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Water Tower or Retaining Pond for your Homestead Site

Updated on May 22, 2018
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Ward Tipton is an avid traveler and outdoorsman seeking to reestablish a web presence and share fun, informative articles!

 
Water Tanks tend to stand out and be glaringly obvious in more natural environments but tend to provide more control over the water, its contents and the flow. Retaining ponds blend into the surrounding natural environment much better, but in addition to being open to the world and susceptible to poisoning in one fashion or another, they may also lead to legal battles that could not be foreseen unless you know the principles of arbitrary law (and the “legal” system that arbitrarily enforces them) … or if you have read this article and know what to look for.

Making the Choice

For those people who are wanting to live off the grid on their own little plot of land somewhere far clear of “civilized” society, water will still be an essential part of their life. It could be argued that the natural waters available in the great outdoors may even be more beneficial than the chemical-laden water that is piped in through the cities, but that is an argument for a separate article. Still, some of these people prefer to dig or otherwise build a retaining pond while some will inevitably prefer the convenience and relative safety of a water tower or water tank. Which one is right for you? As is always the case, it depends on what your individual needs are at the end of the day … and also what laws may be in place where you are building your homestead.


For a great many homesteaders, anonymity is only a benefit of living in the great outdoors. However, they also want privacy, and as such, tend to build homesteads that are all but invisible to the casual passers by. A large, reflective and very obvious water storage tank towering over their property would be a pretty strong indication of a human presence and would serve almost as a homing beacon, leading people directly to their intentionally isolated homestead. In short, the water tower, while providing some conveniences, may also serve as a great big welcome sign attracting everyone from the unwanted hikers and campers coming by to help themselves to a drink to the more criminal element seeking to deprive the homesteader of the literal and figurative fruits of their labor. Still, there are a great many benefits to consider that may make the water tower the preferred choice. Some of the benefits will be considered here in this section, but be sure to read through to the end to see some of the detriments about having a retaining pond before making any final decisions.

 
Water towers allow for a great deal more control of the water flow and prevent the major portion of foreign substances from getting into the domestic water supply.

Why Water Towers are Good Options

A well placed water tower that is built sufficiently high can virtually guarantee a good flow of water throughout the Homestead and all of its structures. Furthermore, with the proper planning, design and implementation, the water tower can quite literally be an automated time saver, giving the homesteader substantially more time to enjoy their life while greatly reducing their personal workload.

The water tower should always be built at the highest accessible point of the property. For filling, it should be noted that wherever the source of water may be, it will be easier to pump or “push” the water up to the water storage tank on the top of the water tower than it would be to try to pump or “pull” the water up from the storage tank itself. This can easily be accomplished by building a smaller water storage unit at the ground level where the water is brought up out of the ground. The small water storage unit may (or may not be) sealed if there is a desire to prevent foreign materials from entering the water supply. (Which is never a bad idea in all honesty) The smaller water storage unit should be large enough to contain a sufficient amount of water for the pump pushing the water up into the tank to run continuously without danger of running out of water … and subsequently burning up the pump motor. This should allow for a shutoff valve to be installed in the water tower storage tank so that this process can be automated as well, though in the early phases of homesteading, it may be beneficial to operate these pumps manually.

A trough or a series of troughs can easily be established with simple valves in much the same way as a toilet, leading to a fully automated watering system for any of the livestock. Likewise, drip systems can be added to allow for yards and even gardens and larger-scale farming efforts to virtually water themselves as needed. If you are feeling especially “creative” or inspired, many water towers are integrated directly into sub-systems on the homestead. It is relatively easy to build an encircling “footfarm” walkway up around the outside of the water tower, allowing for the uninterrupted flow of water through the farming system. When utilizing viable soils, these footfarms have shown to greatly increase production of herbs and spices that will allow any homesteader to make Whole Foods jealous from the available selection of natural goods that can be grown. Additional options may include a fish pond at the base of the water tower, with any excess runoff from the tower or tank to aerate … or at least to help to aerate the fish pond.

A water tower and water storage tank that is built up, should also be built with a roof over top of the actual storage tank. This will assist in keeping the ambient temperature of the water within more reasonable levels. Furthermore, the tank should be white, aluminum or silver in color so as to prevent the absorption of whatever direct sunlight does fall on the water storage tank. (There may be regulations and/or other laws or statutes regarding the use of reflective surfaces and/or paints due to the ability to blind passing drivers or even passing aircraft) In some climates that are either extremely hot and/or extremely cold it may even be beneficial to build an outer enclosure for the water storage tank. Some areas such as the high desert of Northern Nevada see summertime temperatures hovering over one hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit (more than forty-three degrees Celsius) and negative twenty degrees Fahrenheit (or nearly negative twenty-nine degrees Celsius) meaning that the water in the water storage tank, if not properly insulated, will probably be either too hot to use or too frozen to move.

 
A large enough retaining pond can be great for everything from relaxing canoe trips to skinny-dipping, fishing and even just laying out on a little “beachfront” while enjoying the barbecue and the local beauties tanning their hides … pun intended (And ten “Pointless Points” for anyone who actually got the joke) A large enough retaining pond can be great for everything from relaxing canoe trips to skinny-dipping, fishing and even just laying out on a little “beachfront” while enjoying the barbecue and the local beauties tanning their hides … pun intended (And ten “Pointless Points” for anyone who actually got the joke)

Benefits of a Retaining Pond

When everything is said and done at the end of the day, unless you intentionally want to keep people out of your homestead and even off your property, a Water Tower and Water Storage Tank really are a great way to make it happen, but some people still prefer to use a retaining pond. Personally, I am all for the retaining pond method as every homestead I have ever built has had a retaining pond … either already being in place when I moved in, or being constructed (or dug out) shortly thereafter … but then again, I apparently am starting to get old or something, and even more painfully obvious is the fact that I grew up in a different era … though seemingly a different world in many respects.

In my last homestead in the US, I built in the very arid salt lakes north of Reno, almost up to the Oregon border and just outside the California State line. We were fortunate that the land there was readily available in sizable parcels during many a tax lien auction by the county and state … back before the city began demanding taxes too … and everybody claiming I owed them taxes for roads and utilities and nobody wanting or even willing to build the roads and/or utilities … but I digress. My father, amazing man that he was, had done his due diligence with the dowsing rods before we purchased any ground, and we knew there was a substantial volume of water in the one location we selected first. As it turned out, when we put in a hundred foot well, we had a seventy foot head of water … meaning that the local aquifers were roughly thirty feet down … meaning we could easily build a very nice retaining pond … which we did in short order.

To fill up the retaining pond, we used our first windmill that we had originally built to generate minimal levels of power when we were still only able to spend the occasional weekends out on the homestead. This was a home made affair, built using two fifty-five gallon drums, the rear axle from one of the junk cars and a rather crude, but effective centrifugal brake that would stop it once the winds began topping sixty or eighty miles an hour … (or roughly ninety-five to more than one hundred and twenty-five kilometers an hour) which was actually fairly common in the high desert … though occasional “gusts” rolling across the open desert would routinely exceed one hundred miles (or more than one hundred and sixty kilometers) an hour and blow tractor trailers over without difficulty. Eventually we replaced this with a more commercial model windmill which we used until someone stole it while we were away … but again, that is a topic for a different article.

Around the vast majority of the retention or retaining pond we just left the bare desert, though scrub brush, sage and other growth did seem to accelerate around the edges, even with the large levels of salt in the ground. We stocked the pond with bluegill as they are a hearty breed and can live for months at a time even under the ice. Over the course of time, there may have been other species introduced, but I am not sure exactly what they were or whether the occurrence was natural or not. Still, this was our little social gathering place when we were not out on the rifle range or out flying one of our experimental aircraft or riding bikes, or horseback riding or any one of a hundred other ways we had of passing the time. I suppose as often as not, my dad and I had spark plugs tied on to the end of the fishing line so the bluegills would not constantly bother us as we tried to relax, but we could also eat easily enough even if we were to run short on supplies. All things being equal, I have to say that if I had a personal choice between a water storage tank and a retaining pond, that the retaining pond would always be my choice … but therein is the caveat … the government and the law do not always give us a choice so much as force us to make decisions … in this case, whether or not we were some kind of environmental terrorists for digging a pond.

Fortunately, it never came to such a scenario for me and my dad. I have very little doubt that my dad would have gone down firing if some guy from the EPA had come around talking about wetlands in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately however, these days, scenarios like that actually do play out, even in cases … or perhaps more accurately, especially in cases wherein the homesteaders have built their own ponds and even “natural” waterways for food forests and other wholly natural means of growth. In short, the government has openly declared that it can, arbitrarily establish lands as wetlands, regardless of the natural state of that land and may lay claim to any and all moisture on said lands, based on the fact that it will, ostensibly at least, at some point in time, flow into something that may or may not become a navigable waterway. And if that is not about the most convoluted and confusing concept for consideration … it sure should be!

If you are a homesteader, you are already going to be viewed in an awkward light by the proverbial powers that be. It does not matter if you actually are the proverbial paranoid prepper or the more lighthearted and good natured vegan gone green, you are all viewed in one and the same light by the government … and always with more than a mere modicum of suspicion. If you live outside the machinations of society, you must not be contributing to that society, and apparently in their eyes, this is a bad thing … and they will not hesitate to take it out on you. For better or for worse, at the end of the day these days, it may very well be much smarter to just go ahead and install the water tower and the water storage tank and be done with it.

 
There are cases where people have been fined by the government for trapping rainwater and other cases wherein mud puddles and other temporary bodies of water have been declared as “wetlands” … and subsequently seeing any and all efforts to build on said lands shot down due to environmental concerns … even if the homesteader is the one who built the “wetlands” to begin with.

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