The term 'living of the grid' refers to an increasingly popular way of life, where individual homeowners aim to supply all their household energy needs without recourse to the established energy grid. Those living off the grid gain their energy from renewable energy sources, like the sun, the wind and the heat of the earth's surface, that are free to us all. The result is they have cheaper energy and their energy usage has a much reduced impact on the environment.
The practicability of living off the grid is increasing all the time, mainly due to advances in technology that is making solar panels, wind turbine sand geothermal heat pumps more affordable and reliable for individual households. For this reason the number of people choosing this way of life is rising all the time. People are attracted by the need to do something for the environment. They are also driven by the rapidly increasing prices for traditional energy sources, to look for a cheaper energy solution. Add to this the fact that it has a cool and trendy image at the moment, and I should imagine that the number of American households that are now living off the gird is much higher than the figure of 180,000 that was reported in USA Today in 2006 .
Whilst most people's idea of living off the grid is as described above, purists would argue that to really be 'off the grid' you need to remove yourself from the water grid as well. This means sourcing your own fresh drinking water and disposing of your waste water without recourse to the established system of sewers.
Personally I think it is worth trying to recycle water and collect and use rainwater or any other natural water sources you may have access to. The financial cost of cleaning water and the environmental impact of wasting water is significant. Anything we can all do to reduce water usage and wasteage is important. Recycling your bathwater to water your garden is one good example of what you can do in this regard. I am less convinced that it is possible or indeed desirable for everyone to live without using the sewage system. Sure it is possible for some people, usually those who live in larger properties or in rural areas, but it is not a practical option for most of us.
I believe that over the next decade we will see a massive rise in the number of households that are living off the grid when it comes to their energy needs. Hopefully as well, more and more people will look at harvesting their rainwater and recycling their waste water. As for taking sewage 'off the gird'? Well, I suggest we leave that to the purists.