Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wow, a product that WORKS!!

One of the eternal questions we constantly bandy about is the question of water for our homestead.

Our well is 610 feet deep with a static level of about 450 feet. Our well pump is electric. If we lose power, we lose water. Since we live on the prairie, surface water is nonexistent.

For years, we've investigated affordable options for homestead water without much success. Solar and wind options far exceed our budget. (A few years ago we were quoted about $18,000 for a windmill of sufficient height, size, and strength to power our well -- and I don't doubt the accuracy of that quote.)

Several years ago we purchased a 1500-gallon above-ground water tank, but thus far have not installed it. One of our winter projects is to built a heavily-insulated "cool room" in the barn and install the tank hooked up to filtered roof runoff. This would provide abundant water for household use.

But what about livestock? What about the garden? Well, we may have found the answer.

We had our pond installed immediately adjacent to the garden on purpose. Its location is convenient not just to plants, but to the livestock as well. However the question of getting water out of the pond and into a stock tank (for the livestock) or to the vegetables remained to be seen.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. We had a trench dug for a project (a neighbor with a backhoe kindly did the job).

Then came days and days and days of rain -- the kind of heavy relentless downpour that leaves little checkdams of pine needles from the rivulets of water cascading down the road.

Unsurprisingly, the trench filled with water, which refused to drain out of our hard clay soil. We were tasked with removing water from a trench 30 feet long, one foot wide, and 18 inches deep.

Ah, but Don had a new secret weapon: a bilge pump.

A bilge pump, as you doubtless know, is designed to remove yucky water from the bottom-most levels of ships. It's designed to handle all kinds of junk: sediment, contaminants, etc. A few months ago Don realized a bilge pump would probably work to draw water out of the pond for whatever purpose (garden, livestock) we needed.

But we never had the opportunity to test it -- until yesterday, when he used the bilge pump to pump out the trench.

This particular model of bilge pump was astoundingly inexpensive -- $28.50. But how well did it work? And how hard was it to use?

First, Don screwed the pump to a small platform, then he got PVC connectors to attach to the inflow and outflow valves of the pump.

He dropped the pipe into the trench, and started pumping.

It -- worked -- beautifully. Astoundingly well. Fast, efficient, and easy. With every downward push of the lever, it shot out about a quart of water.

About halfway done:

Between us, it took us about 20 minutes to pump the trench almost completely empty.

The information on this Chinese-made product promised:

Well, they were right. I have seldom seen a product work so well. It more than exceeded our expectations.

The only "difficulty" was having the pump on the ground, since we had to kneel on the platform to operate it. We'll also have to be careful about leaving the pump outdoors since we're not sure how well the rubber gasket will handle extremes of temperature.

We're going to test the pump next spring and see how it works pumping water out of the pond, through a used pressure tank we salvaged, and into the garden's drip irrigation system. To do this, Don will build a platform and install the pump at waist level, and add an additional length to the handle for greater leverage. The pump's specifications indicate this shouldn't be a problem:

One of the reasons we're so delighted by this pump is because it's manual. In most of our prepping endeavors, we are trying to make sure everything stays low-tech and hand-operated (and, if possible, inexpensive).

Slowly, little by little, we're solving our water issues in affordable ways. This bilge pump is a valuable piece of the puzzle.

UPDATE: Here's the product on Amazon. It received seriously mixed reviews. All I can say is, our experience so far has been very very positive.


  1. Great backup for the basement sump pump.--ken

    1. Ditto! I bought one at Harbor Freight and found matching in/out hoses for my sump pump water. If we lose the power, and run out of gas for the generators, and we are having a very wet spring, we are doomed to a foot or two of water in the cellar (storage area!) without the sump pump. With this little beauty, we can do a serious "all hands to the pump" when we need it. It may not be perfect but how else can you get sump pump area water out of the basement without power? People forget (or don't realize) that the sump area tends to run under the cement floor for a large area so you can't simply bail water out of the hole. This is our back up. As always, I hope we never need it, but we have it for when we do need it. That makes it a True Prep Item.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

  2. I see this in my future. Would it fit into an insulated cooler? With holes cut out for the pvc?

  3. A few things from an old contractor and homesteader;
    If you laid your pipe in the trench and filled it with water it would have settled to the bottom nicely. Backfill the trench and the water would have helped compact the soil (It's called puddling).
    When you install the water intake to your tank, install a plug below the tank inlet with a hole in it. The first rains will wash sediment and leaves and bird poop and out the hole, but also eventually backup up into your inlet. An outlet above that will allow excess to get out. Works well. I'm off grid with a 350' well (1.5hp pump, yours is perhaps 2hp?. I use solar to drive it, 4kw inverter. Cost all up was around 3K. You'd need a 6kw inverter but not much else different. Might look at that as self generated power(water) is what prepping is all about.

  4. Nice item to have around the farm, at a good price. Can see a use when have to dugout a leak in irrigation line, maybe 2 or 3 ft. deep. Had work using a bucket to get water out of the hole.
    Can you ask "husband of the boss" where he picked it up at? Thanks
    Have a fine week.

    1. Seconding request for location to purchase the same model. I couldn't find that model on Amazon, and most of the reviews in the price range weren't that good.

    2. See the update I just added to the bottom of the post.

      - Patrice

  5. I used to have a 1500 gal tank (previous home) that I used a sump pump to water with. They were something like $40 each and worked just fine if not left at the bottom of the tank. I tried that and the pump would die at 2 to 4 months of use. They worked just fine if only left in the water while in use. Your solution seems better to me than the sump pump.

  6. I have read that bilge pumps cost quite a bit less than sump pumps, and really do pretty much the same thing.
    Thank you for the review!

  7. Thanks for posting this; it gives me some ideas for rain water and grey water.

  8. Thanks for sharing your journey toward solving the water problem with us. It has been fascinating to follow so far and very, very educational.

    Also, SO GLAD to hear you are finding solutions. It crosses my mind fair often, usually while doing water-related chores around the house I will think, "Wonder how Don and Patrice are coming with their water project??" Progress is so very gratifying.

  9. if you find that parts are easy to get and that it is easy to repair let us know in a further post, please.

  10. It's funny, we live in on the central coast of California and our well is the exact same depth as yours with standing water at the same level, too! But I cannot feel self-sufficient while I have to rely on the electrical grid and an electrically-driven pump for water...lose one or the other and you only have temporary stores of water (we have a 5000 gallon tank for this but still....temporary). I long to live in a place with a more reasonable water level, where you could theoretically use a hand or battery powered one in an emergency.

  11. Question: Is it feasible to bury your 1500
    gallon tank for rain water collection?
    We are building our place and were planning on burying a similar tank. Do you know of any reason the tank won't hold up to burial?
    Many thanks.

    1. No, this particular tank CANNOT be buried. The manufacturers were very clear about the structural differences between above-ground tanks and tanks made for burial. The tanks made for burial are much pricier. To "bury" an above-ground tank, essentially you have to construct an underground room and lower the tank into it (having nothing exerting pressure touching the sides or top of the tank itself) because otherwise the weight of the dirt/sand/clay/whatever will crush the sides or top of the tank.

      Tanks made for burial are ribbed and made of much tougher material.

      - Patrice

    2. Unlikely you can directly bury a plastic stock tank as it will be crushed by the settling dirt. You'd have to go with a direct bury rated fiberglass tank or a concrete one. Much cheaper to insulate an above ground tank. Also easier to maintain it and the pump.

    3. Have you looked for a way to heat the tank in winter? No matter how well insulated, still water WILL eventually freeze.

  12. Don't ya just LOVE finding those little gems? IF anyone asks me, I tell them the best things I ever bought were my Leatherman and my reciprocating saw.

  13. Love those cattails. You can grind the up to release the liquid in them. Ferment it to make methyl alcohol, distill that and use it as a fuel. The left over mash can be dried, inoculated with fungi and then added to your soil. From the book alcohol can be a gas.