The Hydraulic Ram Pump: Perpetual Motion for the Homestead

Although water won't run uphill, some exceedingly clever soul discovered a long time ago that H2O can be persuaded to pump itself in that general direction. The hydraulic ram pump makes it possible.

  • pix2241.jpg
    A hydraulic ram pump looks something like this. 
  • Hebert - hydraulic ram pump
    TOP LEFT: Hebert dammed up a spring-fed creek and inserted a pipe to run the water downstream to the pump. TOP MIDDLE: The hydraulic ram pump was placed 42 feet downstream to give the necessary "fall." TOP RIGHT: A stead stream of water emerged from the plastic tubing into the Hebert pond. BOTTOM: The pond received about 500 gallons of spring water each day.
  • Hebert - ram pump diagrams
    Diagrams illustrating the workings of the hydraulic ram pump.

  • pix2241.jpg
  • Hebert - hydraulic ram pump
  • Hebert - ram pump diagrams

Are you planning to add a farm pond to your homestead, but bothered by the fact that the site you've selected is not naturally furnished with water year round? Or do you already have a pool which suffers from one or more of the maladies connected with a lack of sufficient incoming fresh water? Well—if your property contains a spring, creek, small stream, or other source with a flow of at least three gallons per minute (gpm) you can probably solve your problem easily and inexpensively with a hydraulic ram pump.

As I write this, it's been three months since we installed our ram pump in a nearby creek ... at a total cost of under $200. All that time the device has been pumping clear, cool spring water up over a 25-foot hill—a distance of 150 feet—and into our farm pond, without the use of any fuel whatsoever. In short, we're getting about 500 gallons of water per day at an operating cost of zero ... and we expect this to continue for ten years or more.

Prior to this installation, the water level of our 15-foot-deep, half-acre fishing and swimming hole dropped at least two feet each July and August, the pond's temperature rose to the tepid bathtub stage and the algae blossomed. Not so these days! The level remains constant, the water is clearer, cooler and more invigorating, and the plant population has been drastically reduced. Even the largemouth bass and bluegills (now five years old) put up a stiffer fight when we hook them.

Although our own pump is used solely to replenish that pond, the ram is a versatile machine with many other possible applications. For instance, it can drive water to a storage tank in or near a house . . . with the overflow first diverted to a barn or watering trough for animals and then finally to a pool. Or the device can be used purely for irrigation.

Before this country's rural electrification program such pumps were in wide use, since they employ only water power for activation. In Japan, in fact, the ram still commonly serves to bring water from the mountains into villages a mile or more away.

These days, a revival of the hydraulic ram seems to be underway among back-to-the-landers ... and you may be thinking about putting the water current-driven pump to work on your own spread. Whether or not you can do this successfully depends on five important and interdependent conditions:

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