NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Water that flows uphill

In developing requirements for the Homestead Example, we determined that 280 liters/day of potable water was required to sustain a family of four. What design solutions can meet that requirement? Some options include using rainwater catchment basins, drilling wells, collecting lakewater, recycling wastewater, or combinations thereof.

Collecting water is one thing, but if we want water pressure for indoor plumbing, our design becomes much more complex. Normal tap pressure is around 40–45 psi, and unless your rainwater collection tower is 100 feet tall, you won’t come close to that without a pump. Of course, using an electric pump brings serious risks when considering a sustainable (post-Peak Oil) system.

If you have a nearby river, stream, or dammed pond, you may be able to take advantage of some straightforward physics to supply pressurized water to your house without mechanical pumps. The Country Plans Design/Build Forum recently had a good thread on this type of system, known as a ram pump.

In a ram pump, the energy of water flowing through a large orifice (pipe) is transferred to water flowing through a small one. Depending on the dynamics of the source and target flows, a ram pump can provide tap pressures more than adequate for a typical household.

An earthen dam with a drainage tube can be utilized for a ram pump; however, beware the risks of placing a home below a dam of any kind. Run the numbers and see if the flow is strong enough for you to place your home out of the way.

A ram pump can be used to pump water into a holding tank for later dispersal (which needs to be tall if you want good pressure!), which could integrate well with a water catchment system.

Cleanliness is a major concern with any water system, much more so than it was in the pre-industrial world. Fertilizers and other pollutants are found in most surface water and in shallow aquifers. If possible, have your source water tested by a professional and install water quality monitors on your system. If your only suitable water is not fit for drinking, consider using a ram pump for a pressurized irrigation system.

Filters and separators are sometimes necessary for processing healthy water, but make sure you choose solutions that make sense post-Peak Oil.

Also consider Sling Pumps and Pasture Pumps.

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An example ram pump design. (Courtesy of Green Trust)

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