Fresh water: that single resource which every living entity on this earth requires and consumes in a never-ending fashion. I'm not sure if access to fresh drinking water was number one or number two on my land shopping list of criteria... but it was right up there.
Its availability was obvious on my first trip up the mountain in the depths of winter, as the whole hillside seeps year-round and glaciates through the frozen months. As spring came, I was able to identify the sources of several seeps- and start making a plan to clean up the trail, and begin figuring out which ones to attempt to isolate for drinking water.
A bit of ditch work here and there, some minor water crossings to shunt ever-flowing springs to the downhill side of the trail, and one handbuilt bridge has improved travel greatly. But we still fight glaciation in the winter, and mud in the spring and fall.
I hand dug in about 5 different mudhole springs before I found one I wanted to develop for drinking water. The first four (and likely, most of the other two dozen) all run laterally, that is, they are surface water running right below ground level and pooling at obstacles.
Our main spring is artesian. It bubbles right to the surface from deep. As far down as I dig, it just keeps coming straight up through sand and gravel. The water is cold and crystal clear. It runs at 35 degrees Fahrenheit. We had it comprehensively water tested, and the lab said its the most beautifully clean water they've ever seen from an open hole in the ground.
Since our homesite is off-road and seated on visible bedrock, well-drilling doesn't seem like much of an option. So we haul our drinking water every week of the year in 5 gallon buckets. We dug a pond at another spring, and for about 4-5 months of the year, we use a gas-powered pump to send washing/livestock/garden water up the mountain through a 2 inch PVC pipe.
There are also rain gutters on several of our buildings and catchment barrels to supplement our water supply. In the winter we can melt snow for washing, etc., when there is enough clean snow to melt.
At all of our bush cabins, we drink water straight from waterfalls, rivers and creeks that are very close to the homesites. But all of those cabins are built right in the riverbottoms too- so being up here on the mountainside is a different ballgame. There's a small stream below us, and another larger creek that drains a huge swamp above us... but no water on this level.
When people ask if we have running water, we always say "Yes, run-and-get-it". And that's good enough for us. See, when you have a woodstove for heat in a climate that stays subzero for months, piped in water is a real drawback. Inevitably pipes freeze eventually, and you can never get away without purging the system.
Next time you flip on a faucet or flush a toilet or jump in the shower or throw in a load of laundry, take a moment to pause- and think about conserving the most precious resource on the planet. If you were hauling every drop, you'd be certain to cut some corners- and save a little water for everyone else to share.
Why not consider shutting off the water supply for one day, or even one hour? Heck, shut off the power too- and see how quiet and basic things get. Try it, you might like it...