|Water is a vital element for any homestead.
This well bucket can be a god-send if the power goes out.By Robert Sulek
|Whether natural or man-made, rips in the fabric of modern civilization can occur with devastating consequences. Disasters seem to be happening more often, in more places, and impacting more and more people. All too often too much water (flood, hurricane, tsunami) is the paramount problem, only to be followed by the profound lack of potable water. Municipal systems fail. Stored water can run out. Relief supplies may be delayed or even looted, or unevenly distributed.
Countrysiders with a viable spring, well, or rainwater cistern are fortunate indeed, but a backup system may be needed if you are on-grid for that pump. A standby generator of ample capacity may be cost prohibitive. If the source is a shallow well, perhaps a pitcher pump is all that is needed. Or, consider a variation of the good old-fashioned well bucket.
In daily use in many remote places around the world, this generic item is thousands of years old. The earliest ones may have been made of animal hides, or maybe a short hollow log with a leather flap on the lower end and a length of cordage tied to the upper end for hoisting.
The following plans are for such an emergency water procurement device that can be assembled and tested way before a crisis arises, or one can be cobbled together with simple hand tools. It is based around a 30-inch length of Schedule 40 PVC pipe, four inches in diameter, which serves as the body of the device. Compared to some other bottom-filling well buckets, this one is quite hefty. The effort expended in the operation of this device can be roughly compared to using a clamshell-type posthole digger. Many of the small muscles will get a workout. The operator(s) of this device should be in good physical condition, for he or she will be hoisting, hand over hand, weight in excess of 20 pounds on a repetitive basis. Any known or suspected medical issues that may develop or become exacerbated by the use of this device must be addressed by the user(s) and their physician beforehand.
Due to its sheer size, this device is for dug wells or drilled wells of at least six inches in diameter that have had the submersible pump and related plumbing removed, or which never had same installed to begin with. In an emergency you may not have the option of pulling your pump from the well, but you may have an old well or two on your place or in the immediate vicinity that can still supply potable water. Perhaps there are abandoned farmsteads in your area, or even development lots with wells, but where houses were never built. Note what is in your area, and always ask permission beforehand when contemplating the use of a well not on your own property. (Ed. note: Also be aware that an abandoned well may not be in use for a very good reason-perhaps it’s contaminated.) Also, several families or homesteads can pool resources and talent.
The parts list is comprised of off-the-shelf items found at a big-box home improvement center or well-stocked local hardware or plumbing outlet. The list includes:
The tools and miscellaneous supplies include:
2 or more clean 5-gallon plastic buckets (food grade is preferred. Do not use any that contained toxic or hazardous materials) A hand or electric drill with bit set through 3/4″
Preparation for operation is simple. Uncoil a clean piece of rope of appropriate length into a clean bucket, leaving both ends accessible. Attach one end to a secure object. Pass the other end of the rope through the pipe that serves as a handle and tie it securely back upon itself approximately 2′ above the upper end of the device.
The operator(s) should remove loose items from shirt pockets as well as jewelry that you can’t afford to lose, and perhaps do the same with loose-fitting eyewear. As mentioned before, the operator should be able to lift, hand over hand, 20 pounds, plus. It is desirable to have an assistant or two to procure large amounts of water, and to feed the rope in and out of the bucket thereby avoiding ground contact and/or becoming a problem underfoot. Now, put on a clean pair of work gloves.
The actual operation consists of lowering the device into the well slowly, letting out rope hand over hand. When the device contacts the water surface, it may remain buoyant. When you encounter the sensation that the device is floating, raise it several inches and allow it to drop abruptly onto the surface of the water. This will make the tank ball float or move upward, thereby allowing water to enter the device via the bottom opening. The device will slowly sink as it fills with water, again approximating a state of buoyancy or equilibrium.
Now is the time to raise the device slowly and, grasping the pipe handle, pour the water into another bucket or container. Repeat as needed.
Is this magic? No, just plain physics. As the device is raised, the weight of the water in the body will force the tank ball to seat in the bottom opening thereby retaining the water.
Since this device will be contacting the sides of the well, debris may be entering via the top opening; consider filtration. Have a lab test done on your sources before bad times strike. When push comes to shove, filter, boil and/or chemically treat your water during a disaster.
When not in use, stand the device on its top end, provide a sanitary cover, and avoid damaging the lower end of the tank ball since it may protrude slightly from the bottom of the device. A protective sleeve can be fashioned from a length of 6″ diameter PVC pipe with fine mesh screening on the ends held in place with long plastic ties. Clean and thoroughly dry the device and the rope after use and prior to storage.