Moving Water Uphill

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The ram as it would be mounted on a plank. It is quite heavy, perhaps 50 pounds. The air dome has provisions to recharge air, though I doubt anyone ever did.

Getting water uphill generally requires energy, which you need to buy (either high-line or solar) in order to run a pump.

The check valve slams shut, then falls open, to repeat the cycle. Cutaways in the check facilitate its operation.

Going a long way back, here’s a little history lesson. Dad’s Uncle Levi, who lived east of Sioux Falls in rather hilly territory, had a spring on his farm. That is where the hydraulic ram shown here came from. My dad took it out back in the late 1930s, when Levi moved to Chicago, and brought it along to Trent many years later.

The water inlet is on the left side, with discharges to go either way, and the check valve is on the right side.

These units are very simple. Given a water source of, ideally, more than a couple gallons a minute, the ram will deliver a small percentage of that water to a much higher elevation. The ram works on velocity of falling water. If a unit is located, say, 20 feet downhill from a spring, with water piped to it, velocity of “falling” water will slam the check valve, through a check valve going to storage, at a much higher elevation.

This ad shows a unit from an earlier Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.

Once the system stabilizes, the check valve going away opens and the process repeats itself, as long as water continues to flow down to the unit. In theory, about 10 percent of the water gets sent to the higher elevation, basically for free. Hence the term “hydraulic ram,” which “rams” water uphill. FC


Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, S.D. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.

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