Hand Water Pumps Making a Comeback

As recently as 100 years ago, the most important site consideration for homesteaders and villages was whether plenty of good water was within easy reach. When electric power lines and drilled water wells reached rural areas, however, close proximity to clean water became immaterial – or so we assumed.

Liberty generator

Our nonchalant attitude regarding water is rapidly changing, according to well pump installers I spoke with recently. Many are seeing an upsurge in interest by homeowners wanting to learn about and fit hand pumps to their water wells. There are now numerous manually-operated water pumps to choose from, depending on factors such as static (resting) water level and output needed.

Emergency Backup, General Use and New High-Volume Hand Pumps  

An increase in powerful storms with longer power outages is one factor inciting people to think about manual pumps, says Albert Brandt, general manager of Radiant Water Company in Tulsa, Okla. A 2007 ice storm that disrupted electric service for 14 days prompted many to contemplate their water-preparedness, he said.

“A lot of our customers remember using a hand pump on Grandma’s farm, and now want one as a backup,” Brandt told me when I called to ask about hand pump popularity. Radiant Water Company installs Bison, Hitzer and Baker-Monitor hand pumps.

Brandt, who took over Radiant Water in 1998, remembers a swell in hand pump sales as Y2K neared. Now, after a decade-long calm, people are again preparing for potentially troubling times by making sure their families will have fresh, clean drinking water, even if the grid goes down. Recent advances in hand pump design have made them even easier to use and less expensive, he said.

Richard Stothoff, president of Samuel Stothoff Company of Flemington, N.J., said manufacturers, such as Bison Pump Company of Maine, used modern technology to adapt their pumps to function with existing electric submersible pumps.

Stothoff, whose great-grandfather founded the company in 1885, said the company used to install many hand pumps in the then-rural area. Some households still use hand pumps exclusively for water, he said, although such use is rare. Stothoff said he has seen a slight increase in hand pump interest this year, mostly among the self-reliant.

Weather disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy that darkened much of the East Coast for extended periods, spurred more sales for fuel-powered electric generators than for hand pumps, Stothoff said.

“We’re too advanced,” Stothoff said. “We’ve got electricity.”

In neighboring New Hampshire, however, a representative of Northeast Water Wells said hand pump interest over the past five years has steadily climbed as more people build off-grid or geothermal homes. Northeast Water installs Simple Pump brand pumps.

Many types of human-powered pumps have been introduced through the years to accommodate the variety of situations and applications encountered when bringing water to the surface. Until now, however, the discharge capacity has been too low for large communities.

In January 2013, Mother Earth News blogger Ed Essex introduced a homemade hand pump machine, now the WaterBuck Pump, to readers. Since then, the pump has been greatly improved, presently exceeding the peak capacity of a 12-foot diameter windmill by 25 percent, making it ideal for remote communities that need more water from deeper water tables or need an irrigation pump with shallow wells.

water2_23_3

In a recent WaterBuck Pump test, a 50-something man of average fitness pumped 17.5 gallons in 1 minute from a static level of 80 feet. These results are minimal compared to what can be done with this machine with one or two stronger men or two to four operators and twin cylinders for irrigation, according to the inventor, Darren Holliday. Now because of the design of this high-volume pump, large communities, small farms and developing countries can have the water they need, he said.

Kresten Jensen, III, general manager of Cook Pump Company, who calculated the WaterBuck’s performance recently, said, “Considering how important the commodity produced by the WaterBuck Pump is to sustaining life on this planet, you have created a very powerful piece of equipment.”

human-powered-water-pump

Why Hand Pumps Went to Scrapyards

Because most Americans abandoned hand water pumps more than a generation ago, few today understand how they work or what their limitations are. The pump principle has changed little since its inception, whether for the piston pump invented in 275 BC by Ctesibius, or the rope pump invented in China during the 1st century BC.

Hand pumps were still commonly used in the countryside of the United States and Europe in the 19th century. One pump was usually sufficient to supply water for a family and its livestock. Communities generally took shape around a central well. The people of tiny La Russell, Mo., were so reluctant to give up their community hand pump when progress arrived that they had the new highway paved around it. Residents continue to adorn the old pump with seasonal decorations.

Although hand pumps were scrapped when mechanization and electrification reached rural America, they are still broadly used in Third World countries. Especially where economic resources and fuel sources are sparse, human-powered pumps can significantly improve a water supply system and, consequently, a community’s livelihood.

Hand pump use in the United States is largely for emergency backup, intentionally going off-grid, or even novelty and nostalgia. Meanwhile, in developing nations, human-or animal-powered pumps are vital to survival. Having a manual pump, for instance, significantly increases agricultural yields, provides fast access to drinking water, improves sanitation and empowers women, children and small farmers.

hand-pump-parts

Types of Pumps and Hand Pump Operation

The majority of hand pumps fall into one of two categories: suction pumps (having a cylinder above ground) and lift pumps (having a cylinder below ground).

A suction pump, or pitcher pump, is the type we envision on an old homestead. Repeated strokes of the pump handle gradually “suck” water up the riser main and into the cylinder and out the spout. A suction pump’s operational depth is limited to about 26 feet, according to “Water Lifting Devices” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Piston pumps have their pump cylinder below ground and the water table. Instead of sucking well water out, they lift a column of water upward through the riser main. Each consecutive stroke of the pump handle causes the piston to displace more water up the riser until it flows out the spout.

Theoretically, the depth from which a piston pump can remove water is unlimited. In practice, however, the limit is determined by the power a human can exert on the pump handle and the fabrication and materials of the pump cylinder and rod and piston valves and seals.

empt6x120

There is a hand pump for nearly every need. When selecting a hand pump for your home, consider your average daily household use, static (resting) water level, size of well casing (and liner) and whether the pump will be used only in emergencies or every day.

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid, and invented the WaterBuck Pump. A former newspaper editor and reporter, Holliday blogs for Mother Earth News, sharing her skills in modern homesteading, organic gardening and human-powered devices.

If you found this article useful, please Vote for The Prepper Journal as a top prepper web site.

Copyright Information This information has been made available by The Prepper Journal. Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you would like to be notified of new articles, contests and Prepper news, please sign up for our daily newsletter, follow us on Twitter, or Like Us on Facebook.

by Linda Holliday

Best Survival Books:

THE LOST BOOK OF REMEDIES-All Medicinal Plants and Lost Cures of North America

THE CARNIVORE'S BIBLE-A complete solution to meat curing, food preservation, storage and cooking and it will change your life for the better

THE LOST WAYS-Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them

EASY CELLAR-AMERICA'S NATURAL NUCLEAR BUNKERS: FIND THE CLOSEST ONE TO YOUR HOME

THE LOST WAYS 2-This lost super-food will bulletproof you against any food shortage or famine

LESSONS OF YESTERDAY-American Recipes from the Old-American Frontier

BLACKOUT USA-EMP survival and preparedness guide

MEGA DROUGHT USA-Discover The Amazing Device That Turns Air Into Water

LIBERTY GENERATOR-Easy DIY to build your own off-grid free energy device


BACKYARD LIBERTY-Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank


BULLET PROOF HOME-A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home


SOLD OUT AFTER CRISIS-Best 37 Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis


SURVIVAL MD-Learn how to survive without medication in any crisis


ALIVE AFTER THE FALL-Advice on handling crisis situations


STOCKPILE CHALLENGE-The secret to a 1-year food stockpile


DIY HOME ENERGY-Follow the step-by-step guide from A to Z and you will have a working system to reduce your electricity bills and save energy


MY SURVIVAL FARM-This hidden survival garden will keep you well fed when shtf


OLD TIME WISDOM-THE REAL HOMEMADE AND HEALTHY MEATY TREATS OUR GRANDPARENTS USED TO MAKE...


One thought on “Hand Water Pumps Making a Comeback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.