Ways to get water from a well in an emergency?

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Just enough time for a quick question before the lightning arrives in my neighborhood.

As some of you forum regulars know, I'm still bugged about how to get water out of the point driven well in my basement in an emergency.

I'd think about installing a hand pump (well is only 22 feet deep) but I don't have the expertise to do it alone and can't count on hubby for help.

So the question is: is it possible to set up an emergency siphon using a garden hose (provided we can remove enough stuff to get to the water)?

Post answers here, or feel free to email me.


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), July 19, 1999


Hi, FM,

It is theoretically possible to siphon water out of your well, but you need to have a place lower than the water level (whatever level the water reaches while siphoning) to run the water to, or it won't work.

Assuming that these conditions are right, you can run a piece of 1/2 inch poly pipe, or some other pipe which is AT LEAST as rigid as poly pipe down the hole, and out of the house to a low spot. Connect up a garden hose to the end of the poly pipe which is not down the well, turn it on high. If the garden hose has enough pressure to fill the poly pipe and get rid of all air bubbles, you can then turn off the hose, and the siphon will start. If the well draws down very near to being 22 feet below the highest part of the pipe (which is pretty likely, if you have to go upstairs to get the pipe outside before running downhill to a low spot, it will be iffy. I have siphoned from a well using this method from fifteen feet down. The theoretical limit for a siphon is one atmosphere pressure, which is about 14.7 pounds per square inch, which converts to almost thirty-four feet (at sea level; it is much lower if you live at high elevation) Unfortunately, in the real world, water begins to volitalize under high suction, so you will be unable to actually siphon from that deep. Twenty to twenty-five feet is generally considered the max for siphoning (or for pumping using a suction pump, for that matter)

Assuming you are able to start a siphon, you should then put the outflow end of the pipe into a bucket or something at the same elevation to which you want the well to draw down to. If your static level is, say, ten feet below the basement floor, try putting the bucket at an elevation that is fifteen feet below the basement floor. If you lower the bucket, keeping the pipe under water in it, you will get more water out of the siphon. If you raise the bucket and pipe, you will get less. But if you lower the bucket too much, you will either lose the siphon from water vaporization, or by sucking the well all the way to the bottom and siphoning air. Tnen you will have to start over.

Obviously, you'll have to start the siphon before you lose water. I advise that you try this soon, and if it works, set up the bucket, etc, and put a shut off valve on the end of the hose, so you won't be sucking water out of the well all the time.

By the way, the bucket is necessary to keep from losing the siphon, and the level you end up putting the bucket at is fairly critical.

If the siphon won't work, and it requires a fairly specific setup to do so, I recommend a simple pitcher pump. They are extremely easy to set up; check a plumbing supply house. These pumps are very cheap, very reliable, and will produce a large amount of water with very little effort. The folks at the plumbing supply will show you how to set it up.

Good luck. I would love to hear from you when you try the siphon.


-- jumpoffjoe (jumpoff@echoweb.net), July 19, 1999.

As stated, a small pitcher pump IS probably the best answer --- easier to install than you think, just need right adaptors and a little power to disconnect pipes as needed.

There is also a simple device you can make using 3/4 inch pvc pipe and a foot valve (about$20 total, get from local suppiers). You attach the valve to the end of the pvc pipe using pvc cement, add as many lengths as you need and insert in well. As you move this device in an up and down motion, water is forced to the top. Attach a fitting and hose to top to direct water into a bucket. I just mention this in case you're interested. If so, just leave note and I'll find the link foe explicit directions.

You could also get a small battery powered pump, a long enough hose for it (I suppose they're about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch diameter for these small pumps), run this hose down the well and pump it that way. 20 to 30 feet is not to far. As long as you can recharge the battery (as in auto 12volt), you wont have a problem.

-- Jon Johnson (narnia4@usa.net), July 19, 1999.

FM : Hey don't forget to put in a check valve at the bottom of the pvc pipe so that you can keep the water coming when you need it. The smallest check valve I have found is for 3/4 pvc pipe,ther might be smaller ones out there.? ? ? Furie...

-- Furie (furieart@dnet.net), July 19, 1999.

Heres link for $20.00 pump and instructions. I have materials to use this as a backup. I suppose on a driven point well you would have to remove any pipe(s) in well first. What I'm suggesting is , if nothing else, get materials. You or someone could then put it together and be using it in an hour or two if needed. You could adopt the same strategy for a handpump --- if you have the pump and fittings I would bet "hubby" will put it on in a minute if the power really goes out.

http://www.millennium- ark.net/News_Files/INFO_Files/Hand_Pump_Assembly.html

Pump Assembly Notes and Instructions Update 2 July 1999

Keith states he built this hand pump in 20 minutes for about US$20. It can be used in water wells that have no existing feed lines, wiring or submersible pumps in place, or in water wells with them in place by the addition of a 1-1/2" interior diameter PVC pipe as a pump guide sleeve. The 1-1/2" interior diameter PVC guide sleeve should have a cap glued on the bottom end and 1/2" holes drilled through the bottom pipe section above the end cap. The holes allow water to flow freely into the 1-1/2" interior diameter sleeve when it is submerged into water. The sleeve separates the hand pump from feed lines, wiring or submersible pumps so they do not rub during pumping. It also keeps the water clearer by keeping the hand pump off the bottom of the well. The guide sleeve can be bolted to the above ground well casing area with 1/2" carriage bolts and nuts. Be sure to seal the bolt holes with rubber washers or caulking. The guide sleeve and pump should extend down below the water table. As the foot valve of the pump is pushed down below the water table, the water flows up through the foot valve and into the pump shaft above it. The valve is open on the down stroke and closed on the up stroke. Repeated pumping motion shoves the water up the pipe and out the hose by a hydraulic ram effect. The water flows out the hose on the down stroke only.

Pump length is based on well depth and the water table height in it. The pump should be long enough to stay submerged in at least 3' - 5' of water so the pump remains in the water during the pumping motion cycle. Remember that water tables may change with seasonal conditions. If you know of wells that you may need to use in the future, you should get proper water samples from them and have them tested. Stagnant or unused wells should be cleaned out with a power pump and disinfected. Local health departments and well drillers maintain well records and can give you information on well depths, testing and on keeping wells sanitary. You can also measure a well and water table with a sanitized cord and plumb bob. When using untested well water, you should use water treatments (boiling, bleach, iodine, filters, etc.) to protect you from typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, giardia and other diseases.

You must disinfect your hands before using the well. Keep all the pump parts off the ground and disinfect them before placing them in the well. Sick persons must not have any contact with the well area, pump or water containers. Keep the area around the well sanitary and never drink from the hose or allow any waste water or animals near the well area.

Leaving the pump in the well and keeping the well cap on when not in use will help keep the well sanitary. If no sleeve is used in your well, you can hang the pump inside the casing by a cord with a prussik knot (Scout handbook) around the pump shaft. Install a hook below the well cap area on the inside of the casing and hang the pump from it. If you use a pump sleeve, you should make the sleeve about 2" shorter than the well casing top. Make the pump long enough to stand above the sleeve but still be short enough for the well cap to be replaced over the well casing. You can also wire a hook to the top of the pump shaft and hang it over the sleeve edge.

The pump can be made from copper and brass. It will cost more, be heavier and freeze easier in cold climates, but will allow the pump to be used on fuels from storage tanks. Some makes and models of brass foot valves are:

Simmons model 1402 Merril Series 810, model FV75 Water Ace model RFV75 Brady model SFV75 (plastic)

A plunger action check valve can be used but you should put a 1/8" screen over the intake end and secure it with a ring clamp to help keep any well debris out of the valve. Foot and check valves have a closure spring which may need to be trimmed down or removed to get the best flow rate from pressures generated by hand pumping.

The weep hole is about 1/8" diameter. It should be drilled through one side of the pump shaft above the foot valve but a good distance below the frost line in your area. This allows the water in the pump shaft to slowly drain back down into the well when the pumping stops. This helps keep the well from freezing in cold weather.

NOTE: This pump works great at depths of 0 to 20 feet; good at 20 to 35 feet; OK at 50 feet. It remains workable down to 75 feet for one person, but beyond that, it is too heavy for only one person to operate due to the increased water and pipe weight. It will work deeper and is limited only by the person's downward thrust with more energy than it takes to suspend the existing water column in the pipe.

If you need access to water at greater depths, the following changes can be made which will increase working depth to about 150 feet:

1.Substitute 1/2 inch PVC pipe instead of 3/4 inch for the pump sections, collars and adapters. 2.Do not drill the 1/2 inch holes in the 1-1/2 inch casing, keep the guide sleeve as a closed pipe except at the bottom. Use a 1-1/2 to 3/4 inch reducer as a replacement for part "S" (the end cap) and thread another 3/4 inch foot valve into it, facing downward into the well.

The finished product should be a 1-1/2 guide sleeve with a foot valve at the bottom and the 1/2 PVC pump with a foot valve on the bottom of it. The guide sleeve should be suspended into the water table at least 5 to ten feet. When the pump is stroked up, it will suck the water in through the guide sleeve foot valve. On the down stroke, the guide sleeve foot valve closes and the pump pipe foot valve opens, shoving it up the 1/2 pipe.

Flow rates of two to three gallons per minute are possible at this depth with a steady stroke. Mark your pipe lengths so you do not bottom out on your stroke when pumping. The reduction to 1/2 PVC reduces the overall weight of the unit to allow for the greater depth.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

The pump model displayed in only one of an endless number of pump variations you can build. Parts are becoming harder to find in quantity due to low inventory stocking practices at stores. Other pipe types, sizes, adapters and fittings can be readily made into pumps that will work with varying degrees of efficiency levels. A functional pump only needs a foot valve, a weep hole (cold climates), a stiff hollow pipe shaft above the valve for the water to flow up in, and a hose or side pipe discharge to get the water away from the pump shaft and into a container.

The best way to survive a power outage or any emergency is to prepare before it occurs. You need shelter, heat for cooking and warmth, water, food medicines, medical supplies, hygiene items and other things. These will not be easy to get in a power outage or emergency. Build a pump now while you can still get the parts. After a power outage will be too late.

...Return to the Parts page...Return to Hand Pump drawing

Beam me up Scotty

-- Jon Johnson (narnia4@usa.net), July 20, 1999.

I have gone to a decidedly low tech method of extracting water from my old well.

Lehmans ( www.lehmans.com ) sells a well bucket in two sizes: 4 inches or 5 inches X 36 inches long that will hold 2 - 3 gallons of water. These are designed to attach a rope to the steel ring at the top and lower into the well to fill.

I am setting up a small tripod over the well with a pully at the top directly over the well opening, and using a lightweight boat winch attached to one of the tripod legs, run a rope or light cable through the pully, attach to well bucket. I can raise and lower the bucket with the hand crank on the winch.

Just be sure your cable/rope is long enough to drop into the water in your well.

-- (Minuteman@Concord.com), July 20, 1999.

Hi, FM, I have a situation similar to yours but with a husband who's willing to put the pitcher pump in (just doesn't know how). We have a 6" diameter well in our basement, installed in 1935 and not used for who knows how long (we're on municipal water). The well is 38 ft deep with water about 18-20'. I have a pitcher pump and info from Coop Ext on shock chlorination to disinfect. We have been unable as yet to put on the pump and draw up water for samples. Hubby went down today to put the thing in and couldn't figure it (no instructions came with pump). We have a well seal and plastic pipe to put through the hole in the middle. We have the pitcher pump. Problem is, the pitcher pump has 4 bolt holes but what do we bolt it to? The 6" well casing is level with the concrete of the platform (which is about 3" higher than the concrete floor). The pump itself is only a foot or so high, so even if attached to the casing you would have to kneel to pump it and then you couldn't even put a 5 gal bucket underneath. Anybody got any easy install methods/advice so FM and I can get the darn pumps in?

-- Deb (deb@needhelp.com), July 20, 1999.

Answer for "DEB", home centers have 6" rubber boot connectors to attach to cast iron well casings. Buy one and then purchase a 6" PVC pipe 2' long to attach to other end of ruber boot. Attach your hand pump and you should be getting water. To just get water out of the well casing, I'd try a piece of pvc pipe about 2' long and weight the outside of it down. meaning put weights on the outside of the pvc, so it sinks below water level. Have a pvc cap on the end of the pipe the same diameter, drill two holes thru the pvc pipe at the open end and put a nylon line thru it to pull up the drawn water. Hope it helps... Furie...

-- Furie (furieart@dnet.net), July 21, 1999.

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