Return to Blackhawk Earthship Home Page

Solar Irrigation Pump

This last year I built a floating irrigation pond pump. We use the irrigation water in both our large garden and in the vineyard during dry spells.

The year we planted the grapes we irrigated weekly using water that was coming out of a neighbor's drain tile, carrying it in buckets at first, then building a system of solar panels, batteries, and 12v bilge pumps to move the water up the hill. From there we used hoses or buckets.

I dug the pond in a low spot below the vineyard with the tiny Chinese backhoe. The first couple of years I used a gasoline powered 2" pump and a 200 gallon storage tank set at the top of the grapes. We were not using pond water to irrigate in the garden yet. On the up side, I could move a lot of water fast. The down side was that I was limited to "batches" of only 200 gallons, and that the powerful pump caused such suction that a lot of fine silt was pumped up into the tank along with the water. And, of course, I had to run back and forth to avoid over filling the tank. At the end of each year I had to dig 8" of clay and silt out of the tank.

So last year I built a floating pumping station. I used 4" of extruded polystyrene under marine plywood for the base. Into this I cut a hole for a plastic laundry basket with window screen stretched on the outide (I intend to make a permanent basket from expanded steel eventually). Into this goes the suction line of a 12v, demand pump designed for RV use. The outlet hose goes across the water and up the hill to a manifold where I can shut it all off, or allow water to the garden, or to the top of the vineyard. (I also have an electrical shut-off switch there.) At the tops of each of these lines I have another hose bib to attach hoses or shut the water off from that end. Over the top of the pump and battery I built an angled sheet metal roof and installed two 15w solar panels that charge the battery (through a charge controller). The battery is one recycled from the tractor; unreliable there but more than adequate for the pump. The pump, battery, and solar cells all float in the pond. I put it out in June and bring it back to the barn in October.

Floating solar powered irrigation pump. Sides not shown

Plan view (Roof not shown)

Cut-away side view

Return to Blackhawk Earthship Home Page