It’s amazing what you can find while pawing through old piles of farm bulletins that were issued by various state and federal extension services. I’ve had some questions regarding determining how much water you should plan on for a survival homestead under normal conditions. Looking for an answer that was more complete than a simple number of gallons per day for the total, I came across this piece. The general guidelines will work for nearly every situation, and I stress that these figures are for normal living conditions.

An Electric Water System and Plumbing for the Farm
By F.M. Hunter

An adequate water system is one of the greatest needs of every farm in Mississippi. It will obviate more drudgery and add more to the comfort of the home and farm than any other item per dollar spent.

From the standpoint of health the water supply becomes of prime importance. Sanitation about the home and purity of the water can be maintained at its maximum only through a first class water system. An ultimate abundance of water to the bath, the indoor toilet and the sewage disposal plant is very essential.

An adequate water system is water piped under pressure to all points of consumption in the home and about the farmstead with a sufficient source of supply and capacity for the particular farm.


There is generally one of two sources of water supply available to the farm; namely,

1. Shallow well or cistern, or,

2. Deep well.

In a shallow well or cistern the water supply is available at a depth of not more than 22 feet suction lift including pipe friction below the surface of the ground. In a cistern this would mean the depth of the cistern could not be more than 22 feet in order that all the water in the cistern would be available for the shallow well pump. In a shallow well, the water level is maintained within 22 feet of the surface while pumping.

By a deep well is meant any well where the water level maintained is greater than 22 feet suction lift including pipe friction below the surface of the ground.

One should be sure that the water supply is pure and is not located near any potential source of pollution or sewage disposal system or obnoxious plants or trees before making permanent installation of electric pumping plant.


To deliver water under the above conditions there are two general types of automatic electric pumping equipment available, namely,

1. Shallow well pumps, and,

2. Deep well pumps.

Either of these systems can be had with pneumatic water tank and automatic electric drive which will maintain a predetermined pressure between certain limits on the tank. The low pressure system maintaining a pressure between 20 and 40 pounds meets most requirements and is the system most generally used. Other pressures can be had to meet special requirements. In some instances where deep well pumps are already installed, an electric motor can be applied to the pump and water pumped to an elevated tank to give the desired pressure at the spigots.


Automatic electric water pumping equipment has been developed to such a degree of perfection and standard that most equipment includes such features as are necessary for the purchaser’s protection and insures the purchaser of all the features which should be included in the plant. Briefly, a complete automatic system should incorporate the following features.

1. Start and stop automatically.

2. Automatically maintain a predetermined pressure on the tank.

3. Protect the equipment from excess pressure in the event of failure of any of the automatic devices.

There is one problem common to all installations which determines whether a shallow well pump or a deep well pump is required, namely, taking the water from a given available source of supply to the point of distribution. If it is a cistern approximately 22 feet deep or a well that will maintain a water level of not more than 22 feet suction lift including friction loss below the surface while pumping, it is a shallow well application. If the water level maintained while pumping is greater than the above, it is a deep well application. This, in most cases, is obvious, and the type of pump is selected immediately. If one is not positive the well will maintain a level within the limits mentioned, it is advisable to check the supply by drawing from the well for a given time—say 20 minutes —at a rate equivalent to the pump capacity and check the draw down at the end of the drawing time.


The water requirements for a family and farmstead can be estimated from the following table.

Daily Requirements:

Gallons per person 35

Gallons per horse 15

Gallons per cow 15

Gallons per hog 2

Gallons per sheep 2

Gallons per 100 chickens 5

It is recognized good practice to consider two hours running time per day for the pump. After the daily requirements are determined, divide this amount by two and you have the hourly capacity of the pump. These pumps are rated on an hourly basis, and the next larger size to the actual requirements should be selected. The pressure tanks can be had in different capacities up to 120 gallons. However, for the average family a 42 gallon capacity tank will usually suffice. If appreciable water is to be used for sprinkling or irrigation, such as the garden, this should be given careful consideration and the capacity of the tank and also the pump considered. Sufficient capacity should be included to give one thorough sprinkling or irrigation in a reasonably short time—certainly within one afternoon.


Since the shallow well pump depends on suction lift and has no pump rod extending into the well, it can be located in any convenient place near the well, keeping in mind the 22 foot maximum lift. The deep well pump has a pump rod extending into the well, and therefore, must be located directly over the well.

If a new well is being put down, it should be located near the house; and if a shallow well, the pump plant can be located in the basement. The basement is usually an ideal place because it prevents freezing and the equipment is easily accessible for occasional inspection and oiling. If no basement is available, then a pump house should be considered. Possibly the pump can be located on the porch and the porch walled in more economically.

There are certain physical conditions in almost every installation that require special consideration and may require different combinations of the equipment to be furnished, such as operating pressure on the tank and size of the motor.

A certain amount of air must be maintained in the water tank at all times. This is provided for by an automatic air volume control when the tank and pump are located together, but is not practical when they are located separately. For this reason it is desirable always to locate the pump and tank together. It is desirable always to locate the pump near the source of supply because the fewer connections in the suction line the less trouble one is liable to encounter. A small leak in the suction line will completely cut off water suction, and the leak is difficult to find; whereas, in the discharge it is easy to locate and does not completely cripple the system.

The most commonly used system is the low pressure system, operating with from 20 to 43 pounds pressure on the tank. This system will force water approximately 53 feet high at 20 pounds and 100 feet at 43 pounds. Therefore, when the discharge head exceeds these heights, it is necessary, in order to get a flow, to have more pressure on the tank. Then, since friction loss is equivalent to vertical head, the distance will also have a bearing on the pressure on the tank.

The examples included in the back of this circular will serve to illustrate the necessary data and steps in determining necessary equipment to meet a given condition.


When water flows through a pipe, the pipe offers a resistance to the flow, which resistance is known as friction. The amount of friction for all intents and purposes here depends upon the length and size of the pipe and the amount of water flowing through the pipe. With a given size pipe the friction will increase with the length of pipe or with an increase in the amount of water flowing. It will decrease with an increase in the size of pipe considering the length and flow to remain constant, and decrease as the flow decreases, the size of the pipe remaining the same. The power necessary to overcome this is known as friction loss or friction head. When the source of supply is a considerable distance from the point of consumption, this friction loss or head must be taken into consideration in order to determine the pumping head. Pumping head is the actual height to which the water is to be pumped plus the friction head. This friction head is the same regardless of the position of the pipe. Bends and sharp turns also increase the friction head.

The following table will assist in determining if a given pump meets a particular condition, or for the more experienced, it will enable one to determine the pump required. (It is not the intention of this data to make pump specialists out of every individual, but furnish a guide for one in checking his equipment and enable one to furnish sufficient information to the pump people to insure a quotation on the proper equipment to meet his requirements.)


Good plumbing is the cheapest plumbing. A well planned plumbing system and a good job mean more in years of satisfactory service with less mental worry and cost of maintenance than is possible to value in dollars and cents. A first class job is little if any more expensive than a poor job.

Plumbing work may seem simple and one may be inclined to think he can do his own plumbing and save a few dollars for installation, but unless one is absolutely sure he can do a first-class job then it will be well to consult a plumber. It is very seldom a farm is equipped with necessary tools for doing the plumbing. To depend on buying the pipe, cut and threaded to length, may result in enough loss of time and equipment in misfits to pay the extra cost of a first-class plumber. After all, the labor is a small item of the completed job. Then the knowledge of a first class plumber is worth considerable in making the most economical and convenient layout which means years of satisfactory service.

There are a few points which should always be considered when planning your plumbing system:

1. All spigots extending above the grounds, such as watering troughs at barn, lawn spigots, etc. should be provided with a standard drain cock.

2. A drain cock should be provided at the entrance to the house, located so as to be conveniently operated from inside the house.

3. All pipes entering the house from the supply line should slope upward so that the drain cock will drain every point in every line.

4. All pipes should be well threaded and a good tight joint obtained. Pipe cement is an added safety factor.

5. Main line drain or sewage disposal pipes under and extending just beyond the edge of the house should be 4″ soil pipe; branch drains entering the main drain should be 3″ soil pipe.

6. Clay or vitrified pipe should be used for drain pipe leading from house to disposal ditch or pit.

7. Bells should be installed uphill and pipe should drain toward disposal ends with no dips or low places.

8. All joints should be well cemented with lead or rich cement mixture. Lead is more satisfactory, but more expensive.

9. Each drain line should be provided with T connection at head end where waste pipe enters and a screw plug provided for cleaning out drain pipe. It is not necessary for these pipes to run under ground until leaving the house, but pipes should be supported with strong hangers to prevent sagging of pipe and breaking joints, thereby causing leaks.

10. All waste pipes should be provided with water seal traps.


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