We have talked about the need for private wells in previous articles, because in a SHTF scenario, you need a water source that you control, and the source must be reliable. If you depend on your local municipality for water, you will be without water in a grid down situation or even worse, your local water supply could become contaminated at anytime.
However, once you have dug or drilled your well, you need a way of pumping that water to the home or to storage tanks. Most wells would have an electric pump inserted when the well is drilled or dug, but what happens when the grid goes down.
Alternatives Include Hand Pumps, Solar Pumps or Even Windmills in Some Cases
The easiest by far would be a hand pump that can be installed right alongside your electric pump. The hand pump can be used when the electric pump is in operation and more importantly, it would pump water when the electric pump is not operational because of a power disruption.
Solar water pumps are an option but of course, the pump unless connected to a battery bank would only work when the sun is shining. You can use solar powered pumps to fill or top off elevated water tanks during the day and then let gravity feed water to the home at night or you can install battery banks for nighttime operation and on days when the sun is behind the clouds.
Windmills are ideal in remote areas or for when you are completely off grid. Windmills are traditionally used for watering livestock or for field irrigation.
Solar Water Pumps
You would need a solar panel array capable of supplying enough Direct Current (DC) to operate your water pump. You can connect a converter to convert the DC from the solar panels to Alternating Current (AC) to power your pump. Otherwise, you would need a pump that operates off DC.
The solar panels would usually be pole mounted near the water source. How many panels you would need would depend on the pump size, which in turn depends on the well depth. You have to decide if the well and pump is to be used for emergencies only, or if it will supply water to all sources inside the home at all times. This would be an off grid scenario in most cases.
Keep in mind that unless you have a battery bank capable of operating the pump at night or on cloudy days, you can only pump when the sun is shining.
Windmills can pump tremendous volumes of water, but you will need holding tanks to store the water. Typically, windmills are used to fill and maintain water levels in livestock watering tanks and for irrigation of crops, but they can also be used to supply water during a crisis. You can purchase windmill kits that can be installed directly over a well housing.
In most cases, you would not be able to insert the pumping components needed for the windmill alongside any electric pumping mechanisms. Windmills would be ideal if you are completely off grid and solar panels are not an option.
Hand pumps come in all shapes and sizes with various pumping capabilities. Many of you are familiar with the traditional red metal hand pump that sits atop a well casing. The pump has a handle for pumping and a spout for hanging buckets for filling. The older versions did not have a way of attaching a hose to pump water closer to the source or to the source directly. The water had to be collected at the pump and then carried to the home or to the garden.
Newer model emergency hand pumps can be installed in minutes. The handle is typically “T” shaped and the components are flexible PVC tubing that can usually fit inside a casing as small as 3 inches. This hand pump is considered an emergency pumping system that is not normally attached permanently.
If your electric pump is not operational for whatever reason, you would insert the flexible tubing into the well casing to the water depth and in a matter of minutes, you can be pumping water. This type pump allows you to attach a hose than can be used to service sources inside the home or to anywhere. Once the emergency is over you would remove the flexible tubing and pump handle to store away for next time.
More advanced models can be installed as a permanent fixture right alongside your electric pump. The advanced models require assembly, and it is recommended that you have a helper or two available to help with the installation. The PVC piping is normally connected with PVC glue in sections down to the required depth. Once your electric pump stops operating you would have the hand operated pump ready to go.
Pump housings would be attached on top of the well casement if you have one of the advanced models. You would permanently connect the tubing in sections down to 10 foot or so below the static depth of the water. The pump components would fit alongside your electric pump and all its components in the well casing. You can pump up to 150 feet from the static depth using this type of hand pump in most cases. The pump housing would allow you to attach a hose/pipe to pump water to the house or to water containment tanks in the basement or to anywhere for that matter.
You have to ensure the quality of the water is tested prior to consuming however if you have recently dug or drilled your well.
In some cases, you may have to filter and purify your well water or use a water softening system. This means you would have to pump water to any filtration or purification system inside the home and then pump to user sources such as faucets, showerheads, washing machines and so on.
What Is Meant By Static Depth
Suppose your drilled or dug depth is 200 feet but you have 50 feet of water in the well for example. This means your static depth is 150 feet. However, your pumping mechanism would be lowered to 160 feet. You would choose your pump size based on these figures. Your pumping mechanisms would be installed at 160 feet and you would use a pump capable of pumping from a static depth of 150 feet.
Adding the 10 extra feet allows for a lowering of the water level to ensure the mechanisms is always below the water level. A pump rated at 150 feet will have already configured in the additional 10 feet of depth.
You would purchase a pump that is capable of pumping from a static depth of 150 feet and not from the 200 foot depth at which the well is actually dug or drilled. Typically, hand pumps would be rated at 50, 100 or 150 feet (this is the static depth rating). Of course, you can purchase pumps that can pump from any depth but then you would likely need professional help with the installation.
How Do You Measure Your Water Depth
Attach a bobber to some string, and make sure the bobber is heavy enough to keep the string taunt but will still float on top of the water. Lower the string with the bobber through the casing until the string goes slack. This indicates the bobber is floating on top of the water. Measure the length for the static depth, and then add 10 feet.
Certain models of hand pumps allow you to attach a small electrical motor that would operate the pump handles for you. You could attach a solar system to operate the motor or use a small generator for 24-hour pumping capability during a power outage. Certain pumps would allow pumping directly to the source (s), just as if the electric well pump was in operation.
Things to Consider
What if you are currently receiving water from your local municipality and you dig or drill a well. First, you would have to decide if you want to stay connected to the local water source and use your well for emergencies, or use your well exclusively for your water.
If on “city water”, a water meter is connected to the main water supply line before it’s piped into the home. You would have to connect piping from the well to the main water line “down line” from the water meter.
When choosing a hand pump ensure it has “freeze proof” pump housing. This means once you stop pumping there are weep holes below ground level that allow the water to drain out of the pumping mechanism to prevent it from freezing up. This method to prevent freezing does not cause the pump to lose its prime. The weep holes have to be located below the freeze depth in your area.