People who live in town and are on city water don’t usually have to worry about their water supply being cut off if the power is down for an extended time. However, if you live on a property with a well, chances are that well runs on electricity. If the power goes out for more than a few hours, this presents a big problem. No power means no water coming up from the well.
Last winter we had several nights of very cold temperatures, and a couple of different ice storms, one that had us iced in for 4 days. It was so cold for our area that there was significant risk of pipes bursting, power lines breaking, and water lines freezing. It was our first winter living in a home with well water, so we were a little nervous what we would do if the power was off for an extended period of time. Thankfully we never lost power, so the heat lamp in our pump house kept burning, which kept our well from freezing up. That experience however, did make me think – how would we get water if we didn’t have electricity for an extended period of time?
Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions out there to draw water up from the well without power. We’ll discuss those in a minute, but first we need to look at how most modern wells are made. There are typically two kinds of wells – deep and shallow. Deep wells are usually those that go deeper than 25 feet below ground. They have waterproof pumps at the bottom of the well casing shaft, which pumps the water up to the surface. Shallow wells, or those that don’t reach 25 feet, are often referred to as homemade wells. They pull water up using a pump, too, but they use suction to pump the water up to the surface.
If the electricity is out, you will still be able to get water from the well, but a bucket and rope won’t get the job done like it did 100 years ago, you’ll just have to build a manual pump and use that to draw out the water. No matter if you have a deep or shallow well, you can still use a manual pump. You can build a manual pump using PVC pipe. You can find simple directions on how to build a basic manual pump here.
Another option would be to install a deep well hand pump. This is a pump similar to what many pioneers would have used or even at the turn of the century before modern indoor plumbing was installed. You can order these online, and they work for wells up to 200 feet deep. A well deeper than that would require a windmill to draw the water up.
One important thing to consider is that your well casing may be lower than the water level, which might enable you to use a shallow well pump in a deep well. If you have to depend on the manual pump for extended use, the water level could drop.
A couple of things you can do to conserve and store water for situations like this as a backup measure:
- If you are expecting severe weather that could cause power outages, fill up your bathtub with water so you can have water to flush toilets, wash dishes, etc.
- Have drinking water stored (1 to 1 ½ gallons per person per day. Have more stored if you have infants who need bottles prepared, or if you have pets who will need drinking water.
Power outages typically don’t last more than several hours, unless they are in the aftermath of a major storm, natural disaster, or in a post SHTF environment. But if they aren’t able to get the power back on within a few days and your stored water is getting low, you can use one of the manual pump options to help draw up water from your well.