Top 7 Tips For Buying A Manual Water Pump

Most off-gridders that have secured land or are planning to set up their own homestead have already given some thought to generating power and ensuring a steady supply of water. Unfortunately, many people stop at buying an electric pump or simply figure that they can rely on ponds or other natural water features found on the property.

Without having manual water pumps on hand, you will set yourself up for a water crisis regardless of what is going on in the rest of society. If civilization collapses, you may not be able to obtain or build a manual pump in time to resolve your problems.

Taking time now to find the best manual pump will be of immense benefit for you, your family, and any livestock that may depend on the water from a well or other underground water source.

1. Fluctuations in the Water Table

If you have never lived far away from city or town water, then you may not realize how quickly the water table can fluctuate in your local area. Most people that decide to use manual pumps also do not dig or drill deep enough wells to ensure a steady supply of water all year round.

Before buying a manual pump, make sure that you know as much as possible about the routine water table fluctuations in the area where you will be maintaining a well. You can gain information from local geological surveys for the state and county, or try using this USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) link to find out more about data they have gathered about wells in the area.

It is also very important to consider the potential for seasonal pollutants that may cause shallow wells to be useless. This includes:

  • Pesticide and herbicide runoff from nearby farms or other installations,
  • Salt contamination from rising ocean levels,
  • Pathogen contamination from old septic systems or new ones that are too close to underground water pathways,
  • Increased water usage up the line from your well by other settlers or larger communities that place increased pressure on aquifers and other underground water sources.

2. Geography of Land between the Well and Delivery Site

Consider a situation where you found a valley like impression with plenty of access to a high water table. At the same time, you decided to locate your main residence and livestock up on a hill. Needless to say, you will not be happy with lugging buckets of water up a hill each day for yourself, your family, and the livestock.

On the other hand, even if you buy a solar or wind powered manual pump, it will still be much harder to move the water to your home on a regular basis. In this scenario, you would be much better served by using a ram pump as opposed to a more conventional pump with a handle on it.

3. Water Usage Estimate

When calculating water usage for survival needs, never take a chance and hope that water from a nearby pond or other resource can be used on a routine basis. Aside from the risks posed by droughts, pollutants and fallout from various warfare agents can leave you without water.

During the process of buying a manual pump, make sure that you choose a model that will enable to gather enough water each day for all your needs. This includes water for livestock and any seasonal increases in water needs. The last thing you will want to do is have a manual pump on hand that only allows you to retrieve 30 gallons per day when you actually need over 300.

Remember that disease risk, animal loss, or other resources destroyed because of insufficient water may not be buyable after social collapse.

Overestimating water needs and buying a suitable manual pump to meet that demand will be well worth the effort. In this instance, you may want to focus on pumps that can be driven by a windmill or even animals harnessed to some type of torque delivery system.

There are also solar powered manual pumps that may be of interest if you have enough sunlight in the area surrounding the well.

4. Projected Expansions of Water Usage

As time goes by, you are bound to find an increased need for water. For example, as survivors begin to network again, people will marry, have children, and engage in other activities that require increasing amounts of water. Needless to say, as you become more confident as a homesteader, increasing food production and expanding livestock herds will also require more water.

Once you know your current water needs, double, or even triple that amount as your projection for the next 10 to 20 years. In many cases, you may find that you need to purchase multiple manual pumps and then have several wells set aside as reserve for the future.

At the very least, if you are ready for expansion, you will also be more prepared for any emergency that takes out your main well, or makes it impossible to use the pump attached to it.

5. Type of Manual Pump to Buy

There are basically two types of manual pumps to choose from.

The first type is a conventional hand driven pump. You can purchase or adapt models that have different handles to accommodate everything from windmills to animals harnessed in a ring. These pumps are best used in areas where temperatures go below freezing. Since they are durable and do not require priming, you can always rely on having a steady supply of water on hand.

When purchasing a hand driven pump, keep in mind that there are two types. The first is a shallow well pump that will not deliver water if the table drops below 20 to 40 feet. While these pumps will provide decades of service, simply extending the pipe deeper into the well will not be of any use. If the water table in the area drops below 20 feet, you will be well served by purchasing a hand pump that will pull water up from 125 – 300 feet down.

If you are going to pump water from a pond, or even an underground dug well, a ram pump may be of interest. These pumps are especially useful if you need to deliver water through pipes to a location up on a hill.

Even though these pumps require far less work than a hand pump, they also need to be primed if freezing or something else causes the pump to stop.

Make sure that you know how much water is required to get the pump started in an emergency, and always keep that amount on hand for that purpose.

Video first seen on Grant Thompson – “The King of Random”

6. Other Pumps in the System

Are you planning to only have a few people and animals living on the homestead? If you do the math, you will soon realize that even two people and a few chickens can use quite a lot of water. Under these circumstances, you will most likely have at least one electrical pump for primary usage.

Depending on the situation, you may not want to remove the electric pump from the well, let alone go through the hassle of drilling another well just so you can use a manual water pump.

Many of the newer manual water pumps are designed to work right alongside an electric pump. Choosing these models and installing them now can save you a good bit of time and frustration when an emergency arises.

When combined with alternative power options, you may even decide to switch between the two systems on a routine basis in order to take advantage of other power sources.

7. Underground Well Dug or Drilled

No matter how hard you try to be 110% prepared for an emergency, there may come a time when you will need to dig a new well. If you do not have drilling equipment available, the landscape of the well itself will be very different.

In some cases, hand pumps may not be able to pull water effectively from a hand dug well. Therefore, you should choose at least one pump that can operate in this type of well, and then simply keep it on hand for use as the need arises.

Alternatively, you can choose manual pumps that will work in either well type.

On the surface, manual water pumps look very simple and easy to buy. As you do more research, you are likely to find that simply buying the cheapest model hand pump or ram pump will not be of much use in a crisis situation.

Taking the time now to calculate estimated water needs and learning about underground water features will be of immense benefit.

At the very least, you will have a better chance of choosing the right manual pump to meet a wide range of survival needs instead of one that simply takes up space and will fail to deliver water when you need it most.


This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • I believe the best solution for survival is installing a rainwater catchment system. If designed properly, it can provide safe drinking water even through times of drought and is not susceptible to the dangers of contaminated groundwater as mentioned in the article above. You can download the “Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting” through the Texas Water Development Board for free, or buy a more informative book, “Rainwater Harvesting: System Planning”, by the AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M System.

    • Stephen — thanks for that great information. I live in Kaufman County just east of Dallas. I had never heard of the Texas Water Development Board. I just down loaded the manual. Thanks again.

      • You’re welcome, Mike. Being east of Dallas, you are going to enjoy somewhere between 35-40 inches of rain per year. If we are going into a dry cycle, when the calculation for your catchment surface and cistern storage allows for four months of drought, you might want to re-calculate for six months. If you can, keep good tabs on how much water you use on a monthly basis and you can use that in your calculations. It’s in the manual you just downloaded. Good luck!

    • Stephen,

      I’ve been thinking about gathering rainwater, but haven’t put any systems into practice; so I will check out the Texas Board recommendations.

      Also – I might gently point out there are many situations where rainwater will not be safe. Nuclear fallout can carry for miles, as can volcanic ash, pesticides, and other toxins. I am of a mind to think a rainwater system would also need a viable means of purifying along with it.


      • Carmela, you are right. The manuals I refer to aren’t thinking about nuclear fallout, volcanic ash, etc., but the manuals go into great detail about the kind of filtering systems that should be in place. Usually, installers place two grades of particulate filters followed by a ultraviolet light bath (inside a tube especially designed for water purification). When the water is tested, testing companies are often surprised of the high quality of water resulting from that level of filtration and purification. In addition, depending on the size of the number of survivors depending on the system and the expected annual rainfall, you are likely to see cistern sizes in the neighborhood of 10,000-40,000 gallons. Of course survivalists are going to be much more conservative with their use than the typical homeowner, so these sizes might be reduced. Nonetheless, if there was a single contamination occurrence, it would not contaminate the entire storage primarily due to the highly recommended installation of “first flush” systems where the first quarter inch of rainfall is used to rinse your roof or catchment surface and that first quarter inch does not even enter the system. It’s all there in the manuals I suggested. This would take care of pollen, animal waste (much of it anyway), soluble pesticides, dust, and the like. Anything that might escape first flush would be caught by the particulate filters and then sterilized by the UV.

        • Is stagnation a problem with collected rain water?

      • carmela, you are correct in concerns regarding fallout from nuclear events, many years ago I was growing up in Wales, we could not eat the meat of sheep which had grazed on our mountain sides because of above ground detonations of nuclear testing in Nevada, I believe this also affected Norway in a similar manner. That is quite a few miles for rainwater to become contaminated. S.

        • Stu,

          Sadly, many people don’t realize just HOW dangerous nuclear contamination is. For example – there are barrels of nuclear waste leaking at the bottoms of the oceans. As the ocean water cycles, that is all being brought into the life belt area where the vast majority fish and other marine life live. What amazes me is people are watching mercury poisoning, but not a word is spoken about the far more dangerous effects of nuclear radiation. Of course, some of that may change now with radiation from Fukushima hitting the western shores of the United States. Still – there should be far more concern than we are seeing.

          Chernobyl and several other disasters have in fact put radiation all over the world. Strontium 90 – I think it is – can tell you the age of people by where it is deposited in the teeth and bones.

          And just one more note on nuclear contamination… for smokers. Tobacco plants have a natural capacity for absorbing Polonium 210 – which is actually more dangerous than Uranium and Plutonium when it comes to causing cancer… I sometimes wonder how many other plants, and the animals on land – are absorbing nuclear radiation and passing it along to us. This is one reason why I am so interested in hydroponics and being self sufficient in terms of growing food. Gradually, I will have a safe system; but it will take time.

  • I installed a Simple Pump in my well. It fits alongside the the existing pump pipe. my static water level is at 40′, so I put the Simple pump in at 80′. It produces 3 gpm and has a hose bib nozzle. I can even pressurize my pressure tank just by hooking the hose (with female fittings on both ends) to an inlet valve to the house. It wasn’t cheap, but my research showed it to be one of the best pumps out there.

    • Marty, I live in SE Texas and my water level is about 50 ft in a 200 ft well. Currently use a 240v pump. Could you give some particulars on the pump you use to draw 80 ft? I have a 240v propane generator but would want to use hand power or just 110v in case the solar generator is only power source available. Cost is a factor. Thx

      • The Simple Pump is USA made and very high quality. I can’t remember how deep they can go, but yours at 50′ will be a breeze. The installation is fairly straight forward and only took a coupe of hours for my neighbor and I to install it. The sections were 10 feet of 1″ PVC came with the sucker rods already inside. I can’t remember but I think they were good for many hundreds of feet. Go online and search Simple Pump. Their customer service and tech support were excellent. They can answer all your questions. The only time I’ve used it was right after installation as I also have gravity feed from a 5000 gallon water tank during our frequent power outages. Good luck, I know will love the Simple Pump and the piece of mind it brings. Marty

        • I am in the process of getting a Simple Pump. I Have researched hand pumps for several years now. I believe they are the best. High grade materials used. Several different power options besides hand pumping like wind, solar. You can pump water into the house via a outside faucet so you can pretty much use as normal. I am by my self so I need to use a different option. As you need to have someone pumping while someone is taking a shower for instance.

          • 917, I don’t think you will need anyone pumping while you shower. If your pressure tank is 50 gallons, you should have about 30-35 gallons of water in the tank. Pump the tank full and shower. Learn to take quick showers as you’ll want to conserve water even with a Simple Pump. Marty

  • I just gave a 1 hour presentation to a group of 70 preppers on water. There is no doubt that the simple pump or something as good is the only pump to have. #1 reason is you can pressurize the whole house system. #2 reason this is real important in a grid down situation in case of fire! You have got to have water for that. Apparently there are clones of his pump that are cheaper but I haven’t found one yet. I had over 50 hours of research into this presentation on “water”.

  • My biggest concern is the possiblity of contamintion from things like fracking…

    • The “potable” water supply in most cities has detectable levels of everything from chemo agents to heavy psych drugs. We are already being poisoned by fracking chemicals and many others; so the time is now to start filtering and thinking about potable water. Some say the next world war will not be over land or money; but over water.

  • Do NOT be misled on ram pumps! They require falling water with a vertical drop of about 3 feet or rapidly running water in a stream for most rams to work. They can pump uphill from the running stream or the water pouring out of a pond dam. They waste about half the water that they pump if not more, but you can often catch that in a livestock tank. I can not imagine any way you could get a ram to work in an underground dug well or from standing water. Gravity makes a ram work. Rams are fantastic pumps, but only work in special applications. Check out the many Youtube videos on hydro or ram pumps. Every one has the water source at least 3 feet above the pump.

    • Samnjoeysgranma,

      Thankyou for your insights on the ram pumps. I agree with you they need running water and a vertical drop. That being said, there are underground springs and other moving water that can be reached with a hand dug well that might work with a ram pump. I admit it would not be easy, but can still work.

  • Thanks for sharing this! My husband and I have been thinking that it would be smart if we started drilling for water. You never know when you will be out of fresh water, and it is good to be prepared! I’ll definitely be sure to bring up a manual pump for our well too! They sound like they are a lot more versatile!

  • My husband and I have been thinking about installing a well on our property. I was wonder what determines the best location for a well, and your article was very helpful. It sound like we should consider the water table as well as the distance from the house.

    • Ashley, know to some it sounds crazy, but consider a ‘water witcher’. I had a good friend who used his well company engineer, and after 400′, came up dry. He then contacted a witcher. She came out, did her thing with a willow branch an told him had drilled 10′ over, he’s have found water. He did what she suggested and struck water. The next time I needed a well, the driller was also a witcher. He showed me how it worked and I told him to drill away. He did, and I had excellent water although heavy in iron, typical in mountainous areas in So. Kal. Marty

  • It makes sense that you should get a manual water pump that you’re absolutely sure will be able to provide all of the water you’ll need each day. Figuring out how much you need now, and may need in the future, should be a huge help in determining what to get. It just may be difficult to project any increases in future use.

  • I actually didn’t know that the water table can fluctuate a lot depending on the time of year. That’s really good to know! I’m just starting to research what would be involved in digging a water pump well, so this site is a well-timed find. I also appreciate the tip to double or triple my water needs so that I will have enough in the future. I have a lot to consider with this, but I’m excited to get it all done and working!

  • I loved the tip that you gave to consider how much water you will need when you are getting a pump, so you could choose the right one. We are talking about getting a better pump for our well. We usually use our well water for our cattle’s water troughs. It will be important for us to know that we are buying the right one. When we look for a pump, I will be sure to consider how much water we will need.