Letter Re: A Homemade Well-Bailing Bucket, by Bill C.

Sir,
This device allows for the baling of water from a standard “drilled and cased” domestic water well in the event of a power outage.  The only drawback is that the “guts” of the well system must first be removed from the well – this includes pump, pipe, cable, wiring, etc.
Materials List

  1. Section of solid PVC pipe sized for the well casing diameter – probably 3-inch inside diameter will fit most water wells.  A 30-inch section of 3-inch pipe will hold about a gallon of water.
  2. End cap – use a flat test cap rather than the usual convex permanent cap.
  3. PVC primer and glue – to affix the end cap to the pipe section.
  4. Plumber’s gasket – this is a rubber sheet, typically red in color, and available as 6-inch squares found in the plumbing aisle in a home improvement / hardware store.
  5. Long bolt and locknut – this is placed through the pipe section at the top to secure a d-ring and rope.  Length needs to be appropriate for the pipe diameter.  Stainless steel is preferred.
  6. Short bolt, fender washer, and locknut – this is for assembling the gasket and end cap.  A 1-inch long ¼-20 bolt, wide washer, and locknut is typical.  Stainless steel is preferred.
  7. D-link – placed on the top long bolt and to secure the rope.  ¾-inch or 1-inch size is typical.
  8. Rope or cord – attached to the D-link for lowering the bucket into the well.  Nylon or poly braid in 100-foot lengths is typical.

Tools Needed

  1. Drill and bit – holes in the pipe for top long bolt and holes in the end cap and gasket.  Bit size is determined by hole size that must be large enough to accommodate the bolts (or rope).
  2. Screwdriver or wrench – determined by the bolt head configurations.
  3. Pliers or wrench – because locknuts are used.
  4. Scissors – to cut the plumber’s gasket

Assembly Instructions

  1. Option 1 – drill holes through one end of the pipe and install the long top bolt and nut.  This is used with the D-link and rope.  Make sure the bolt head and locknut still have clearance on the inside of the well casing.  Option 2 – drill holes and use rope only without a bolt, nut, and D-link.
  2. Cut a round piece from the plumber’s gasket to fit the inside diameter of the pipe section.  Diameter of round gasket should be about a ¼-inch less than the pipe’s inside diameter.  The end cap can serve as a template.
  3. Drill a hole in the center of the round gasket to accommodate the short bolt.  Drill a hole in the center of the end cap for the short bolt.  Also drill eight holes around the outside edge of the end cap – these are the water infiltration holes.
  4. Place the round gasket atop the inside surface of the end cap.  From the other side, insert the short bolt through the end cap center hole and through the round gasket hole.  Place washer over the bolt against the gasket and secure with the locknut.  Do not over-tighten the locknut.
  5. Prime and glue the end cap assembly on the bottom end of the pipe section.  Allow to dry.

Testing Instructions
Once the end cap glue is dried and cured, then the performance of the well bucket can be tested.  Fill a sink, tub, or other vessel with water.  Lower the well bucket into the water and water should flow into the device through the holes in the bottom end cap.  As the well bucket is raised, the weight of the water should press down upon the gasket and keep the water from leaking out.  It may not be a water-tight seal, but it should be adequate to bale water from the well casing.

Well Baling Instructions

  1. If the top bolt and D-link option was used, attach the rope to the D-link at the top of the well bucket.  Make sure the bitter end of the rope is secured to a stable tie-off point.  If only rope is used, then thread the rope through the drilled holes and secure the rope to the top of the well bucket.  Tie-off the bitter end of the rope to a stable point.
  2. Lower the well bucket into the well casing and submerge in the column of water in the well casing.  Allow water to fill the well bucket.  Raise the filled well bucket out of the well casing and pour contents into a storage vessel.  Repeat as desired.

Notes and Comments

  1. Water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon (think of a gallon jug of milk from the grocery store).
  2. A 30-inch long, 3-inch diameter well bucket will hold almost one gallon.  Longer or wider well buckets will hold more water.
  3. For those concerned with volumetric mathematics, here are some data points:
    1. Bucket volume equation is Pi times pipe radius squared (inches) times pipe length.
      Pi = 3.1416.  This volume equation yields cubic inches of water.
    2. To convert cubic inches to gallons, divide cubic inches by 231 to derive gallons.
      With the 30-inch pipe, 3-inch diameter example, the equation is:
      3.1416 x 1.52 x 30 = 212 cubic inches = 0.92 gallons = 117 ounces
  4. As an aside, the volume equation can also be used to calculate the storage capacity of your well bore hole.  (I have a very deep well that is low yielding in gallons per minute but there is a large storage capacity volume due to the drill depth – perhaps some piece of mind.)

Don’t be over-zealous in making a larger or longer well bucket.  Water is heavy and baling out of the well head is ergonomically challenging.  A repeated vertical rope-pulling  lift of even 50 feet with only a ten-pound load (one gallon plus bucket) will prove to be a strenuous workout.

JWR Adds: A commercially-made foot valve (available at your local plumbing supply store) is usually much more efficient and reliable than a home-made one, but YMMV.

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