Blog: The Well
by livingwatersystems

Well Drilling

Why should I start here? I am concerned about the quality of my tap water. Flouride and chlorine and who knows what else is in the water I use to shower and wash my dishes with. I am going to purchase a filter for my shower and I will look into that more but to create living water, I would like to know where my water came from. What is in my tap water might change dramatically from day to day but well water would be more stable. I want to be as self sufficient as possible. Having my own well would allow me to water my garden and provide my familes water needs. I would also like to learn a skill that could provide a living or barter during uncertain times. Last but not least, I believe there may be ways to drill and draw water to the surface that may enhance its quality. Controlling the process from beginning to end will allow me to fine tune improve the quality of my water.

Date:   2/27/2006 10:21:30 PM   ( 17 y ) ... viewed 7891 times

Lots of these resources are old -- some more than a century old. This is NOT because appropriate technology is nostalgic, it's because old references often contain valuable and useful information that simply is not available now.

It's not nostalgia, simply stating a fact, to recognize that a hundred years ago people were a lot more independent, had a much higher general level of practical skills, and were much less wasteful than we are today.

These old resources are a goldmine of appropriate technology. That so many of them are being reprinted today acknowledges this -- and that there's a ready market for them shows that a lot of people recognize it.

There's a growing trend among individuals in the developed countries to be more self-sufficient, less dependent on the pre-packaged infrastructure of modern society. There's a great deal in common between this movement and the need for appropriate technology solutions in the developing countries.

Water-powered water pumps
Hydraulic ram water pumps use downhill water pressure to pump water much higher than it started, with no other power needed. A 20ft fall is enough to push water 150 feet above the source or more. Or as little as a 2ft fall between the water source and the pump at a flow rate of 1 to 3 gallons per minute is enough to pump water 20ft higher than the source -- as much as 4,000 gallons a day, depending on the model.

Folk hydraulic ram pump
No modern magic this -- ram pumps were invented more than 300 years ago. A more recent variation is the High Lifter pump, which uses different principles to do the same thing. Ram pumps are noisy, high lifters are silent and can work with less water, but the water has to be clean and grit free, while the ram pump is not so fussy.

Build your own ram pump
These pumps can be expensive. Home Power magazine has had several good articles on the pumps, including designs and instructions for a cheap ram pump you can build yourself using off-the-shelf materials and a recycled fire-extinguisher. See: Hydraulic Ram Pump -- adapted from "A Manual for Constructing and Operating a Hydraulic Ram Pump" by Kurt Janke & Louise Finger, "Homebrew", Home Power #41, June / July 1994. Digital back issues can be bought online:

High Lifter pump maker Alternative Energy Engineering is now part of solar electric company Applied Power Corporation.
More information on the High Lifter Pump

More information about High Lifter pumps from supplier Mark Snyder Electric -- Application & Installation, How High Lifters Work, Question & Answer, Not a Ram Pump (the differences). Also sells ram pumps.

Fleming Hydro-Ram pumps are powerful, lightweight, practically maintenance-free, and cheaper. From The Ram Company:

The Bamford "Hi-Ram Pump" is a simple, low-cost, self-powered water pump using new patented technology. The principle is similar to conventional ram pumps, but its construction and characteristics are different. The heart of the pump is a stainless steel adjustment tube, and a free-floating high-impact plastic ball. It is quickly adjusted using alternative tubes, and the plastic ball gives quiet operation. While much higher outlet pressures are possible, the 25 mm (1 inch) pump can lift about 1500 litres of water daily to a height of 20 metres, using 2 to 3 metres drive head and 20 litres a minute inlet flow. The pump will operate when totally underwater. It can be made to supply compressed air or to provide a direct mechanical output to drive other devices, and can also act as a suction pump. Made with an eye to the needs of developing countries. Priced from about US$125.

Hydraulic Rams -- Computer Simulation and Optimum Design
Although the hydraulic ram pump has been around for roughly 200 years, its design has been largely left to trial and error. Here is a computer-aided method for improving performance. Y.C. Chiang, Ali A. Seirig, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.
-- From Computers in Mechanical Engineering, January 1985 (with thanks to Kirk McLoren)

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Good overview of ram pumps and their uses and restrictions from the Working Group On Development Techniques (WOT) in Holland (also rope pumps, windmills):

Dutch engineer Gert Breur's ram pumps are simpler, and they not only pump, they can also suck water up from a low-lying area into a stream. Breur has also developed a small ram pump, easy to assemble, using standard "garden" materials except for some pressure tube. Materials list, numbered pictures and "exploded-view" photos show you how.

More about Gert Breur's water-powered suction ram pumps, including Spanish text; also rope-pump and more:

Updated ram design from Gravi-Chek -- The Gravi-Chek pump is the newest technology available in the ram pump industry. The Gravi-Chek pumps have been tested by the Center for Irrigation Technology at the California Agricultural Technology Institute. There are three models available, providing water at rates from 20 to 16,000 gallons per day, depending on the installation

Hydraulic ram pumps -- 6-page Technical Brief, Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), Acrobat file, 190 K

Overview of ram pumps (and hand pumps) with some useful diagrams, from the (ahem) "Sourcebook of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Small Island Developing States/Part B - Technology Profile/2. Technologies Applicable To Very Small, Low Coral Islands/ 2.1 Freshwater Augmentation Technologies/2.1.3 Pumps":

Ram Pump System Design Notes from the Development Technology Unit, School of Engineering, University of Warwick, UK: Online papers -- Introduction to hydraulic ram pumps, how ram pumps work, instructions for use and manufacture, designs, plans and drawings; also low-cost handpumps.

Another ram pump overview, more diagrams, equations, tables:

Lifewater Canada -- Hydraulic ram pumps and Sling Pumps. Lots of great information at this site.
See also Handpumps Resources -- Handpumps and water well drilling training for safe drinking water:

Designing a Hydraulic Ram Pump -- US AID Water for the World Technical Notes

"All About Hydraulic Ram Pumps--How and Where They Work", Don R. Wilson, 1994 (updated), Atlas Pubns, ISBN 0963152629 -- This book explains in simple terms and with illustrations how the ram pump works, where it can be set up, and how to keep it going. The second section of the book gives step-by-step plans for building a fully operational Atlas ram pump from readily available plumbing fittings that requires NO welding, drilling, tapping or special tools. The final chapter shows how to build an inexpensive ferro-cement water storage unit with up to 15,000 gallon capacity. From Grove Enterprises, Inc.

Rife Hydraulic Engine Mfg. Co. Inc. has specialized in pumping water without electricity or fuel for over 117 years -- one of the original Water Ram manufacturers and the oldest. Manufacture 19 different models of ram pumps, pumping up to 500 ft vertically and producing up to 350,000 gal/day. Rife also manufactures the Slingpump, which works on the flow of a stream, creek or river and can lift water up to 82 ft vertically and up to one mile away, 24 hours a day with no maintenance.

Needed by African farmers: simple water pumps -- Finding sufficient water for irrigation is one of the major challenges facing farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 4% of arable land is irrigated, severely constraining agricultural productivity in a region where an estimated one third of the population is chronically undernourished. Locally produced low-cost treadle pumps instead could make an important difference and could boost food security in the region significantly, says a new report, "Treadle pumps for irrigation in Africa". Treadle pumps make it easier for farmers to retrieve water for their fields or vegetable gardens, and they are cheap and easy to handle. If pumps are produced locally, they can also create jobs and income.Many African farmers are still irrigating very small plots of land using bucket-lifting technologies, which are slow, cumbersome and labour intensive. Treadle pumps are far more efficient and user-friendly. They can be used in a comfortable way, the farmer stands on the treadles, pressing the pistons up and down, lifting up to five cubic metres per hour (5,000 litres).

Intermediate Technology books

Prototype ram pump in India -- built for one-tenth the commercial price
"Manual on the Automatic Hydraulic Ram for Pumping Water" by Simon B. Watt, 1978, Intermediate Technology, ISBN 0903031159
Assumes no specialised knowledge of hydraulics, needs access only to basic machine tools and a few common engineering materials. Describes how to make a hydraulic ram from mild steel, some nuts and bolts and two rubber disks. Part One contains details of how to make and maintain a small hydraulic ram on a suitable site, Part Two takes a more technical look at ram performances and design considerations and also contains a useful bibliography. Excellent, clear plans for making your own hydraulic ram water pump from standard pipe fittings.

"Hydraulic Ram Pumps: A guide to ram pump water supply systems" by T.D. Jeffrey, T.H. Thomas, A.V. Smith, P.B. Glover and P.D. Fountain, Intermediate Technology, ISBN 1853391727
Step-by-step instructions on designing, installing and operating hydraulic ram pumps. Illustrations and diagrams, details of a pump designed for a local manufacture, notes for those developing their own model.

"How to Make a Rope Washer Pump" by Robert Lambert, 1989, Intermediate Technology, ISBN 1853390224
How to make a simple, cheap pump which can raise water 18 feet from a stream or well at an output of 1 litre per second. Designed to irrigate small plots. A rope is pulled up through a pipe by means of a pulley wheel -- an old tyre. Fixed to the rope are flexible rubber washers (cut from another tyre) slightly narrower than the pipe; as the washers are pulled up through the pipe water is drawn up and discharged at the top. Rope and washers pass around the pulley wheel and return to the bottom of the pipe. Clever!
How to Make a Rope and Washer Pump -- VHS-PAL format video

"How to Make and Use the Treadle Irrigation Pump" by Carl Bielenberg and Hugh Allen, ITDG Publishing, ISBN 1853393126
The treadle irrigation pump is able to lift up to 7,000 litres of water per hour using the power of the human body, and can be made locally at low cost in small-scale metalworking shops. Its acceptance in Bangladesh where it was first developed in 1984 is extraordinary, with over 500,000 pumps estimated now to be in use. The current design in this manual has evolved from the Bangladesh original into a fully portable pump with both lift and pressure capacity and is especially good for use in permeable soils where water cannot easily be distributed through channels.

"Water Pumping Devices: A handbook for users and choosers", by Peter Fraenkel, 2nd edition, ITDG Publishing, ISBN 1853393460
Efficient and effective irrigation of the land can have a dramatic effect on the agricultural output and economic well-being of a community. At the heart of effective irrigation lies the problem of lifting or pumping water, and this handbook, newly revised and reformatted, surveys the water-lifting technologies that are available and appropriate for smallholdings. It is a detailed and practical review of the options, especially for irrigation but also for other purposes, and the costs and general suitability of the different technologies are examined with the aim of enabling farmers and policy makers to make informed choices.

Issue # 4 - July/August 1970
You Can Drive Your Own Well

TO DRIVE A WELL you need quality equipment shown above. You'll speed up the job by first boring hole with a post-hole digger (above right). A sledgehammer can be used for driving, but a tripod and pulley arrangement (shown at top) saves arms and provides superior driving with less chance of damaging the pipe

WITH TRIPOD ERECTED, new section of pipe is added. Notice that two wrenches are used to prevent the bottom section from turning. For smoother driving, coat each of the sections liberally with soap

Several new back-to-the land communes and couples have asked about low cost methods of drilling a well. Here, from the April POPULAR MECHANICS, is about the lowest cost solution to the problem that we know. It won't work for everyone, but it might for you.

And, to find that vein, we've got a feature coming up on water witching.

Watch for it!

© 1970 by POPULAR MECHANICS reprinted by special permission

MANY PEOPLE who own rural and country homes, lake cottages and even suburban homes install their own primary or secondary water-supply systems. If the soil formations permit, driving a well is a relatively easy, and possibly, one-day chore. But to avoid frustration or disappointment, it is wise to check with your state geological survey office before starting. If you submit a legal description (survey) of your property, it will advise you if the conditions in your area are suitable for a well.

TO DRIVE PIPE, simply raise the weighted section and let it fall (left). Periodically, stop and use a weighted line to test for water level. When the desired water level has been reached clean (purge) the pipe by surging with stick and rags, or with water pressure from hose lowered to the wellpoint tip

Where to drive a well. It is important to locate a well away from any source of contamination such as marshy areas, cisterns, septic tanks and the like. And the well should be situated on higher ground than any of these areas. If a sewer line is present, stay at least 50 ft. away. Also, check with your utility company to make certain that you do not start your well on top of underground service lines. Before beginning construction, check your local building department. In many communities, this work requires a building permit.

Of three basic wellpoint types, one has three sets of holes; round holes or slots in the pipe, a metal screen over the pipe and a jacket with holes over the screen. The second has screen inserts behind holes in the pipe. I chose the third type; a nonclogging point of continuous V-shaped slot design. In addition to being nonclogging, its maker (U.O.P. Johnson Div., 315 N. Pierce St., St. Paul, Minn. 55104) claims it provides four times more open area than other points. The design is available under the Red Head brand name through hardware dealers or by order from Montgomery Ward.

Since it is of double galvanized steel you will not have to worry about galvanic corrosion when it is used with galvanized steel pipe.

Which wellpoint-size opening to use is determined by the sand in which it will operate. Screen-type wellpoints use 60-gauze for coarse sand, 80-gauze for medium and 100-gauze for fine sand. With a nonclog, V-slot wellpoint, use No. 10 slot for all conditions except where the sand is so fine it is practically quicksand; in that event use a No. 6 slot.

Pipe sections five to six ft. long are generally used in driven wells. Make certain you use galvanized pipe and couplings with good clean threads free of defects. Couplings should be of the reamed and drifted (R & D) variety.

These couplings will provide tight joints since they have more threads than conventional couplings. The additional threads help prevent the coupling from becoming loose during driving. They also have a recessed design feature which aids in preventing corrosion of the male pipe threads. The drive shown in the sketch is easiest to construct. Basically, it consists of a length of capped pipe with an inside diameter just large enough to slip over the capped riser pipe. The driver is partially filled with enough lead (lead wool can be used) so that it can be handled by one or, two men.

It is wise to use the best possible equipment. You will need a pump, a wellpoint (1 1/4-in. diameter recommended), lengths of galvanized steel riser pipe, couplings, a drive cap, and pipe-thread compound. Tools include an auger or a post-hole digger, a driving device and pipe wrenches.

A hand-operated pitcher pump is sufficient for driven wells when the water lift does not exceed about 22 ft. at sea level. At 5000 feet above sea level, the limit of water lift is about 20 ft. Pitcher pumps depend upon a partial vacuum to operate; it is essential that all joints be airtight. Pipe compound helps achieve this.

If the water lift in your area is greater than the limits mentioned, a power-driven centrifugal pump and 2-in.-dia. equipment must be used. Normally, 40 ft. is about the limit to which a 2-in. well can be driven with hand tools. A 2-in. well is not only more difficult to drive than a 1 1/4-in. well but, also requires that a 1 1/4-in., drop-pipe (with turned couplings) be permanently installed inside.

Driving can be done with a heavy maul or sledge or with a tripod as shown. Since it is difficult to deliver square, solid blow, with the maul, this is not recommended Glancing blows may break or bend the pipe or strip the threads. Whichever method of driving you decide to use, remember that the riser pipe must be kept perfectly vertical.

The first step is to dig a hole in the ground. The hole can be made with a post-hole digger or hand auger. Here, again, the hole should be vertical and should be dug as deeply as possible to cut down on driving distance.

Assemble the wellpoint, using R & D couplings and pipe-joint compound, to one or more lengths of riser pipe, depending upon the depth of the hole. Fasten a malleable-iron drive cap to the top of the riser pipe. Make certain that all joints are as tight as possible. To avoid breakage of the pipe or splitting of the couplings it is advisable to use pipe wrenches no longer than 24 in.

Insert the assembly into the hole and begin driving. Check frequently to insure that the pipe stays plumb and that the threaded joints remain tight during driving by giving the riser pipe a half turn with a wrench. Always turn to the right, but do not twist the pipe severely. Use the wrench just enough to take up any slack. When the driving tool will no longer strike the cap, add another length of riser pipe.

Pour water into the well, and alongside the drive pipe, at regular intervals. It makes driving easier, and tells when you have reached a water-bearing sand formation. When the wellpoint reaches water-bearing sand, you will notice an increase in the rate of descent of the drive pipe. It can be as much as 6 in. with each blow. When you think the point is in waterbearing sand, pour water into the pipe. If it stays in the point you guessed right. If it drains out, it's back to the driver. If the point is in clay, or other nonwater-bearing material, the water will either remain in the pipe or the drop in water level will be extremely slight.

Another method used to check for water is to lower a weighted line into the pipe. When you've hit water, the wet portion of line lets you know how deep the water stands in the well; the dry portion is a measure of depth from top of well to water level.

In some instances a greater length of the wellpoint can be brought into contact with water-bearing sand by raising or lowering the assembly about 1 or 2 ft.

When the wellpoint is at desired depth, it must be cleaned of sand and muddy water. Cleaning also helps to properly position loose material around the outside of the point which in turn brings the well up to maximum yield ability. Use either method shown ( top of this page ) and then remove the fine sand from the well with a pump. Probably the better purging method is to jet water into the well with a garden hose inserted to the bottom of the well. The dirty water and sand will wash up and out around the hose. Repeat this flushing procedure until no more sand is obtained by pumping

Before final installation of the pump, remove all sand particles from its interior, paying particular attention to the valves and plunger. Before drinking any water, contact your state health department to see if it will test the water for you. If not, use a commercial laboratory. They are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Laboratories, Analytical" or "Laboratories, Testing."

COOL, FRESH WATER is the fruit of your labor. Before drinking, water should be laboratory tested

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