Getting water from a well without electricity

For those of you who get your drinking water from a drilled well, have you ever thought about how to get clean, safe water when the power grid goes down in your area? If not, you should put some serious thought into this issue. If so, you have probably at least read about 12v solar powered well pumps, or maybe looked at hand pumps if you have a shallow well. You also, hopefully, have a good idea of what surface water sources are nearby. Both of these can be options, and both definitely have advantages, but like anything, there are drawbacks- that 12V system IS going to go down eventually, and in the case of something like an EMP, may not be functional to start with. That beautiful pond or stream near your house might not be such an attractive option once human and/or animal waste ends up washing into it, or if there is Giardia in it- you do NOT want Giardiasis, and it could be lethal in a grid down scenario. It’s going to be pretty hard, if not impossible, to counter and/or eliminate threats to your community when you are suffering from severe dehydration because you can’t get water, or you have dysentery. There is a simple way to make another alternative for getting water, known as a well bucket, or a bailer bucket. Essentially, it is a bucket or vessel of some kind with a check valve on the bottom. Drop it down a well, it fills up, and you pull it back out along with the water inside.


2-4 feet of PVC pipe that is a couple of inches smaller than your well casing- I normally use 4” PVC since my well and those of my family members are 6” This doesn’t work well on pipe smaller than 2” The bigger the pipe is, the better it will work, as long as you are strong enough to pull it up when full of water.

PVC cap to fit your pipe. The cap needs to be smooth on the inside in order to work well. Don’t buy a cap with lettering on the inside. Nibco brand caps usually have lettering on the inside, Lasco brand usually do not.

An old inner tube from a truck tire, or similar piece of rubber.

PVC cement.

1 bolt ¼” x 1” with 2 nuts and 2 flat or fender washers

A couple of feet of wire or cable. I used 3/32″ filler rod.

How to make it:

Take the pipe cap and drill a ¼” hole in the center of the cap. Approximately halfway between the center hole and the side of the cap on the INSIDE drill 8 holes spaced evenly in a circular pattern. I like to use 5/16” holes for this on a 4” pipe, but you may want to go bigger or smaller for a larger or smaller pipe. The one in this picture has ¼” holes since it is only a 2” pipe, but bigger holes will work better, and cause the pipe to fill faster. It should look something like the one in the picture. Make sure to deburr the holes, if they have a burr on them they will not seal.

Next, lay the piece of inner tube out on a flat surface and draw a circle on it approximately the same size as the ID of your PVC pipe. Cut this circle out as cleanly as possible. Poke a small hole in the center of this piece of rubber. Take your bolt, put a flat washer on it, and push it through this hole. Now put this through the hole in the center of the pipe cap, on the inside. Put the other washer on the end of the bolt, tighten it down using one nut, and use the second nut as a jam nut. You don’t want anything loosening up and falling down the well. Look at the inside of the cap again and make sure that the rubber piece completely covers all of the holes, without getting caught on the edge of the pipe of cap. If it doesn’t, either cut a new piece or trim the existing one until if works.


Cut your pipe to the desired length- I usually use 2 ½ feet so that I can make four of these from a ten-foot length of pipe. They will be lighter if you make them shorter, or hold more water if you make them longer. On one end of the pipe, drill two ¼” holes 180 degrees from each other and approximately 1 ½” from the end. On the opposite end of the pipe glue the cap, taking care not to get any glue on the inner rubber flap- always apply glue to PVC pipe, not to the fitting itself. Attach a wire or cable of your choosing through the two holes you drilled on the end, and you are ready to drop this down a well and pull water up.


A few notes on using one of these-

Once you start dropping one of these in a well there is a chance to introduce contaminants in the well. It is best to treat or boil the water before you drink it. Some plain bleach, or pool shock, used properly, is an excellent way to treat drinking water. It is worth stocking up on it while it is cheap…

You do have to pull your pump and pipe out to use this bucket

Use a rope that is long enough to get this to the water level in your well and strong enough to pull the weight out without breaking. 550 cord works for this, if you have a long enough piece. A well that has water at 30-40 feet like mine is easy to pull water out of. If your well is a few hundred feet down you might need to build some kind of winch or crank to repeatedly draw water up.

Tie the end of the rope to something secure in case you drop the bucket- you don’t want to lose it if your hands slip, and once it’s in the well it isn’t coming back if you lose the rope. This is also why you might want to make several of these, that rope will break on you eventually, and probably at the worst time possible.

You can use this same method to make a check valve if you have some sort of manual well pump. I have made several homemade piston pumps, and this makes an excellent one-way check valve for the intake on the pump when pulling from a pond or creek.

Hopefully someone gets some use out of this. It’s easy to make several of these to put up as a contingency plan, even if you have other water sources, and at the same time, you can probably find the materials to make one even post-SHTF if need be.

 Save as PDF

Welcome American Partisans!

Sign up to receive articles daily

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!