lessons learned on the journey toward independence

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This is the principle that makes a waterfall work. Let's assume that you were to hold a pipe vertically in the air. This pipe is 10 feet long. Now you hold your hand over the bottom end of the pipe to seal it. Then someone climbs up a ladder and fills the pipe with water. Taking our principle, let's figure out how much pressure has built up. For every 2 feet of rise (or "head"), .87 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure will be formed. So 10 feet of rise (or head) will form 4.35 PSI.

If your water source is small enough for this to be feasible, the easiest way to check for water flow is to divert the water into one small stream and catch it in a bucket of a known capacity (usually 5 gallons). Then keep track of how many times the creek fills the bucket in one minute. Now multiply this number by the capacity of your bucket (in gallons) to find out how many gallons per minute your water source yields (Example: the creek fills the bucket 2 times per minute. The bucket holds 5 gallons. 2 times 5 equals 10 gallons per minute.) If your creek is too large for this method to work, use the Weir method described on www.riferam.com under the "ram pumps" section on the "information requirements" page.

b2ap3_thumbnail_picture20.gifTo measure the vertical fall of your water source, you will need some form of a level. The Preferred instrument is an optical sight that has a level built into it. This device allows one to sight a level line while looking through the optical sight. One such level is made by CST/Berger and is called a "Locke Hand Level" (around $20).  If an optical level is unavailable, a short carpenter's level may be used.

First, measure the height of your eye level (from the ground to your eye). Then start at the bottom end of your water source. Sight a level line and find where that line intersects the ground upstream. Have a second person mark that spot. Then stand at the marked spot and sight another line until it intersects the ground further upstream.

Repeat this, counting the number of times you repeat it, until you reach the highest point of your water source. Now multiply the number of times it took to reach the source by the height of your eye-level. The result is your rise or head (Example: eye-level is 5 feet 6 inches. It takes 6 sightings to reach the source. 5 feet 6 inches times 6 equals 33 feet of rise or head.)


Using the correct pipe for a particular job can be quite critical. It is important to ensure that it is large enough to not restrict the flow of water, but yet not any larger than it needs to be (due to cost). There are also the considerations of what type of pipe to use and what strength rating. Many times there are at least a couple of good options. Before we give some recommendations, let's go over a few rules:

  • Whenever the pump manufacturer recommends a certain type or size of pipe, use that.
  • In most cases, don't use a smaller pipe size than the dimensions of the outlet connector on the pump.
  • Always use pipe that is strength rated higher than you ever anticipate needing.
  • The longer the run of pipe, the more friction is built up, and the more likely you will need to step up to a larger pipe.
  • The fewer the joints in your pipe, the fewer possible leaks and blowouts there will be (especially important for pipe that will be buried).
  • Avoid using 90 degree or 45 degree "elbows" as much as possible. These add more constriction and friction to your pipe line. That means less flow and more work for your pump.
  • When using a valve on your pipe, anytime having the maximum water flow is critical, be sure to use "gate valves" rather than "ball valves." While ball valves are easier and faster, they constrict the water volume more than one would think. This rule would especially apply to the intake line for a hydro unit or a ram pump.



Deep Well Hand PumpThis article is for those of you who get your water from a well, which brings the unique challenge of  pulling water up from a deep and skinny hole in the ground.  Doing that can become very interesting if you do not have electricity.

We try to focus on good, long-term solutions.  This is particularly true when it comes to such an important necessity of life as water. And so most of our training focuses on exactly that--setting up a water system that will enable you to have a good supply of running water in your home without that system being dependent on the power grid or any other utilities.

But we do realize that some of us might find ourselves in unexpected situations at a time when we may not be able to set up an excellent water system. Or perhaps the budget is super tight at the moment and you need to do the best you can without much money.  In such a situation, being able to improvise and set up a make-shift system that will enable you to get water out of a well could be a life-saving skill.


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