Tuesday, July 19, 2016


When you turn on the taps in your home water flows. Likewise, when you turn on the washing machine or the dishwasher, water flows.

Most folks in this country -- well over 99 percent -- are connected to some kind of a collective water system. In general, these systems take water from ground wells or reservoirs, pump it into storage tanks, and then allow gravity to supply the force that makes the water flow into your home. Civilized humans have been using such water supply systems for more than 2,500 years.

Out in the country, however, things are usually a bit different. Well, they're different in the "out in the country" that I'm familiar with anyway.
Before 'lectricity came in there was a windmill here at the home place.

Our ranch is miles and miles from the closest municipal water system, and even farther away from any water reservoir. Regardless, we do have running water.

Water for the house and buildings comes from a well about 300 yards from the house. This well also supplies stock water for the roughly 800 acres of the home place.
There's a well under that cover. The T-handle is a valve in the line leading to stock tanks.

The well is about 150 feet deep and is equipped with an electric submersible pump. The system has a demand switch which instantly starts the pump when a pressure drop is detected. So turn on a tap in the house and water flows. Or when the water level drops in a stock tank and the float valve opens, water flows into the stock tank.
Inside the "well house"

As you might imagine, the stock tanks are supplied from the well via underground pipes. As is the house. That single home place well supplies the house and barn, a dozen outdoor hydrants, and up to a dozen stock tanks.

I don't recall off the top of my head the gallons per minute rating of the well and pump, but I do know that when stock tanks are filling the water flow is reduced at the house. If I'm watering my garden, for instance, and the cows go to water, the spray at the garden sprinkler goes from a 40-foot pattern to a five-foot pattern.

As I noted earlier, the submersible pump is powered by electricity, so when (not if!) the power goes off the water flow stops, at least until I get the generator lit off and switches thrown.

These limitations are sometimes inconveniences, but we've learned to live with them. As have most country folks. In return we get some of the tastiest and best water available in the world.

There's a similar setup down on the south unit where a single electrically pumped well serves eight stock tanks.
South unit well, previously pumped via windmill.

There's also a single windmill-pumped well on the south unit which supplies three stock tanks.

Windmills are interesting.

Wind turns the blades, which are connected to a gear box which changes rotational motion into reciprocal motion, from round-and-round to up-and-down. This moves a shaft up and down in the well bore. At the end of the shaft is a clever bore pump equipped with check valves which forces water up the pipe so long as the shaft continues to go up and down.

We've got a half-dozen windmills on the north unit, serving about 15 stock tanks.

The windmills run on "free" energy, so there's no electric bill to pay, but there's also no water flow when the air is calm. Windmills need periodic maintenance, too, and the bore pumps wear out every 5-10 years or so. No such thing as a free lunch. Or drink. I have a place in town, too, and when I carefully crunch all the numbers it looks like I pay about the same for water, gallon for gallon, in town and on the ranch.

Regardless of the system, we need the water. Cows drink 15 or more gallons per day, and the people use a lot of water too.


  1. Sounds like we've got similar setups. Never realized how much better water tastes from a well rather than city water. Ditto on electricity on, water on. In our area, water off usually means fire ants in the switch. Miserable creatures! Got to go down to the well house, open the door carefully and allow the red wasps to fly out. Their stings hurt! Then take the cover off the pump electrical fixtures and spray them with ant killer. Which annoys the ants and they show their irritation by biting the hand that's killing them. Their bite's itch! A lot.

    On a separate but related note, have you investigated solar power to drive or provide backup power to the pump? I'm interested in finding out if it's even feasible.

    1. Yeowch! I'm gonna have to quit whining -- no fire ants here!

      I haven't looked closely at solar lately but the last time I did there just weren't any affordable systems with juice enough to lift water that far. At least not in the quantity we need. As long as I can get fuel and parts the generator is the best option. Hard to beat the windmills, too, even though they have their downsides.

    2. That's what I thought. We're looking for something to power the pump as backup. May need to get a second generator, one for the house, one for the well.

    3. I just did a quick look around, a 300 GPH/ 400 foot head. which probably would not be enough, would set you back about $200.00 with solar panels.

  2. Country living.

    It has its ups and downs. More ups than downs from what I can see.

    1. Once Amazon and the interwebs came along, country living took a clear front seat, imo.

    2. Well, you have a point there.

      Heck, if UPS or FedEx can get to you, you're golden!

    3. About all we're really missing is all girl Korean K-Pop groups and really good doughnuts.