August 18, 2015


The manifold box after installation but before being buried

So far as I understand, and my understanding may be limited, here are the goals for this project: To construct a water pipeline with a solar PV-powered DC pump that will transport water from the surface dug well at the bottom of the Windward property on the far side of the silvopasture to a tank (or an array of tanks later on) at the top of the hill near the main water tank. This is a project that has been in the works for over a decade and I was brought in as an apprentice to complete Phase I of the project. This is a multi-phase project as I will outline here but with my emphasis on Phase I which is the actual work that I did this past summer.

Phase 1 - Lay piping from the dug well to the corner where there is a manifold/junction box that breaks the water going uphill into two lines, a 1" up line and a 2" down line. This is to allow for later use of this system as a thermal heat sink and continuous loop. Then continue the piping across the silvopasture (and under the swale) and up to Herland Way road, where there may eventually be another holding tank for mid-system use. There will be multiple above-ground frost-free faucets spaced throughout the pasture at 100' intervals.

Phase 2 - Continue from Herland Way road all the way up the hill on the East side of the property then looping around the North side (across from the kitchen) before meeting up with the next phase, which is already mostly completed. This will be done with a 1" up line and a 3" down line to allow for future expansion of the system. The 3" down line will merge into the 2" down line at Herland Way road. There will also be above-ground frost-free faucets spaced throughout this section of the system at yet-to-be-determined intervals.

Phase 3 - Continue from where left off, just North of the kitchen, going up the hill to the secondary water tank marked for non-potable water storage. This will complete the flow loop while using a 1" up line and a 2" down line. This phase of the project is already completed, pending a few minor fixes.

Pump Phase - This is the phase that will actually move the water up the pipeline and create a useful system. As of this writing, the plan is to install a solar photovoltaic-powered DC water pump at the dug well that pulls from a small solar array with an attached battery bank (configuration yet to be determined) to pump the water all the way up to the top holding tank (or tank array) and allow for gravity pressure to feed the entire system and all of the use points (i.e. the faucets). This system is designed to allow for additional input and output improvements along its path in the future (such as a water wheel for emergency water pumping or a fire hose setup).

System Design Blueprint

At the beginning of the summer when I first started working on this system, I took distance measurements along the entirety of the trench and plotted the desired pipe and faucet configurations on this diagram. The diagram is not to scale but I did mark out the distances between each waypoint to help with reading the plans.

Prep Work Done for Phase 2

Before acquiring the materials needed to start work on Phase 1 of the project, and since I had adequate free time, I was able to spend some time getting things ready for the next phase of the project (which will happen after I depart here). So, I gathered all of the 3" Schedule 80 conduit pipes that were lying around from when this project was started many years ago. It turned out to be between 1200' and 1500' of total pipe length, depending on actual use.

Time-lapse of cutting the pipe ends

Some of the many pipes sitting around the property

After gathering them at the garage/shop area, I cut off all of the old ends and old couplers to provide clean straight ends for reassembling the pipes later on. After cutting the ends I relocated these pipes to another area where there was ample space to attempt to bend some of them back into shape, as the sun had warped them over the many years they were sitting outside. Although it didn't quite work that well, I tried laying them out in the direct sunlight (it is August!) using cinder blocks to hold them in place while letting the heat from the sun and gravity to slowly bend them back into a straighter position.

Cutting the pipe ends with a bandsaw

The pipes after being cut and cleaned up

The pipe laying out in the hot sun to bend

This has proven to not be an effective method, though I then transitioned my focus onto Phase 1 of the project as the materials were now arriving. As I write this and as I leave Windward, these 3" pipes are still sitting outside ready to be used for Phase 2 (pending some additional TLC).

Prep Work Done for the Pump Phase

Throughout the summer, I was able to spend some time testing two different pumps for the most critical phase of this project. One was an old DC pump with its respective controller box that I was able to disassemble, proving to be completely corroded and not fit for use even with repairs (replacement was the only option for both the pump and the controller).

The older/larger pump after disassembly (with controller)

The other pump was a smaller pump that may actually have what it takes to get the water up the hill (and through the 1,300' or so of piping in total). I was able to plug in the controller box and prove that it works properly, though the pump still needs some work (it probably needs to be cleaned internally because it was sitting out in the open for an unknown duration of time).

The new/smaller pump after electrical testing (with controller)

I was also able to acquire the materials for assembling the pump housing that will go inside of the dug well, attaching directly to whichever pump makes it into the final configuration of the system.

The steel pump housing pipes ready to be installed in the well

Phase 1 Construction

Digging the Tench - Early in the season we brought in a trackhoe to dig out the trench in its entirely (all the way up the hill but ending where Phase 3 starts). Although the trench had been dug many years ago, it needed to be done again because the trench had already started to fill back in. This took about a day and allowed us to go well below the frost line (averaging about 2.5 feet deep).

The ditch at the beginning of the season before re-excavating

Digging the trench

Laying the Pipes - There were about 800' of 1" and 2" pipes (combined) laid between the dug well and Herland Way road. There is about 160' of black PC flex hose coming directly out of the pitless adapter in the well to help absorb vibrations from the pump without damaging any of the PVC pipes. There is a 2" PVC schedule 40 line running from the corner manifold box to Herland Way road and a 1" PVC schedule 40 line running the same stretch, though connected directly to several above-ground frost-free faucets along the way.

The two pipes coming from under the pasture swale

The two pipes at the end of the trench by Herland Way road

Andrew (Steward) looking overheated after helping to install the pipe manifold/junction and frost free faucet.

Frost-Free Faucets - There are currently three (3) of these above-ground spigots placed in 100' intervals from the manifold box, though there is a desire to have two (2) more added between the swale and Herland Way. These have a mass of stones at their base to allow for proper water draining. We expect to have up to ~100psi on these when the system is completed.

A view of how we installed the three above-ground frost-free faucets.

The Manifold Box - The manifold/junction box at the corner about halfway between the dug well and the swale is about 2 feet deep, 3.5 feet wide and 2 feet long. This provides the ability to shut off each of three lines independently: 1) water coming from the well line, 2) water going to Herland Way via the 1" line with the spigots, and 3) water going to Herland Way via the 2" line. The actual pipe manifold is designed to be replaced at a later date, if necessary, by disconnecting it and removing it directly out of the manifold box. There is also a 3/4" PVC conduit pipe running from the manifold box to the well which will later be used for running the power wire through to connect the solar panels and/or battery bank to the pump itself. This pipe is also fed into the manifold box.

The manifold box after installation but before being buried

Inside the manifold box showing the connections

Covering the Trench - As of this writing, the trench has not yet been covered, though the only step left in this phase of the project is to cover the trench with the dirt that was pulled out at the beginning of the season. The pipes are below the frost line and should prevent them from freezing in the winter.

The holding tank at the top of the hill