A guide to self reliant living










1. Food

2. Manna

3. Water

4. Sanitation

5. Medical,

6. Kerosene heaters and cookers

7. Lighting

8. Wood
cooking and heating

9. Communi-cations

10. Essential

11. Home
built items

12. Electrical; generators
and power

13. War preparedness

14. Gardening


Miles Stair's SURVIVAL










Miles Stair's SURVIVAL


Water Hand Pump

I wanted a hand water pump just as a backup source for very long term contingency planning.  A standard pitcher pump would not work as they still require carrying water in buckets.  A sealed pitcher  pump was the answer.  A sealed pitcher pump can be connected to household pipes, often by backfeeding through existing plumbing, so the water can be pumped directly into a house - sinks fill, toilets flush, etc, and all without carrying water!

As the pump would not be used for long periods of time, a PVC pump made more sense than a traditional cast iron pitcher pump.  UV radiation damage was not a concern because the pump would be located indoors in an existing well house.

The wells in my area go down between 90 and 100 feet for water. A standard pitcher pump is limited to about 20 feet of depth.  A pitcher pump will operate that deep, but only with the pump sitting directly over the well casing with a long operating rod to pull a leather washer at the bottom of the well to PUSH water to the top.  Such a water system will indeed work if there is no alternative for potable water.  I did not want an exposed system like that nor did I want the extra effort required to pump the water from that depth.

It took quite a bit of witching with copper rods, but I found a shallow well source that was very low capacity, low recovery, but certainly good enough for a hand pump.  I hit water at 18 feet, and it was below the clay layer so it was not surface water, hence contamination was not an issue.  The well hole was dug with a auger-style post hole digger, adding 4' sections of 3/4" galvanized pipe as needed to dig a hole 20 feet deep. It was hard work.  For a well casing I used thick-walled 3" PVC pipe.  The standing water table inside the casing is up to 10 feet from the top of the well.

Above, the Oasis Pitcher Pump installed

Exit plumbing to base of small pressure tank

The pump I chose was made by Oasis.  It was advertised as being black and having a replaceable suction pump, but that was a lie.  I was sent a blue sealed unit that cannot be repaired.   It does work but is not the pump advertised and shown on the web.

The installation shown on this page is not finished and ready for winter. 

The Details

Installing the pump and getting it working following the factory instructions was impossible.  The instructions call for using a 2" diameter well pipe and no foot valve.  Total insanity.  Deep well hand pumps have a long lift rod to pull a cup that pushes water to the surface.  The wider the cup the more water that can be pushed upward.  A shallow well hand pump, however, uses suction to bring water to the pump, yet the instructions still call for a 2" drop-pipe in the well casing.  One foot of water in a 2" pipe is 0.163 gallons.  My 18 foot long drop-pipe would thus have to lift 24.48 pounds of water - by suction alone!  That is not going to happen.  In actual trials the hand pump would not lift an 18 foot long column of water in a one inch pipe - 0.0141 gallons per foot, 18 feet of water weighing 6.12 pounds.  Just as a test I used a 5/8" garden hose with a 3/4" foot valve as a drop-pipe and the hand pump finally pumped water!!!  The hand pump will suction 3 pounds of water up 18 feet without much effort required for pumping. 

The output for my system using a 5/8" garden hose drop-pipe averages 3 gallons per minute of pumping at an easy rate and light effort that can be sustained for awhile.  It takes 1 1/2 gallons of water per toilet flush, on average, and perhaps 6 gallons of water to wash dishes or clothes by hand. The hand pump can provide sufficient water for normal sanitation requirements, where "normal" would be an absence of electricity and hot water means heating water in a stock pot on a kerosene stove and washing clothes with a scrub board and wringer for line drying.

The factory instructions say to remove the check valve if using a foot valve at the bottom of the drop-pipe, or drilling a small hole in the drop pipe below the front line to relieve pressure.  Of course with the new glued-together pump design it is impossible to remove the check valve.  It does not matter.  The pump will work just fine with the check valve in the pump AND a foot valve at the bottom of the drop-pipe, and the pump does not have to be primed before every use.

The supplier also says the hand pump will build pressure to supply the second-story of a house with water.  I could get to 10 pounds of pressure, but anything more than that required too much effort to make it worth while. It would be possible to pump water to a second floor, but the effort required would be substantial.  For pumping higher than the first floor of a home a small pressure tank such as the one I installed will make the work a little easier.  The system works better by using gravity flow, pumping into a container higher than the sinks in the house, with water flowing via gravity from the container (or small pressure tank) to the house.

Left, the well is 20 feet deep, water up to 10 feet from the top.  The white 5/8" hose drops to within 6" of the bottom of the well and has a 3/4" foot valve.  The area around the well casing is sealed with concrete to keep out surface water.

Right is the modified bucket for priming the well.  The hose from the bucket connects to the right side of the "Y" at left.

Above left shows the heavy-wall 3" PVC pipe I used as a well casing. Just above the surface I placed a 3" x 3" x 1 1/2" "T" fitting, as shown.  A full-flow 3/4" "Y" fitting attaches to the end of the 5/8" hose used as a drop-pipe.  The right side of the "Y" leads to the hand pump, the left side has a washing machine hose attached which leads to the blue bucket shown above right.  To prime the drop-pipe the bucket is filled with water, both valves opened, and water can fill the drop-pipe via gravity rather quickly because the displaced air can escape up the hose and through the water in the bucket.  It would seem logical to use a garden hose from another source of water would lead to faster priming, but that is not true because there is no way for air to escape from the drop-pipe and line to the hand pump.  A simple bucket connection not under pressure allows air to bubble up so the drop-pipe is properly filled ("primed") with water.  After initial priming the bucket and hose can be disconnected and saved for the next time it is needed. 

Those living in areas where it gets really cold will need a set-up like the priming bucket shown above.  To protect the pump and lines from freezing, a tiny hole can be drilled below the frost line in the drop-pipe.  That will drain the water down to the small hole to prevent frost damage to the pump and water lines, but it will mean that priming is necessary before the pump is used again.  The priming bucket is simply a very fast, easy means of priming the drop-line and hoses/pipes leading up to the pump. 

It should be noted that this is a test set-up.  Before winter the hoses will be re-routed and covered to be frost-free...and then not be visible for photographs.

At left, the plumbing under the pitcher pump.  The full-flow "Y" connector on the right side is from the well, the left side is for priming the pump.  See the bottle in the top left photo that is connected to the hose for priming the pump - it is visible to the right on the wall behind the hand pump.

At right, the 2 gallon pressure tank.  The right side hose is from the pitcher pump, the left side is for draining the tank - bleeding the system.  The hand pump is capable of pumping up to 10 pounds pressure, but it is a lot of work.  In actual use the tank is merely an accumulator and conduit for water to flow via gravity to the house.

Above left. Connected to the bottom of the Oasis Pitcher Pump is a 2" x 3 1/2" galvanized nipple, a 2" to 1 1/4" galvanized reducer, a plastic 1 1/4" to 3/4" reducer and a 3/4" NPT to 3/4" garden hose adapter. The extra capacity for water directly under the pump with these adapters allows for easier filling of the pump chamber. 

Above right.  The pressure tank 3/4" connection is fitted with a 3/4" NPT to 3/4" garden hose adapter, then a full flow 3/4" "Y" valve with individual shut-offs.  One side of the "Y" is connected to the pump with a short section of 3/4" garden hose and the other side with a 3/4" garden hose to a "T" connector to a galvanized pipe leading to the house water system.

Water from the small pressure tank goes through a 3/4" hose to connect with a "T" fitting on an existing 3/4" galvanized pipe from a 93' deep well, the pipe being used to transport water to the house and gardens for irrigating. The pressure tank is 3 1/2' above floor level, so water being pumped from the hand pump will flow into the house and fill toilets, sinks, etc, without the need for carrying buckets of heavy water back and forth from house to well.  The hand pump with connected full-flow "Y" valves allows the hand pump to be used to prime the deep well drop-pipe if required, simply by opening the connecting valves. 

The reason I used 3/4" garden hoses and "Y" connectors is that they permit the entire system to be easily disconnected for repairing, relocating, etc.  To maintain versatility, on the exit plumbing from the pump I used a 1 1/2", 90 degree PVC angle with 1 1/2" threads on one end and solvent glued the straight end into the pump.  Next came a 1 1/2" to 3/4" galvanized reducer and a 3/4" NPT to 3/4" garden hose adapter  (see photo at top right).  The outlet size of the pump itself was therefore left at full diameter of 1 1/2" if that size was ever needed in a different application, and the 3/4" hose from the outlet to the pressure tank will flex under pressure and not develop a leak as can easily happen with rigid plumbing.

Every hand pump installation is different.  There is no "one way" that is "correct" for every possible contingency and requirements.  I was lucky and found an underground water source close to where I could easily plumb the system into an existing well house.  A good friend of mine found a shallow depth water source on his property about 75 feet from his house.  He already had a pressure tank in a basement and lives where it is colder, so plumbing from the well to the house is buried beneath the frost line.  He can pump indoors into his existing house plumbing without going outdoors in stormy weather or snow.

The hand pump in my installation is mounted to a sturdy 3/4" plywood table attached to a wall with strong shelf brackets.  The table height is very important and is one of the reasons you should do as much of the installation yourself as you possibly can.  The operating  handle on the hand pump is pushed down to pump water, with most of the pressure (and therefore effort) being at the end of the stroke, just before the handle is vertical and beside the body of the pump.  You should not have to lean down or raise your arm too much when pumping - the ideal pump stroke ending in a natural movement that is comfortable.  It can take several different trials of various heights for the table before a good height is attained - I moved my table three times to get the right height.  If a plumber installs the entire system it likely will be sized to fit the plumber, not you.

Extra fittings, either "Y" adapters or "T" connectors, should be installed very close to the well-head and just under the pump.  Not only will those fitting permit easy priming of the pipes and hoses, they will permit the entire plumbing system to be cleaned and sanitized when desired.  Let us assume the well is located some distance from the hand pump.  The priming bucket system I show above  can be connected to a "Y" or "T" fitting at the well.  The fitting under the pump can have a short length of hose attached that drops into an empty 5 gallon pail.  The priming bucket is filled with a 25% bleach solution, set on a sawhorse or other bench higher than the outlet, and the valves opened.  The bleach solution will then flow via gravity the entire length of the pipe and cleanse it thoroughly.  Without those fittings the well itself would need to have much more bleach poured directly into the well, then the hand pump operated for a long time to move all the bleach water through the plumbing.  A plumber is not likely to even think of installing the extra "Y" or "T" connectors to enable easy flushing and cleaning of the plumbing, another reason for doing the work yourself and getting it right the first time.


With my hand pump set-up I can quietly pump potable water in the absence of electric utility company electricity for normal pumps or a noisy generator to power an electric pump.  Should an EMP pulse disrupt the power supply or other nasty events happen which required discreet, non-attention getting methods of getting water, this hand pump system will provide enough water to keep body and soul together for relatively normal living and cleanliness.

Note:  Some people prefer to have a well bucket system ready to use if the power goes out for an extended period of time. The advantage is that a well-bucket is portable:  if  you move, you can take the well bucket with you easier than pulling pipes out of a well as with a hand pump as illustrated above.  Of course the well bucket system could not be effectively used again unless one know the depth of the well at a new location and had sufficient cable to reach to that depth, but that is a minor problem compared with having a well-bucket and pulley system in hand for emergency use.  One such well bucket system is produced by Well WaterBoy Products.  http://waterbuckpump.com