Local Water Supply

In transitioning from fossil fuels, providing essential services like potable water becomes a critical challenge. For a localist community with no access to mains electricity and water and a shrinking economy, innovative and sustainable approaches are necessary to ensure a reliable water supply. This piece explores the community’s strategies to secure clean drinking water, emphasizing self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship, and communal effort.

Harnessing Natural Water Sources

One of the primary steps a localist community would take is to identify and utilize natural water sources such as rivers, streams, springs, and rainwater. When managed properly, these sources can provide a consistent supply of water. Protecting these sources from contamination is crucial. This involves establishing buffer zones to prevent agricultural runoff, waste disposal, and other pollutants from entering water bodies.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is a practical and effective method for communities without mains water and electricity. The community can capture and store rainwater by installing collection systems on rooftops and other surfaces. This involves setting up gutters, downspouts, and storage tanks, ranging from simple barrels to giant cisterns. Basic filtration systems can remove debris and contaminants to ensure potable water. Simple sand and charcoal filters can significantly improve water quality, making it safe for consumption.

Gravity-Fed Water Systems

Gravity-fed water systems offer an efficient solution for communities in areas with elevation changes. Water from a higher elevation source, such as a spring, can be channelled through a network of pipes to reach the community. These systems require minimal energy input and can be maintained with basic tools and materials. Sedimentation tanks can allow particles to settle before the water is distributed to homes to ensure a consistent flow of clean water.

Solar Water Purification

Despite the lack of advanced solar technology, basic water purification methods can still be utilized. Solar stills use the sun’s heat to evaporate and condense water, effectively removing impurities and pathogens. These systems are simple to construct and operate, requiring only sunlight and basic materials such as glass, plastic sheeting, and containers. This method provides a low-tech yet effective solution for water purification.

Human-Powered Water Systems

Without electricity, human-powered systems can play a crucial role in water management. Hand pumps and treadle pumps, for example, can be used to draw water from wells and boreholes. These devices are simple to operate and maintain, providing reliable access to groundwater. Additionally, bicycle-powered water pumps can transport water from distant sources, leveraging mechanical energy generated by human effort.

Not so long ago, houses were built with tank storage under the house with hand pumps on sinks, baths and elsewhere.

Community-Based Management

Effective water management in a community relies heavily on collective effort and shared responsibility. Establishing a community water committee can help oversee the operation and maintenance of water systems. This committee monitors water quality, organises maintenance schedules, and ensures equitable distribution. Community education programs on water conservation and hygiene can further support these efforts, fostering a culture of sustainability and mutual care.

Sustainable Economic Practices

With a shrinking economy, the community must adopt sustainable economic practices that support their water supply initiatives. This includes promoting local agriculture that uses water-efficient techniques, such as drip irrigation and permaculture. By reducing water demand and enhancing the resilience of local food systems, the community can alleviate pressure on their water resources. Additionally, engaging in local trade and bartering can strengthen the community’s economy, ensuring that resources are circulated and utilized effectively.

Resilience and Adaptation

Building resilience is key to ensuring a reliable water supply amidst economic and environmental uncertainties. This involves not only physical infrastructure but also social and institutional mechanisms. Developing contingency plans for droughts or other disruptions, diversifying water sources, and fostering strong community networks can help the community adapt to changing conditions. Regular assessments and flexibility in water management practices will enable the community to respond proactively to challenges.

Plumbing equipment and expertise may be readily available in the early days of the transition to localism. To ensure resilience, thought should be given to what will be needed when the products of the previous industrial era cease to be available. The community library should research the water networks of previous centuries.


In a post-fossil fuel era with no mains electricity and water and a shrinking economy, a localist community can successfully provide a potable water supply through a combination of traditional knowledge, innovative low-tech solutions, and collective action. By harnessing natural resources, utilizing simple mechanical and solar technologies, and fostering a strong sense of community responsibility, such a community can ensure the sustainability and reliability of its water supply. This approach addresses immediate needs and lays the foundation for long-term resilience and self-sufficiency.

Comments 2

  • One of the main consequences of localism is that the community will for the first time after many years be responsible for their own water supply and therefore the health of the people they live with.

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