Installing an Off-Grid Water Well

by Sandra O

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest

Getting out of the city and choosing to live “out in the country” is a goal of many preppers.  “Homesteading” sounds so idealistic; getting back to the basics and living the dream!  What most don’t realize is homesteading is hard physical work and has a lot of unknowns. It requires a lot of planning, prioritizing, setup money and manual labor.  You need shelter, water and food and lots of common sense.

When I bought my homestead (see previous article on buying a country property), it had the basics:  a house, a water well, septic tank, shed and barn; however, except for the brand new septic, everything was old and poorly maintained.  I had to prioritized the repair/replace list and after refurbing the house, the water well was next in line.

I did my research on the internet about water wells, the various types of pumps, hand pumps, stand-alone mechanical pumps and solar pump options. I spoke with some of my neighbors about their wells, many who have had to recently replace pump motors and pipes.  One neighbor tried to do his own replacement and it turned out to be trial and error because he did not know what type of pump or how far down it was placed so it was a guessing game and he ended up calling a company to come fix it after 3 days of failure.  Another neighbor started doing it himself, found his pipe was broken and ended up getting a well company to replace the broken pipes and replace the pump.  In both instances, it was 3 to 7 days to fix the problem, plus between $1500 and $2500.  Another family down the road bought a place without an inspection and found the well didn’t work and $3000 and two weeks of repairs later they were pumping water.  The point is you never know when the pump will stop working or what caused it to stop.  It just happens and usually not at a convenient time!  If you don’t have water stored (300-500 gals) for your family and animals to get you through the repair/replacement, you are in deep yogurt!

You location is everything!  If you live in the deep south (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida etc.) and you are not in the hills, your drill depth may be shallow (less than 80 ft.).  When I lived in Florida we could dig a well ourselves because the water level was so high.  But the further north and more hilly country you are in, the drill depth may be significant.  The type of the soil also impacts the drilling. Rocky soil or compacted clay can cause you some anxiety as it affects the time to drill and the type of drill bits needed to get through the ground.  If your house is on a scenic hill, it may add hundreds of feet to the water level, which adds money to total cost of drilling and installation. These are just some of the things to think about before buying that country property.

Other things you need to know about your existing well are:  when was it drilled, how deep was it drilled and what was the water depth when it was drilled.  If the well was drilled over 25/30 years ago, there may be no county records of it.  You will have to depend on what the owner tells you (if the property is occupied) or try to ask neighbors about their wells if the property is vacant.  Even if your closest neighbor is 10 miles down the road, the soil composition is similar and the water level is probably pretty close to what you would have.

The property I bought had a residence which was 40 years old and the original builder lived in the house.  Since the well was drilled when the house was built there were no county records of the original drilling to give me the information I needed. The house sits on the second highest elevation in the community but it is really only a small hill.  The owner told me the well was 120 ft. deep but he didn’t remember what the water level was.  The pump had been replaced 10 years prior.  Since the owners were an elderly couple and did not use the well for irrigation or animals, I had a good chance the pump would last for a while.

You just don’t go out and replace a well pump because you’re worried it may break down on you!  Since I had no idea what type or size of pipe was used (40 years ago) or what brand or size of pump was installed (10 years ago), the decision about the water well kept me up at night for weeks.  Even though I have 500 gallons of drinkable water, 600 gallons of household use water, and 1000 gallons of animal water stored around my homestead, I was worried about not having fresh water.  The thought of having to go almost a half-mile downhill to the meadow where the spring is, fill water containers, transfer water uphill to the house and animal areas, filter and purify it for drinking was constantly on my mind.  I made the decision to drill a backup well using an off-grid Simple (Hand) Pump.

The internet advertising lead you to think you can put in a Simple Pump in or next to your existing well piping. Not unless you had it planned prior to drilling your well and got the right width of pipe!  My 40 year old well was not a consideration for a Simple Pump, which meant I had to get a company to drill a new well in a new location.  A Simple Pump is a hand pump, which can be adapted to a mechanical pump either electric or solar… for an additional large fee.

Getting a well drilling company is not as simple as calling up and making an appointment.  I called all three companies within 100 miles of my property.  One just told me “no, we’re too busy with commercial work,” the other two agreed to come out and give me an estimate and explanation.  One company was willing to drill on appointment at a much higher price, while the other company offered a lower price if they could work me in over the next four months.  “Working me in,” meant between commercial jobs and when another job in the area could be combined with mine so they could bring the heavy equipment to do two jobs, which is more economical for them; which translated to $1000 less cost to me.  I chose the latter, feeling my existing well would continue to function while I waited.

The ESTIMATED cost of drilling depends on lots things.  First your location-how far out are you…what are your county road conditions; can large heavy equipment get to you and what are your farm road conditions…dirt, gravel, paved?  Second, what are the topographical issues with your property (mountains, hilly or flat)?  Third, what is the geological makeup of your soil…clay, sand, rock, etc.?  Fourth, what will the depth of drill to hit water be?  The drilling company can pull the records for your area, but some county well records only go back 15 or 20 years.  Needless to say, if you are on top of a mountain or hill, the drill will most likely be deeper and thus more expensive. Drilling a 50 or 80 ft. well is way cheaper than drilling 100-120 ft. or 350-500 ft. or more.  My house is on a small hill thus the drill went to 140 ft.  You need to ask all these questions up front to the drilling company and find out what their basic costs are and what their additional costs may be.  Do they charge additional fees for drilling more difficult geological makeup, more for drilling over 100 ft.,  what other additional charges…a one-time service fee, an extra mileage fee, non-level ground set up fee?

The supervisor will come out earlier with a contract, want a 50% deposit and want to know the approximate spot where you want the well drilled. He/she may do a soil sample or just use his/her experience to gauge the ground.  When the drill trucks arrive there will usually be two or three trucks: a large drill truck, a water truck, a sand truck and/or a supervisor truck; just depends on the company.  Your spot will need to be mostly flat and with enough space so the trucks can stabilize. These trucks are heavy and the drill truck has extendable booms that go 100’ in the air over the drill site.  Electrical/telephone wires cannot be nearby and tree branches may be a problem also.  I had two sites picked out but one had too many oak tree branches and the boom could not be raised.  The alternate site was mostly clear of branches but the boom still took out the end of a branch.

My drill took about four and half hours. Once that was done then the piping was inserted and fitted piece by piece, which took another hour and a half.  Lastly they blew out the pipes and the water began to flow.  The next day the supervisor was back to measure the water level.  In my situation the drill was to 140 ft. and the water level was at 115 ft. Because I chose a Simple Pump to be installed, it was necessary to know the water level so the correct measurements could be given to the company to custom build the insert pipes for my property. This took about 2 weeks.

The Simple Pump was installed about three weeks later.  The drilling company sent two men out to install it and while the supervisor said it would take “less than an hour” it really took almost three hours.  The Simple Pump pipes fit inside the water pipes. Once the pipes were connected they installed the hand pump housing to the pipes.  Then the men pumped for about ten minutes to get the sand out of the new line before the water was clear.  Since it was brand new I was told to expect some dirty or colored water for a bit.  I had my son standing by to be the physical labor part and he was able to pump easily after it was primed.  It takes about six or seven pumps to get the prime to kick in before the water pours out, if you pump once a day.  It will tire an office worker out in a heartbeat but a good ole country boy won’t have a problem pumping 30 gallons of water.

The cost of the water well drilling, piping, and Simple Pump and installation came to just under $5000. Once on site, it took a day to set up, drill, and pipe and another half a day to install the Simple Pump and clean up the site.  I am considering adding a solar unit to automate the pump but that would be an additional $2000-$3000 to purchase and install it, as that is not one of my talents.

I have laid a concrete pad around the well site and we’re in the process of building a pump house to secure the Simple Pump.  I know if a worst case grid-down scenario were to occur this pump will be a life saver.

Prizes For This Round (Ends April 12, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  rifle ammo at Lucky Gunner, an Urban Survival Kit a $109 value courtesy of  TEOTWAWKI supplies, a WonderMix Deluxe Kitchen Mixer a $299 value courtesy of Kodiak Health and a LifeStraw Mission Filter a $109 value courtesy of EarthEasy, and a 4″ Heavy Duty WaterBoy Well Bucket a $106 value and a WaterBoy Tripod Kit courtesy of Well WaterBoy Products for a total prize value of over $867.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail a $119 value courtesy of Augason Farms.com and Berkey Light with 2 (9″) Berkey Earth Elements a $157 value courtesy of LPC Survival, for a total prize value of $276.
  3. Third place winner will receive –  International MRE Meals Supply a $72.00 value, a LifeStraw Portable Water Filter a $19 value, Yoder’s Fully Cooked Canned Bacon a $15 value all courtesy of CampingSurvival and one copy of each of my books “The Prepper’s Primer” and a copy of “The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook“ for a total prize value of $137.

Comments

  1. TN Farmer says:

    Interesting article. We had a well drilled about 15 years ago and it’s about 350′. It was originally 250′ but after a few weeks we got horrible sludge throughout the house so the well company had to dig it deeper. I also am concerned about not being able to get water so I called the well company to see about putting a hand pump into the well. I was quoted $10,000 to have it done. Obviously, we’re not getting a hand pump for the well. My husband thinks that he can get a hand pump to work if needed, but I’m skeptical to say the least. We do have a stream on the property so I guess we could use filtered water from that if it gets down to it. So happy that we have well water; it’s the best tasting water anywhere. Thanks for the informative article.

  2. We have been looking at this for while now. I’ve been hearing a lot about how the hand pumps cant handle a high water depth. But according to you yours is 114ft?

    • patientmomma says:

      The hand pump pipes went to 120′; the water level is at 115′. Driller said depth is not a problem; he said it just takes longer to pump the water the deeper the well.

  3. TexasScout says:

    One other thing you didn’t mention; the QUALITY on the water. In my case, my old well, drilled in 1967, was producing poor quality water, containing brine and hydrogen sulphide gas. It also was a steel casing and produced a black parcipitetate and had a hole rusting through the casing about four feet below ground that let brown rain water in. It was TD at 250 feet, but I had no idea where the perforations were.

    My driller, the ONLY in my county, knew of the problem with H2S and told me I would need to drill over 400 feet to get rid of it. We ended up with the sand screen at 418 feet. I now have fairly good water, still a trace of H2S, and then there is the alge problem. However, with my Big Berkey, I now have good drinking and cooking water. The animals don’t mind the smell, it dissaptes in a few hours. But, it will only “sustain” my garden. Only Mother Nature’s rain makes it rally grow.

    Tex

    • patientmomma says:

      I feel very blessed that our water quality is clean and tastes pure! The county extension man said the water test was great and I have no smell or sediment problems. I do have a gravity filter in the kitchen but don’t use it very often.

  4. The #1 thing that has helped us with our well is installing a “whole house filter”, we purchased at Lowe’s , it’s a big filter and Eliminated things like plugged screens on the washer and on all the faucets, you always get a little sediment from well water.

    • Encourager says:

      We also installed a whole house filter and I can’t praise it enough. We change out the filter once per week, twice if using a lot of water or ds is home visiting…he takes long, long showers. We buy the filters that filter out iron, magnesium and calcium, although some calcium gets through and we get the accumulation on the faucets, etc. We had gone through two brand new water softeners in less than 2 years so this was a much cheaper alternative and is actually the better.

  5. I live in Louisiana and I was able to easily access our water table using a post hole auger and several 4 foot extensions. Without dependable access to water,none of your other preps will matter. Great article and Me personally,I just don’t think we can ever talk about it too much.

  6. Out here having a well drilled will run close to $9000 and there is no guarantee that it will strike water. I have a friend with hole like that. Our problems, and his, are the type of soil, and the elevation he is at. Down a little lower it is easier, but many people are now looking for property with a spring (more available than I thought) and developing that.

    • Aussie Prepper says:

      JP, here in Aussie outside cities/towns we rarely bother with wells (which we call bores).

      We just make sure we have a large supply in tanks – either steel, concrete or food grade poly. Some tanks are underground, most aren’t. Except for our remote areas with poor rainfall 2 x 10,000 gallon tanks will do for a family of 4 if normal water conservation is practiced. City people moving from town water to the limited supply of tanks in the Country usually have a rude awakening though.

      Here, outside town limits we tend to have a tank or tanks on every house, shed, barn – anything with a roof, even chicken coops! Where I am we get about 26 inches of rain a year, fairly evenly spread so our tanks (you call them cisterns??) rarely get low.

      The above is for house use only – when it comes to livestock or gardens we rely on earth walled dams – we get a bulldozer operator in who knows what he is doing and in less than 2 days a dam of at least 250,000 gallons is ready for the next rain.

      My retreat is 40 acres with 9,000 gallons of water storage off the roof. I also have a couple of dams with about 250,000 gallons between them.

      Another thing – we dont filter the water from our roofs. For sure there is a bit of dirt, bird poop and the odd dead bug in the tank but it has never done us any harm?

      Aussie

      • Loclyokel says:

        @Aussie Prepper; I can agree/corroborate your insights. We lived 10 mi. outside of Horsham, Victoria in the ’69-’70 time frame. All of our house water came from roof harvesting going to galvanized steel tanks and was pumped around from there, with some tanks elevated and some ground level. All the irrigation and animal water came from the irrigation channel filling up the dam and then pumped to other areas for flood irrigation of crops and orchards. And yeah, I don’t ever remember there being a filter on any of the water, other than a screen on the tank inlet to keep the big stuff out and maybe the mosquitos. Never got sick. Loved those trees full of lorikeets/parrots every day on our walk to 2 room schoolhouse! Good Memories & always lots of work. Loclyokel

  7. The Wiseman says:

    I installed a SimplePump three years ago for SHTF purposes, at 150′ down right in my regular well (222′ w/3/4hp electric pump). My plumber and I installed it in three hours. The SimplePump slips right past the Pitless Valve and right down the well casing to your desired depth. To conceal the fact from the neighbors that I have non-electric pumping capability, I had a carpenter build a phony “potting shed” over the wellhead, concealing the SimplePump’s handle; we pump inside the potting shed at night so as to attract no attention. The SimplePump uses the same pipes as does the regular electric pump, and pumps right into my 55 lb. pressure tanks, so that I have regular water pressure permanently in the house when my electric service fails. The “potting shed” is built with a hinged roof so that the pumps can be pulled and replaced if they should ever fail. One hour of pumping on the SimplePump during electric failure, gives me all the water I need all day. (We were out of electricity for 8 days during Hurricane Sandy). The SimplePump for water and a gravity-fed septic tank/distribution field gives me peace of mind!

    • patientmomma says:

      Wiseman and BCT, I wish you guys were in neighbor range! You both are so knowledgeable on just about everything! The driller told me that if my existing well were newer, they might have been able to run the simple pump pipes next to it but because the well was at least 40 years old there was no chance of doing it now. The driller told me they did a well on the TN/KY border which was 450 feet deep and through rocky soil; cost the homesteader $14,000. I feel lucky to be where I am. The well water in middle TN is excellent and does not need filtering but my spring water would need to be filtered if I ever had to use it for human consumption.

      • Anonamo Also says:

        PM, For your peace…Why don’t you get a sample of water from your spring head.. Do not give the info to those who are testing that it came from a spring… they don’t need that info. call it” source ___”(pick a number) Then you willl know what is in it. sometimes springs come from deeper and have been filtered much more than one would think. It may not need filter, if you can protect the spring head with a “spring house” and screen to protect it from contaminations. Just thinkin’

        • patientmomma says:

          Great idea; I will do that next week. I’m letting everything settle a bit now after 4-1/2 days of solid rain. The spring actually feeds an underground creek which we just discovered when planting one of the meadows. I thought it was a run off ditch but with so much rain I could actually hear the water rushing so I got my son to go exploring and he found the underground creek. I’ll keep my eye on it through the summer and see how it holds water. For now, it’s a family secret now!

          • American pacrat says:

            patientmomma
            You could have an artisan well on your property. As AA stated they are clean water due to mother natures purification.
            Would love to know the results on your stream. If you have water bubbling or continually flowing come the hottest driest days where you live and all other water sources dry but yours does not……..you have an artisan well provided by mother nature.

      • Your spring water should be fine. Middle Tn here also . We have 7 year around springs . All run through a clay / chert bank . All are fine drinking water. Yes they get alittle cloudy when we have to much rain .

  8. Water is the most critical prep. I have been looking at my lack of water security four years straight. Now that I am retired and no longer have to be within commuting distance, I have more options; which have their own set of problems!
    I love the water articles, thanks.

  9. mom of three says:

    My parent’s have a well on their property, it needed to be dug deeper too. The water is awful, smelly, and lots of iodine, in it. They had to get a water softner, to make it drinkable, I don’t know how the original owners, drank that garbage water, in three year’s my parents will have lived on the property, for 40 year’s and have gone through two water softners, and ond really bad drought in 1985, they had to buy bottled water, and take showers once a week. Even though my family, lives in the city I still stock up on water.

  10. I test my water every couple of years to make sure ther are not a lot of sulfate in the water. Living near wheat farms and all the chemicals they use is cause for concern. I hope after I retire and move our next home will be able to have a hand pump. At 350 feet here, it’s just not happening.

    • Mrs. B, is there a water test kit that u’d recommend?

      • Yes. The county extension office will test for free or little cost. Call your local office and see if they want your container or one they give you to test results.

  11. Good article! However I have a head start on the…

    “Homesteading” sounds so idealistic; getting back to the basics and living the dream! What most don’t realize is homesteading is hard physical work and has a lot of unknowns….”

    For the first 10 to 12 years of my life my family lived on a small farm in the hills of North Louisiana.

    “The 1930’s and 40’s have often been described as being much simpler times. And, I agree. In the Bear Creek Community, where I grew up, during those much simpler times, there was no telephone, no electricity, no running water, no central heating, no air conditioning, no television sets, no tractors, no prepared foods to purchase, and no indoor bathrooms or toilets. And, not every family had a car. Well, we did have an air conditioned outhouse—It was really air conditioned in the winter months. Farm families raised most of their own food – eggs and chickens, milk and beef from their own cows, pork from their hogs, and vegetables from their gardens.”

    We had dug wells, not drilled wells. We did have running water. Lower the well bucket, fill it, draw it back up, pour it into a water bucket, and “run it back to the farm house.” A kids chore.

    Here’s what I’m thinking. And, I have thought fer a spell. Purchase a reliable electric water pump. Calculate the power requirement. Design a dedicated solar panel that will power just the pump. A stand alone system. Just my “six bits.”

    • Anonamo Also says:

      Yep, We had that kind of running water until I was 11. then the deep well was put in . my other comment has not come thru yet. The bailer bucket could be easily viable for people who are not debilitated, with variations in height of a pulley system above the well allowing to swing a tube for a bucket…(with flapper system to hold water…, and even my Aunt with only one good arm could pull water from our 40 ft deep well. she would pull, step on well chain, then get another grip and repeat til the pulley/bucket system had it to place she could swing over the well curb.

  12. Four and a half hours to drill 140 feet? You live over sand.
    Reminds me of the Texas blasting company that got the bid to clear some land just south of me for a building project. They nearly went bankrupt because of the rock up here, the workers telling us they’d never encountered rock so hard as the steel we live above.
    Point being, to those reading and considering the cost: don’t go by what’s writ unless you live in the same area and use the same driller. Couldn’t get a drill company out of their parking lot here for $5K.
    As for the deep well hand pump, they are available, but again, they’re going to be costly.
    Options: Can you dig a surface well on your property? Do you know of any streams nearby you could artesian-pipe from? Would your driller put in a well to just ten feet or so below water level (hoping it’s less than fifty feet) and only case half way (providing soil will aloow such), and not report it to the fed? Is there a spring within walking distance that would allow you use of wagon/bike/ATV/foot approach to fill containers? (When we lived in Idaho, we used to truck water from the Salmon River in 20 gallon milk cans; even now know people who get all their drinking water from springs).
    Think outside the box and you’ll find a way. Just don’t let Uncle in on the secret.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      If there are no county records for well in your area the well drillers themselves have kept records, just look for a reputable / long term driller in your area. By going to their office and talking with the office staff, they will be able to pull viable info to assist you in a decision …to drill or not, and give a more accurate estimate. 40+ years ago a well total cost was about 5000$ now the same well is 12, 000- 15,000 depending on the driller. so if there is more than one option ask each one for an estimate on the well at an idenical depth. with identical pump, casing and etc… if you are in a sandy area, or well goes thru deep area of sand…, better get a casing, and will need well. Just a few random thougts. screen ..

  13. Anonamo Also says:

    Depth of well does not ALWAYs equate with depth of well. It IS a general rule. Some areas of the country are known for their varing depths, and water quality is often different, according to those depths, the industry that have possible contamination.
    case in point, My parents well is 465 ft deep. It was drilled for them more than 40 years ago. and is actually the third well drilled, but the first sustained well. The first well caved in , before the pipe could be dropped. the second well was completed for two days and the third well, was protected with stainless steel casing. It goes down thru 100 feet of white sand. When the contract was written the well was guaranteed for workmanship for thirty days, Pump had another warranty.so They paid for water, water came within 150 ft of surface, but we do not know static water level now
    . The most common problem with their well is the points/ electrical connections and wild things getting in and becoming fried… frogs and baby snakes have been the most common victims. If you know how to take care of “small ” issues like this, then you will save yourself several hundreds of dollars over time.
    Origional pump lasted approx 22 +years, and on 3rd pump ..had to replace pipes inside well At 42+ years, they became plugged with mineral deposits and cracked as they were removed. Cost to replace was about 2200$, and pump had to be replaced immediately and was purchased thru the well company with their mark-up.. .Having these items on hand hastens the replacement.. and if you have the information on the pump.. you know what to buy for a replacement.. There are wells within 5 miles of our property, that vary from 70 feet to 550+ feet… and our area is known for that. If you ask for the price of a well here it is priced at x dollars a foot…with a set price for 100 ft and each foot after at a set rate. when the drillers gave me a price 10 years ago it was 10,000$ to drill on a close property. and that price was estimated on a 500 ft well.
    Knowing the depth of your well and having materials on hand to replace the pipes and well pump for a deep well gives a certain security, whether grid up of grid down. ..for unforseen circumstances.
    Having a workable hand pump, that you have tested gives even more. there are also simple buckets that can be made from PVC pipe, of varying length, for your situation…here is one. link of use. just know….There are things that can be done besides dropping “bailer bucket” in a hole, can use a windlass and or pulley system.. to make easier to handle a full pipe of water and from a deeper depth well…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yUyZnrxEZA

  14. JeffintheWest says:

    Good article. Thanks for sharing the story.

  15. There are many different types of hand water pumps on the market to choose from. Take all the claims of capacity, gallons per minute, and ease of operation of manual well pumps with a grain of salt ― unless they have an actual demonstration of a deep-well application stating the static water level, size of cylinder, length of stroke, age and fitness of operator. You can do the math from there.

  16. The Wiseman says:

    In a true SHTF situation, that outside hand pump or solar panel sticking up like a flag over your well head is a dead give away that you’ve got WATER! Those who are without water because their electric pumps don’t work, bandits and riff raff passing by and neighbors with guns will take that “free” water over in a heartbeat, selling it and bartering it because they control the site with guns. And now you’re no longer living in your house anymore. As soon as you run out of stored water and come out of your house, you’re no longer the owner – the riff raff will quickly overcome you and take your stuff.

    Start thinking like SHTF, people! It won’t be cake & wine! If you can’t protect it, or hide it, it’s no longer yours!

    • Wiseman
      What you are describing is TEOTWAWKI. The SHTF in 2008 and still sliding. Are you living in a cave in the mountains with your own army, perchance? Are you 100 percent self-sustaining? I am not there yet, but moving toward self-sustaining, which I want to be whether TEOTWAWKI happens… or not.

    • Selfishness is not always a virtue. Those neighbors also could be a source of salvation. Invite them over for water. In return they would protect you and share whatever they have in excess.
      My off-grid rural property is surrounded by farmers. I consider them assets rather than liabilities. Get involved with your neighbors.
      My 350′ well cost $15,000 and not suitable for backup pumps. I chose a Grundfos pump for reliability. It’s powered by a whole house solar system with a propane generator backup. If all else fails, then there’s stored rain water off the barn.

  17. Good article. Thank you Sandra O.

  18. I’ve been drilling water wells my entire life. You can find everything you ever wanted to know about wells at this site, run by the National Groundwater Association, just for consumers:

    http://www.wellowner.org/

  19. The Wiseman says:

    Hi Becky,
    You’re splitting hairs in re’ “SHTF” and “TEOTWAWKI”; the latter – which was coined by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein many years ago, means “The End Of The World As We Know It” – which is just another way of saying “SHTF”. I’m pointing out human nature after that disaster – people will do anything to drink and eat, and your pump handle sticking up behind your house, or your solar panel standing above your well head, is simply a sign that advertises “water” to these desperate souls. However, their problem is not your problem – you have an off-the-grid way to pump water for yourself and your family. You need to disguise these things or you’re going to quickly lose them to aggressive, frightened people who need them, when SHTF. I’ve done this – my pump handle sticks up inside a neat little potting shed where I go to pump my daily water in privacy and safety. Becky – you need to conceal your stuff so that you don’t attract desperate people who want your stuff and who will take it from you by force.

    • Wiseman
      I understand what you are saying and just to ease your mind, no one can see my things, and I am way low key… even though my area has folks who look ripe for plucking. Even most of my garden is opsec as a food forest. Everyone is armed and ready for self defense. My problem is that without distinguishing between the two, people start to think “it” has not happened yet. I say it already has, but if the government falls, we will see massive looting. No order kept. No order is very scary, just like government jack boots are scary. Name your poison 😉

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      First mention of TEOTWAWKI was in 1889 by Daniel S. Troy in a book about comet’s and what they may do to us.

  20. Does anyone know of any videos showing how difficult (or easy) it might be to pump the maximum gallons per minute with a deep well hand pump?

    • No reason to look for a video, Darren. Your question can be answered by determining how good of shape your back and arms are in– they’re gonna get a real workout if the well is 50′ or more. Even 25′ will be a chore. Max GPM is totally dependent upon the user.

      You have to remember that water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon and a hundred foot pipe is going to have quite a few gallons, plus you’ll be sucking up more with each stroke. Imagine doing dips on a parallel bar for ten minutes.

  21. The Wiseman says:

    Dear Expat:
    As a Marine veteran of ‘Nam and a long-time Wall St. consultant, my assessment of “my neighbors” is a bit less optimistic than yours. “Invite them over for water…” sounds nice, but suppose they are too numerous to count? Suppose they are armed, and begin selling time at your pump to other neighbors for gold? We are talking SHTF here – today’s situation is forever gone, and a new reality is taking place. Too many of us preppers feel that SHTF will result in a pure form of anarchy, where it is “every man for himself”; some preppers find that refreshing, a new start! Alas, that will not be the case. As an example, in the past few years, many large hobo jungles of homeless folk have grown up around the Country – under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, for instance. I suggest that you go and visit there one time (bring a gun). Surprise! You will find a governmental structure already in place! Two or three strong, brutal men (always men!) are in charge and are making the rules that everyone MUST follow. Should you move in with your tent and bag of old clothes, you will be visited by these leaders and their possee of hangers-on. You will have the rules explained to you; you will probably be smacked around to emphasize the lessons received. For instance, there will be taxes to pay to them, food to find for them, booze and drugs that you will either be expected to produce, or that you must pay an equivalent price from your stuff. Your wife and kids may be molested; you will either be helpless to protect them, or quickly dead.
    This is human nature that simply “pops up” in a SHTF situation. It has been proven over and over, once the police are gone from the community.
    This is what you must expect if you do not conceal/hide your vital survival stuff – your water, your food, your weapons – and are prepared to protect them and your Family with overwhelming deadly force.

  22. Chuck Findlay says:

    I’m glad I don’t have to worry about a well that much. Living where I do (2-miles from the biggest lake system in the world, “The Great Lakes”) water is easy to come by. Lots of rivers, streams and ponds, not that I would trust ponds as this is farming country. And it rains a lot so harvesting rain water is pretty easy.

    But I still am thinking about a well when I move farther out of town (and a lot closer to the lake) to have it as a backup option. I think a sand point well will do it as the water table is not very far down. I know a friend of a friend that can do it when I want it done for a few hundred dollars. Or I more likely will do it myself. I like being the one that knows how things were done and how they work so I can fix it when something goes wrong.

    But really too much water is the problem most times of the year. This winter I finally won the battle of water coming (uninvited) into my basement when it rained hard, and it rains a lot here.

  23. riverrider says:

    i think a lot of you got ripped off by the well drillers. we pay 3000 for guaranteed water whatever the depth and that includes pump and install. mine hit at 140 ft, 12 gals a minute of clean water, neighbors much deeper for tinted 3 gals a minute. same price. hand pumps can go to 600 feet with the right equipment and you have the strength. couple grand for a top of the line system. i’d still like to sink a shallow well or develop a spring for livestock/ irrigation.

  24. Chuck Findlay says:

    How did people ever survive in the old times without a well drilling rig and or thousands of dollars to throw at having someone drill a well for them assuming there was even well drilling rigs?

    I think we complicate things just a bit too much these days…

    • Chuck

      I agree. A lot of people caught rainfall from their roof. My dad hand dug our well, I watched him do it. My neighbors in Texas had a big rainwater cistern underground. Few people showered every day. Many folks filled a tub and took turns bathing. Sponge baths were common. That bathwater was emptied into the garden. What is complicated is trying to match the convenience of on grid living.
      I average 25 gallons a day of water collection on a cabin. Pretty light for modern life. 50 gallons average. In four years I have learned to recycle every drop I can while on community water. Using a bucket and plunger allowed easier water recycling than replumbing the washer. Got the clothes cleaner than low water washers, too. I am reconsidering our endless use of potable eater one time before it goes down the drain.
      All this is only because I live in a dry area.

  25. I think i am prepared. We have 3 wells on 40 acres, one has a 240 volt pump powered by a diesel genset. One has a solar powered pump that pumps while the sun shines. One has a 100GPM pump powered by another diesel genset AND it also has a solar pump in the same pipe. that well has 15000 gals of water storage in tanks. we also have a pond that fills from overflow. In Arizona even at 6000 feet you need all the water you can get. In this day and age i cannot see anybody drilling a well and not installing a solar pump as well as any other pump you drop down the hole.

  26. Encourager says:

    Very interesting, well done article. We are checking out some property that is off grid. They have a hand pump but the realtor thinks there is a problem with it. No way to get electric to it. No septic, no indoor plumbing. Anything we put in will have to be solar or wind powered. It is in an area that has many small lakes so thinking maybe springs may be on the 40 acre property. Makes one stop and think, for sure.

  27. I hope you won’t mind some clarification from Simple Pump Co. regarding some of the points made above.

    “The internet advertising lead you to think you can put in a Simple Pump in or next to your existing well piping. Not unless you had it planned prior to drilling your well and got the right width of pipe!”
    The Simple Pump will fit in the GREAT MAJORITY of wells alongside the submersible. Prior planning is not required.

    “I was quoted $10,000 to have it done. Obviously, we’re not getting a hand pump for the well. My husband thinks that he can get a hand pump to work if needed, but I’m skeptical to say the least.”
    Water level is the critical factor affecting price. Depending on your water level, your cost for a Simple Pump might be between $1500 and $2200 for the pump. Installation by a professional shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars.
    With a water level of 200’, the Bison costs about $1000 more than the Simple Pump and requires about four times the pumping force.

    “I’ve been hearing a lot about how the hand pumps can’t handle a high water depth.”
    This is only true for older types of pumps. Some professionals still say this to their customers.
    The Simple Pump can give you water from 325’ static water level — with only 16lbs of force on the handle. The average person can do that quite easily. No body-building required.

    “My plumber and I installed it in three hours. The Simple Pump slips right past the Pitless Valve and right down the well casing to your desired depth.”
    This is the more typical experience. Many customers install their own (when they have a pitless set-up). As one elderly customer put it, “If you can screw the lid on a jam jar, you can install this pump.” See: http://www.simplepump.com/Support/Installation-Videos.html

    “Purchase a reliable electric water pump. Calculate the power requirement. Design a dedicated solar panel that will power just the pump. A stand alone system.”
    That will be great, possibly for a very long time. But I’d suggest that for preparedness, a lower tech backup could be invaluable. Solar has some vulnerabilities such as emf or blowing a fuse in the middle of a multi-day winter storm.

    Regarding a visible handle — “…a dead give away that you’ve got WATER!”
    The Simple Pump can have the handle removed and be lowered to a ‘down periscope’ position. Then the whole well head can be hidden under a hollow imitation rock or behind a shrub.

    “…they’re gonna get a real workout if the well is 50′ or more. Even 25′ will be a chore.”
    This impression applies to old-style pumps, like the Baker that is quite common in parks. I used one that had just been refurbished, so it was in tip-top shape. It was serious work at only 40’ water level.
    The first time I pumped with a Simple Pump was from 80’. It was so ridiculously easy, I thought it was broken. Then the water started coming out. It was still so easy that I continued pumping for a while with one finger. Modern construction with modern materials.

    Michael Linehan
    Simple Pump Co.
    http://www.simplepump.com

  28. I love the idea of having a water well on your property. In preparation for coming disaster, I feel that it would be a necessity to have a well nearby in order to have clean fresh water to drink. I have recently purchased a homestead with a broken water pump. Through some maintenance and a professional opinion, I hope to get the pump up and running again. It is definitely true that you never know when your pumps will fail.

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