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Buying a Pump for Your Water Barrell

Originally published in 2015; republished in 2019.

BEFORE YOU BUY this recommended pump, read the follow-up essay. We learned later that this pump had BIG drawbacks, but I leave this tale so you can follow us as we stumble into good things and not so good things for our survival kit.

Onward in our quest to outfit the family in case of water problems in Portland (like the e-coli scare of last year) or in case the Pacific Subduction Zone decides to make a move on us.

As you may have read in our previous installment, Family Ready for the Big One?, we bought our water barrel from Alberto at Myers Containers.

Next, we needed a pump to siphon the water out of the barrel when disaster arose. Woody and I have a mechanical pump of the old farm-home type. We’ve set it up in a barrel pond at our home. The grandkids and I enjoy playing with it on a sunny day, but its pipe is bigger than the opening in the plastic water barrel.

Besides, for our family Christmas, we needed five pumps for our five families.

old fashioned red farm pum sits above rubber-lined oak barrel where kids can play with it.
Farm pump in our rain barrel waiting possible use in water barrel. The kids play with this one.

Myers Containers doesn’t sell pumps, but when it came time to buy one, Alberto brought in his colleague, George, who had studied the pump situation.

I asked George about the pumps I had seen online. They were plastic versions of the old pump handle seen in the farms of our grandmothers.

George told us he had once ordered a pump of the type I described from the mid-western company that I had found online.

“What you don’t want is to rely on something with plastic parts in an emergency. I had that type and within two weeks it broke.”

So, what do we want?

“Pick up a metal pump that works on the wheel mechanism instead of the siphon being created by the rise of the handle. I think you can get one at a really good hardware store, and it will save you the cost of shipping.”

We went to True Value’s Parkrose Hardware at N.E. 106th and Sandy Boulevard. And there we found exactly what George described to us.

Iron rotary pump lying on our kitchen counter.
The rotary pump we bought and later discovered was not the right choice. But its mechanism is interesting and useful for other things.

The price was the same as the online order for plastic, about $65.

We were going to save time and big shipping costs. Plus, because we ordered five, Parkrose Hardware gave us a discount. We got the Ironton Rotary Hand Pump, item # 37903.

It is made with a cast iron casing and three sections, totaling 38 inches of telescoping suction pipe. The impeller (the rotary thing) is made of carbonized resin. I expect to have this pump in action for a long time.

It turns out that the wheel mechanism gives you a continuous flow of about a quart every three cranks. The flow can be controlled by speeding up or slowing down.

That’s an improvement over the farm pump that delivers a whooshing splash after a good deal of priming each time you use it.

Tesing the pump in the kitchen sink.
Testing the pump. Good thing I did this. I learned a big lesson.

Thus, I won’t be breaking my arm to get at the water I’m storing in our Big Blue barrel.

Here is a photo of Iron Ton, being tested in the kitchen sink. (Did you think I’d test it in the driveway at today’s 36 degrees?)

Blue barrel for water up close.
Home is where the water is.

And here is our Big Blue in his new home on the north side of the house. We decided against storing in the garage because we have not yet cleaned a nice place for him there. Maybe next summer when we empty and refill him, he’ll have indoor shelter.

Next? Guess what? It matters what hose you use to put water in the barrel. Who knew there’d be so much to learn in this quest for an emergency kit?

Tooon In.

To see what we learned about our new and not so wonderful pump, go to "Hold the Hose" and for hose info, go to "The Truth about Garden Hoses".


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