Cost of Convenience

Living off grid is an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways, one of which is how costly conveniences can be. A lot of work and expense has been applied to conveniences development here, but these conveniences are costly in terms of both money spent enhancing natural environment with modern facilities to utilize natural resources (i.e. photo voltaic arrays and related solar power conversion and storage equipment, water wells drilled and equipped with submersible pumps and cisterns to supply fresh water to the house and to the yard spigot), but even more significant are natural resource utilization costs incurred as a result of increased consumption thanks to conveniences development.


Taking water consumption as an example, I consume 71.5 gallons per day on average, pumping the well once per week to fill the underground cistern, content of which is then automatically transported to the house by solar powered pump keeping a small pressure tank filled for steady flow to sinks, washing machine, shower, and toilets. Of that 71.5 gallons per day I drink about 1/2 gallon. The rest goes to cooking, dishwashing, clothes washing, toilet flushing and bathing.


I don't bathe every day, only two or three times per week unless I'm working hard on some project requiring heavy, dirty, sweat-inducing physical labor. I don't water anything outside in the yard or meadow or anywhere else. I don't even waste water washing vehicles, letting rain and snowfall take care of that chore naturally. Solar energy is utilized to deliver the water to the house, but only a small portion of that energy is applied toward that purpose. The rest of it powers refrigerator, freezers, studio equipment and mobile computing devices–a minor guilt-diminishing practice for my fresh water gluttony.

So I consume 71 gallons of water each day for purposes other than hydration of my body for survival. That's almost 500 gallons per week. More than 2,000 gallons per month. Almost 26,000 gallons per year. Granted most of that is returned to the earth via septic system processing, and it's a lot less than the average 100 gallons per person per day used in most modern households, but good grief! Seventy one freaking gallons per freaking day!


I once managed to cut my water usage down to less than 17 gallons per day when the well could not be pumped due to equipment failure and I had to wait one month for purchase of replacement equipment. It wasn't extremely difficult to do that, but I'm not really anxious to relive that experience. The convenience of steady, pressurized flow of water to the house instills complacency for how much of that precious natural resource is consumed by the hour (almost 3 gallons here). If I were forced to lift water out of a stream or hand-dug well by the bucket full which then had to be carried into the house for use, I might be compelled to exercise a hell of a lot more care and conservancy in its use.