You Get Water Without a Well? 3 Things (2024) You Must Know

If you are thinking of living off the land or going off-grid, you probably assume a well is necessary. But believe it or not, there are ways to get water without a well.

Drilling for water is one of the most convenient options when there is no public water, but it is also expensive.

Besides well water, off-grid water sources typically include lake water and rainwater. Drilling for water isn’t always feasible either.

Depending on your property’s location, whether you have water rights or not, and the depth of groundwater, a well may not work for you. But you can use other methods to get the water you need from the sources you have access to. 

If drilling a well is out of your budget, here are a few options.

1. Self-Haul

The most basic option is to haul your water from the closest public water station or other sources.

With enough portable water jugs and a trailer, you can probably get away with hauling water once a week.

Of course, this option presents several challenges if you are planning to live full-time on your property.

But it could be a good, inexpensive choice for a cabin or recreational lot.

This couple outlines their method for self-hauling water to their RV:

You can also rig a trailer with a larger water tank as shown in the below video:

Just be very careful about the source of your water!

Ensure the water has been properly filtered and purified, especially if you are using a natural water source.

If you need to purify your water yourself, there are several ways to do it:

bulletBoil It:

This is the old-fashioned method.

Boiling will kill many strains of bacteria, but keep in mind that it is not effective at removing most heavy metal or chemical contaminants

You can check out the EPA’s website on emergency disinfection of water for more information.

bulletFilter It:

There are a number of water filters on the market now and any of them will work.

Just be sure to check which kinds of contaminants your filter will be removing.

Most filters are good at removing certain kinds of contaminants but not all of them. You will want one that meets your needs.

You can take a look at the CDC’s website for more information on different kinds of filters.

Also, you will need to consider which kind of filter will actually work for you.

A pitcher-style filter will likely not cut it if you have to filter all of the water you use.

Likewise, if you don’t have a sink or water pipes installed in your house, faucet or sink-mounted options aren’t going to work.

Fortunately, some larger countertop water filtration systems are a good fit for a dry cabin.

2. Water Haul Services

Another option to get water without a well is having a water haul service fill up your cistern.

This is one of the most convenient options in the absence of public water or a well.

However, you will need to install a cistern or storage tank as well as a method of distributing the water to your home.

This will have an upfront cost that can range from $2,000 to $20,000 depending on the nature of your system and whether the tank is underground or aboveground.

Underground tanks are going to be more expensive, but if you are in an area that freezes, you will need to place your tank below the frost line (i.e. underground).

Alternatively, you can place the cistern in your house or other weatherized location.

Most importantly, you will also need to verify that a hauling service is available in your area!

3. Rainwater Harvesting

Another option is to capture rainwater for use on-site.

This kind of system can either be a secondary system or, in some cases, your primary one.

Rainwater harvesting can also be used to supplement municipal water for those interested in conserving resources. 

Before considering rainwater harvesting, you should first complete some basic due diligence.

bullet1. Check out any regulations governing rainwater collection systems in your state. 

You can use the following map for basic regulations in each state.

bullet2. Determine how much water you can reasonably collect.

First, take a look at the monthly rainfall in your area.

Then, use the following formula to estimate how many gallons of water you will be able to collect per month: 

Catchment Area (roof size)(square feet) x Monthly Rainfall (inches) x Conversion Factor x Collection Factor


1. Catchment area (roof size) is the size of the roof where rainfall will be collected.

2. Monthly rainfall is the number of inches of rainfall for the month.

3. Collection factor is a factor applied to the total monthly harvesting potential to account for losses in the system. The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting recommends using between 75% and 90% depending on how efficient the rainwater harvesting system is at collecting rainfall.

4. Conversion factor is a factor of 0.62 used to convert inches of rain that fall onto the roof area to total monthly gallons of harvesting potential.

If rainwater harvesting makes sense for you after completing your basic due diligence, check out Texas’ excellent guide on rainwater harvesting systems to plan out yours.

A basic rainwater harvesting system captures rainwater, usually from the roof, and feeds it to a cistern or storage tank.

It filters the water (depending on what you want to use the water for) and pumps it back to your house.

There are many options for the various components of the rainwater system.

A good, easy-to-digest summary on rainwater harvesting systems is available from MorningChores, but the Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting is where you’ll really want to look.

What About Waste Water? 

You don’t need to be on-grid to properly dispose of wastewater. Yet, most homeowners have questions about this component of their water system. 

We recommend either a septic system or gray water pit to dispose of your wastewater. If you want to have a regular indoor toilet on your property, you’ll likely need to have a septic system to abide by local laws. Double-check your municipality’s regulations to ensure you’re following all directives.

What Is the Best Way For You to Get Water Without a Well?

Each of these options can be a great way to get water without a well, but they do come with some complications.

A few questions to ask yourself include:

bulletHow much water do I need?

bulletHow much money do I want to spend upfront?

bulletHow much time do I want to put into collecting water each week?

bulletHow important is reliable service?

bulletIs there a water haul service in my area?

bulletDo I get enough rainfall in my area to collect sufficient water to serve my needs?

bulletWill I be able to filter my water properly?

For reliable water service, you may want to try a combination of options since none of the above alternatives will be as dependable as a well or municipal service.

Or you may just want to find a parcel of cheap land that allows you to drill a well!

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience, and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


7 thoughts on “How Do You Get Water Without a Well? 3 Things (2024) You Must Know”

  1. I like your website and YouTube videos. My husband and i are looking for land. I found you one night at two a.m. whilst surfing real estate. How do i comment on YouTube to enter your drawing? I’m not too good at technology?

    • Hello Kim, thank you for your message! To leave a comment on our Free Land Giveaway video, go to this link,, and then write a comment where you see “add public comment.” Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    • Great article. We use to haul OUR own water on my dads property and we ended up Accidentally making a well. We were digging a hole to bury a 200 gallon container and water started coming out. Now we just pump water from there I guess we just got lucky. I love watching your videos and I can’t wait to find that perfect property that I just can’t pass up.


  3. Allow for seasonal variation and droughts when planning; does the level of the water table drop at times?
    In some cases you may want a (large) fire-fighting reserve tank and whatever hookup arrangements the local fire department needs. Fire trucks can only carry a limited amount of water.
    If unattended land, possible security concerns? Someone hooks a hose to your water, or opens a faucet and leaves it on.
    PEST-PROOF water storage, don’t want to discover a drowned critter in the main water tank.

    • These are great points, thank you Scott! I will add them to the post.


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