Solar water well

Solar panels running the pump filling the tank
When considering living in the middle of nowhere, water is probably the most critical resource. People and animals use a lot of water, construction and cleaning needs water as well, and if you are growing any crops, you may need water to make it through dry spells. Even with a body of water on your property, you still need a lot of fresh water unless you want to filter and clean the lake water.

We have several 1000 liter tanks that fit onto a trailer; we used to fill up those tanks at the water truck stop in Manola every 3 weeks. Having to haul water in did put a limit on our activities, so we decided to build and off-grid water well, which would initially fill an above ground tank but eventually will supply fresh water to the cabin.

Well drilling rig 

Modern wells consist of a 5.5" pipe going down some 200 feet. A submersible pump is lowered down into the well, pushing the water up through the drop pipe. Matt Mahar from Mahar drilling drove his drilling rig to where we wanted the well in February and drilled down to 200 ft in four days. The static water level is only 50 feet or so below the surface, but the pump must go much deeper to find an aquifer that can sustain pumping up hundreds of gallons.

Submersible AC pumps draw a lot of current when they start up, making them expensive for off grid solutions because you have to make the inverter and solar panels large enough to support the start up spike. We bought a DC pump to work around this problem, along with the solar panels, pump controller and wiring from Waterboy Solar in St. Albert.
The pump is a 3" SunRotor SR-6 which draws around 500 Watts at 48 volt DC. It is attached to a 3/4" polyethylene flexible drop pipe, so it is easy to lower the pump and bring it back up in the fall. The are also 3 electrical wires connected to the pump. The wires are braided together and finish on MC4 connectors (standard solar connectors)  that make it easy to connect to the controller.

Once the cabin is ready, we will install a pitless adapter at 8 feet deep and run the water pipe underground to the cabin. But for now, the pump will fill an above ground 1000 liter tank and we will remove the pump in winter to prevent frost damage.

Once we had the wire, drop pipe and safety rope attached to the pump, we used clamps every 8 feet to attach the wire and rope to the pipe (which is really carrying all the weight) and lowered the solar pump into the well (video below).
Pump controller
Pole mount for the solar panels

Formation log from the well report
Since this setup does not have any batteries, the pump can only operate when there is enough direct sunlight. That is why we have the tank: the pump will fill up the tank when it is sunny. We can then get water from the tank whenever we need it. A float switch in the tank will shut off the pump when the tank is full. The pump pushes around 2.5 gallons a minute when the sun is shining. Filling a small 50 gallon tank takes about 20 minutes.

UPDATE August 30th 2016: you can see all the wells drilled in your area on this government website. It lists how deep they were drilled, who drilled them, who owns them and when they were drilled.

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