Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
-Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225
The chirp, chirp, chirp of a running ram-pump is soothing to me. While stored water is necessary for any survival plan, a ram-pump system represents life beyond the most meager of existence.
As a bare minimum, FEMA recommends 1 gallon a day per person for 3 days as a survival necessity (12 gallons for a family of 4). When compared to the average person’s ‘normal’ usage of water of 80-100 gallons per day, you can imagine how challenging it would be to subsist on that tiny quantity. Think about how fast the dishes would pile up, the clothes would smell, or how the inability to flush a toilet would make you feel.
Our preparedness group has 20+ members, counting children, and none of us want to imagine having to live without fresh water in a disaster. Over the course of a year, we came up with the SurvivalClub Water Plan to ensure adequate supplies of fresh water (for at least one location) should we ever need it. At capacity, the system will actually provide more than 100 gallons per day per person, leaving sufficient water after drinking, cleaning and sanitation to grow a garden, water a lawn, or give to others who might need it as well. Our total system costs will run around $2500, and provide approximately 1,168,000 gallons of water per year. If my math is right, that is about 1/50th of a penny per gallon, whereas my city water costs me around 10 times that. Even if we used it for nothing but grey water to run a garden or water a lawn, the cost/benefit is amazing. Even if our system costs double or triple as we factor in expenses we haven’t considered (extra filters, replacement parts, etc), the price per gallon is still almost insignificant. And that is only the water provided in 1 year!
The heart of our system is a hydraulic ram pump. In a simple sense, it uses water to push water, and is an inefficient system. I estimate the majority of water is flushed off as excess to run the system, while only a small percentage (in our case, 2.3 gallons per minute) being moved uphill to its destination. However, that is more than enough for our purposes, and the fact that it runs without electricity and has only 2 moving parts, makes it potentially the best solution for preparedness needs.
When complete, our ram pump will reside at the bottom of a small cliff. Upstream of the cliff is a stream that runs all year round, though at some points much heavier than others. We will have a steel trough at the point where the water flow is greatest, which will collect the water. From there, it will run from the trough through 1.5″ pvc pipe downhill to the ram-pump (total drop 30′), which will push water uphill, around 150′ vertically and 400′ horizontally. At the top of a slope, the water will collect in a 1000-gallon cistern, which will be above roof-level to the home on the property, allowing us to gravity-flow the water to the house. We are still determining whether to create a large charcoal/sand filter system, or to use a different mechanism such as a Berkey filter to create potable water.
This is a video of our first test of the ram-pump to ensure it actually worked. The water is running down the PVC piping from a 55-gallon drum, into the ram-pump, which is then pushing it through the hose down a small incline, and then back up to above the level of the water source. Next time, I’ll talk about the work required to prepare the ground for the completed system. We’re probably still several months away from a working system, and I’ll keep you apprised as we get more complete!