Homesteading in Arizona is attractive because of the low cost of land, sparse population, and plentiful solar power potential. But, water issues and heat can be a potential pitfall if you don’t due your homework. Here is everything you need to know about homesteading in Arizona.
Arizona Homesteading Laws
When many people think of homesteading in America, they think of the law that existed in the 18th century that provided free land from the government so long as a family lived and worked the land. There is no homestead act currently in force that allows for free land in Arizona.
There are still opportunities to find free land in the United States if you know where to look —
Legality of Homesteading in Arizona
You may wonder, is living homesteading in the sense of living self sufficiently legal in Arizona?
There is no specific law preventing an individual from making their own way in Arizona. In general, self production of food and electricity in the United States in considered a protective right —
However, there are a litany of local building codes, zoning laws, nuisance ordinances, and miscellaneous land contract obligations that may restrict your ability to live the way that you want. This is true for any state, but Arizona is a 1.5 out of 10 on my Freedom Index. See:
Off Grid Energy In Arizona
Arizona is plentiful in solar energy potential, averaging between 6–7 Wh/day for every watt of array potential you have. That means a 1kW array would produce about 6.5 kWh on average throughout the year. Some of the highest energy production in the United States.
Note that you can’t plan an off grid solar system around yearly averages. If you are considering an off grid solar system, read my free complete guide to designing your own low cost system —
Wind power potential in Arizona is fairly low on average, with 80m wind speed averages around 4.5 m/s in most of the state. However, some localized areas have average wind speeds approaching 7 m/s, making it a potentially useful energy source in certain parts of Arizona. See the wind map below for details.
Note that this map shows average wind speed at 80m, about 250 ft, above the ground. Ground wind speeds vary considerably due to terrain, the tops of hills or valleys that act as wind tunnels usually being better. Be sure to measure the wind at any particular property before you commit to installing wind power at that location.
Water Considerations on a Arizona Homestead
Arizona is a very dry state, receiving on average 13” per year. The wettest regions are in the mountains in the center and center east of the state, with some areas receiving about 30” per year. Drier regions in the southwest may receive almost no rain.
Rainwater Harvesting in Arizona
With an average 13” per year, every 100 sqft of horizontal roof space would produce 810 gallons of water collected, ignoring any losses due to evaporation or first flush systems.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Arizona. Two House Bills, 2363 and 2830, support this. House Bill 2363 establishes a joint legislative study committee on macro-harvested rainwater, allowing for the study and evaluation of scientific data, costs and benefits, and potential impact on water rights. House Bill 2830, through the Department of Water Resources, allows for a city or town to establish a fund for rainwater harvesting systems.
For more info on rainwater collection —
- Off Grid Rainwater Collection - Complete How To Guide
- Estimate How Much Rainwater You Can Collect the Easy Way
This video produced by an Arizona homesteader shows his rainwater collection setup.
Deep Water Wells
The most reliable source of off grid water in Arizona is a deep water well. However, the costs can be considerable depending on the depth of the well.
According to USGS aggregated well data, Arizona groundwater depths can vary from less that 100 ft to more than 1000 ft deep from region to region. With drilling costs between $25 to $65 per foot, costs of acquiring and pumping deep water well should be researched on a property by property basis before committing to deep water well in Arizona.
Growing Food in Arizona
Arizona has two optimal growing seasons with one in the spring, and the other in the fall. In the winter, days are very cold and short, while summer days are long and reach extremes of temperature.
Because of the high variation in climate, choose plant varieties that mature quickly so they complete their entire life cycle in a single season. More information on growing plants in Arizona on the Arizona extension website.
Arizona spans USDA hardiness zones 4a to 10b, depending on region. However, due to climate variations, hardiness zone numbers are not particularly telling about the climate in Arizona.
Koppen climate designations are a more telling indicator of what can be grown in a particular area. While most of the state is arid or desert, mountainous areas have a more bountiful Mediterranean climate.
Many areas of Arizona are suitable for growing wide variety of foods and self-sufficient agriculture, although water efficient plant varieties should be preferred.
Dealing with the Heat
One major consideration when building in Arizona is overcoming the extreme heat of the summer, while still surviving the cold winters.
A method that has proven to work are “Earthship” buildings that are partially underground and made out of earth. These environmentally friendly buildings have immense passive cooling and heating potential, while maintaining all the comforts of a modern home. Additionally Earthships can be relatively low cost and if you are interested in doing some of the work yourself.
There are a number of other lows cost Earth building methods suitable for the Arizona climate that you can learn to do yourself, which I described here –
If you cannot live without air conditioning, it is certainly possible to get off grid AC running from solar panels. Check out my previous article where I describe how to get an off grid AC system running efficiently from solar, plus a couple of ideas to reduce the cost of your cooling system.
Resources for New Arizona Homesteaders
Here are some people that I’ve found who are homesteaders in Arizona with an online presence.
- Arizona Hot Homestead — a blog by an Arizona homesteader
- Weed’em and Reap — an Arizona urban farmer
- homesteadonomics — a YouTube channel by an Arizona homesteader
Can you live off grid in Arizona?
Yes, living off the grid is both practically and legally possible in Arizona. All regions of Arizona have great solar energy access. Water is scarce, but rainwater harvesting and or deep water wells can supply sufficient quantity with proper design.
Is homesteading legal in Arizona?
There is no law against homesteading in Arizona, although there may be specific laws regulating particular homesteading activities such as raising livestock or using water for agriculture in particular regions. Rainwater collection and off grid solar energy are legal in Arizona.