How to Get Water


It’s not easy getting water in the country. We are on no public water lines out here. Like most people in the country, we’re on well water. We drilled our own well (you can see the saga here and here) and we have no one to call if we have a problem with water. Like, say, there’s not any. Luckily, we have a really deep well in bottomland near the river. We have plenty of water in our well. But we don’t always have plenty of water in our house. In fact, sometimes, we have none.

The reason for our water trouble isn’t that we don’t have enough water in the well. It’s getting the water to the house that can pose a problem. Our house is halfway up a hill; our well is in the bottom, a couple thousand feet of water line away. And that water has to travel uphill. Keeping water pressure at the house was a significant initial challenge when we built the house.

What we eventually set up is a simple but complicated system in which we store extra water at the house. In addition to the usual hot water heater everyone has that stores water, we have a 50-gallon bladder tank and a 120-gallon storage tank.

I don’t think life is worth living without good water pressure, so this system is extremely important. And ingenious. It was engineered by 52.

Water from the well goes directly into the 120-gallon tank, then from there to the 50-gallon tank and so on through the house, which keeps our water pressure strong and steady. It’s controlled by an automated timer at the well that pumps water to the 120-gallon tank on regular intervals. (It’s set to run one minute every other hour. This setting can be anything you want it to be.) The intervals are based on normal usage, and there’s an overflow valve that takes care of any excess water. (This is a handy plus when we have a power outage–we’re not out of water right away because we have extra already stored at the house.)

Of course, we don’t always have normal usage. Weekends are the worst–everyone wants to do laundry! If I’m involved in a lot of cleaning, or a lot of cooking or canning that uses a lot of water, or if we’re just running a lot of water at once for the ducks’ pool, or any number of other excess usages, the next thing you know, we’re out of water.

But! We can get more! There is more. It’s just not at the house.

For some reason, getting more water makes me feel very farmerish. You can feel farmerish, too. I’ll show you how to do it. Put on your boots and get in the car. The dogs like to come along. It’s an adventure! We’re going somewhere!

In the winter, you have to walk down to the well. Then you can feel even more farmerish! Or something.

Look, the sheep are dotting!

Hello, Annabelle.

Don’t get distracted by the animals. You have work to do! Drive down the road to the well.

The well is in the middle pasture in our bottomland.

The house is way, way up there somewhere (on the hill to the left). That’s a long way to move water.

The box that controls the well timer is on the pole.

Okay, get your little tool and open this baby up.

Don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to.

Just move the switch from Auto to Hand. That makes the pump run water up to the house. It runs 12 gallons per minute.

Now you can walk around and visit the boys.

And the red Explorer.

And the creek, that still doesn’t have much water in it yet.

And Beulah Petunia’s old milk stand.

You want to run the water for about 10 minutes. That’ll fill up the tank at the house. Then turn it back to Auto so the pump will run water on its regular automated intervals again–and put the cover back on.

Drive backward down the road till you can turn in at the driveway and go home.

We have water!!!!


  1. Rose H says:

    Do you know that this is the strangest thing? This morning as I was filling the kettle for a nice breakfast cuppa I was thinking
    “I bet Suzanne has a well…I wonder how far from the house it is?”
    Brilliant system, 52 is really clever isn’t he?!

  2. Karen Anne says:

    No way to have that control up at the house, for winter time?

  3. Suzanne says:

    We have a well, too, but it’s right near the house. The pump kicks on every time we turn on the water. BUT, sometimes it won’t kick on at all (usually when someone is in the shower) and I have to go out in rubber soles and hit the switch with a screwdriver. πŸ™‚ A few times, for no good reason, ants attacked the switch and were fried, which made the switch stop working.
    I am envious that you have water during a power outage! We have none and buying spring water gets old fast. πŸ™‚

  4. CATRAY44 says:

    Brilliant is the word, for sure!

  5. SandyCWV says:

    Our well is close to the house and the control is inside too, but it is not very deep, which means we have a filter system on it. I would like a tank like that, I generally keep a stock of water filled milk jugs around for power outages. My biggest fear is no water for the toilet.

  6. CindyP says:

    Very brilliant! The next brilliance would have that hooked up remotely πŸ˜‰ Just kidding, 52!

  7. Liz in Wis says:

    That was fun, thanks for letting us join you πŸ™‚

  8. Runningtrails - Sheryl says:

    That is an ingenious system. I wouldn’t mind a 120 gal storage tank in the house either. We have very low water pressure sometimes but I don’t know why. We always have lots and lots of water and our well is right outside the house on level ground, so there’s no excuse for it.

    That would be a nice walk in warm sunny weather. I enjoyed the visit with the animals too.

  9. Shelley (eastern Roane County) says:

    Aren’t rural water systems ingenious! That sounds like a great solution for a remote well. We have a remote spring with a pressure switch that pumps automatically up hill to a 1,200 gallon tank. We then have a small pump and a pressure tank in the house. When dry season hits and the spring flow is slow, we have plenty of stored water.

  10. Angela P says:

    WOW! Thats AMAZING! I wondered about the water. So did you have to trench a line all the way up to the house? If so, how deep is the trench? When I built my house my well is 81 ft straight down its just a short distance from the house and main line is 5 ft down. I did not want any freezing. I did the same for the barn. And I thought that was a chore! We do things the amish way…shovels!!! That 52 is Brilliant! He should patent that idea πŸ˜‰

  11. Yankee Gal says:

    I’m exhausted! Honestly Suzanne, you never cease to amaze me with your energy level. That system is an absolute marvel. Bravo to 52 and his clever invention and bravo to you who can keep it operating correctly!

  12. Laurie says:

    great idea 52. Oh and just so you know, I have burned up 2 hot water heaters because I left them on when they were empty.

  13. texwisgirl says:

    I second Yankee Girl’s emotion! πŸ™‚ 52 is obviously a handy and smart and wonderful guy! And you tell such a great story, complete with wonderful photos, that a trip to the well is far more entertaining to us than TV!

  14. Zusiqu says:

    I wonder if there is any way to do that remotely?

  15. Patrice says:

    I feel your pain. We have water issues too. It makes it really interesting in winter!

  16. Joycee says:

    Thanks for my “farm fix” this morning! I used to be just like you and put on my boots to go feed the chickens and ducks, horse and calves…then we moved to the city. I still miss farm life, even though we now live in the’s not the same!

  17. Ramona says:

    City folks just don’t think about that stuff. We are on a water system so we don’t usually have water problems. But, have had a few bouts when the lines where broken.

    One recently when my nutsey neighbor dug up the water line with his track hoe…..

  18. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    We finally got county water through here a couple of years ago but we put the lines in so the well is still accessible and then put in the necessary switches to use it with the generator if power is out. Of course when we did this I was thinking oh the power and the county water will probably never be out for very long at the same time….then we had the ice storm….Generator + well water + propane water heater = people at your house begging to take a shower after a few days! My sister showed up after 5 days without water or power and said I’ll pay you a $1000 if you’ll let me wash my hair! It was so nice to have that back up!

  19. Kristen E says:

    I miss having well water. I’ve somewhat adjusted to city water (having lived with it for 10 years now), but I grew up on well water and it just tastes better.

  20. Cheryl says:

    When we moved out here on our land to homestead we couldnt afford to have a well dug. For 18 very very long months we hauled every drop of water that we used and that the critters drank. Its been 4 years now since we dug our well and i still appreciate hot running water every time i turn on the water! I dont think i’ll ever take water for granted again!

    Our well is very deep and with a very high flow rate so we never run out of water unless we lose power. For those times i have water jugs filled under the sink for flushing the toilet and such… still i’ll feel better when the guys eventually get that hand pump installed next to my power pump so i can pump water up even when the powers out!

  21. Jim in Colorado says:

    Wow, brings back some fond memories. My parents had a farm in Green Forest Arkansas. They did not have a well, but had a spring. The water was clear and always cold. The water went from the spring to a little pump house, with a holding tank made of cement.Then it was pumped up hill to the house. The pipe was above ground. It would freeze in the winter time. They wraped it with heat tape, and would plug it in when it got to cold out. I had to help several time on visits to haul water up to the house.

    Love the pictures. You really have a nice place.

  22. rileysmom says:

    Yes that was an adventure! But, sooo much better than hauling water! I like the “scenery” while you wait for the water to run!

  23. Normie says:

    “The sheep are dotting!” made me LOL.

    We, too have well water. Around here (Florida) a major cause of well pump disruption is ants getting into the control box. For some reason they’re attracted to the electrical currents (?) DH and I have each had our showers interrupted more than once.

  24. Vicki in So. CA says:

    Thanks for taking us on the trip to the pump. I love the scenery and the visit with the boys (they’re looking beautiful with their winter coats). We’re on a city system here, but are looking to eventually move to rural property. This gives me something to think about, and fuel for another list of questions!

  25. Susanne says:

    Suzanne – I just learned about your blog yesterday when I read the NE Cheesemaking newsletter. Congratulations on a successful farm AND successful cheesemaking! πŸ™‚ I too live on a farm and love making cheese. My one dairy goat (the rest are meat goats) keeps me as busy as I want to be and endlessly interested.

    Your story today made me wonder if your well water is hard or soft? Ours is very hard, so we have a softener … and therefore are slowly replacing all our chrome (i.e., cheap) faucets with stainless steel as they disintegrate! Do you have this problem? You didn’t mention a softener…

    I’m Susanne too, but with a 2nd “S”. πŸ™‚

  26. Susanne says:

    Suzanne – thanks for responding. Lucky you on the soft water! πŸ™‚

  27. Jerry says:

    Too bad you don’t have cell phone service there. You can buy a device that would flip the switch with a phone call.

  28. lavenderblue says:

    Actually, just reading the word ‘bottomland’ made me feel farmerish.

  29. Mother of a ROCKSTAR says:

    We have a well. It’s 35 ft. hand dug over 100 years old. We have been very blessed. It has only gone dry on us briefly one time in 14 years. Our pump is solar with an electric backup. So, believe me when I tell you I count my blessings especially when alot of wells in the area go dry.

  30. Michelle says:

    Reminded me of the really old farm house we lived in when we first got married. The pressure tank for the well was in the dirt basement, and it’s air bladder leaked (didn’t even know it had an air bladder in the beginning) and we could not afford to replace the pressure tank, so every couple of weeks I would trek down to the basement with it’s creepy crawlies and pump air into the tank with a bicycle tire pump so we would have enough water pressure to take showers. Living on a farm is never dull :moo:

  31. Susan M. says:

    Wow, that is a great system you have there… Of course, I am a city girl and know next to nothing about wells. The only question I have is what do you do once the well runs dry? Is there some sort of back up plan or something ?

  32. Scott says:

    Love the idea of a storage and pressure tank in the house. My wife and I live in the SE corner of AZ with our 4 goats, 11 chickens, 5 turkeys and our 3/4 of a cat, Boots. We are on a well share and have numerous power outages during the windy season and the Monsoon season. Our area is so sparsly populated that it sometimes takes hours before the power is restored. One takes things like flushing for granted until you can’t flush for three or four hours. We started filling the bathtub during windstorms, just in case. Not good for bathing, but excellent for flushing.
    I’ll be showing 52’s idea to the Mrs. for next year.
    Also, out here we don’t have a problem with ants getting into the control box, it’s Killer Bees we have issues with.
    Lots of fun! I was warned before I moved, everything in AZ either bites, stings, is poisonous, or has thorns and needles. It makes life interesting.

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