emergency well water bailer bucket

Bailer Bucket For Well Water Collection Without Electricity

emergency well water bailer bucket

Guest article by ‘Papa S.’

I live in a dry part of the country. No, not “Dry”, a recent election took care of that – liquor is readily available in the shops. Dry as in little surface water most of the year.

My home has a well; I have a DIY hand pump which can be in place in around an hour, which is in addition to about two weeks’ worth of stored water, both drinking and flushing. But what if you don’t have a hand pump?

Most homes and irrigation pumps in my area have grid-powered submersible pumps. If that pump is fried, the water is still down there, but you’ll need a way to get it out.

The average depth-to-water in my area runs between 40 to as much as 80 feet; most wells are 6 to 14 inches in diameter with pipes and electrical lines in them.

Pulling all that mess is hard work, even for a well crew with all their equipment. What can I do by myself?


‘Do It Yourself’ Bailer Bucket

My choice is a bailer bucket. There are a couple of designs, including one which can be improvised in a pinch.


– A readily scrounge-able plastic soda bottle, any size from a half liter to 2-liter (larger is better), is the first thing required.

– A multitool or pliers, vise grips or adjustable wrench to remove the cap from the well.

– 100-feet of paracord (or more, if you suspect you’ll need it).
[ Ken adds: I always keep a working 1,000 ft roll of 550 paracord on hand ]

– A large marble, a shooter or taw, whatever you grew up calling it. Not very heavy, and something to add to your bag along with the 4-way valve wrench in there.
[ Ken adds: Lost your marbles? (get some here) ]



Take the cap off of your clean soda bottle, make two holes in the bottom. One needs to be large enough for a finger, or to insert your shooter marble. If the neck of the bottle will allow the marble to pass, you need a bigger marble.

Push the marble into the bottle.

Insert an end of the 550 paracord into one of the two holes and then loop it through the other hole. (Melted holes will hold up better than cut holes.) Tie it with a bowline to hold bottle for lowering into the well and raising back up.

Lower the bottle down the well with top down and the paracord tied to the bottom. When it hits the water, the marble will allow water into the bottle until it is fairly full, then drop into place and be held by the weight of the water while you pull the cord back up. Transfer the water into your container.

As good as a hand pump? Of course not, but it is a way to obtain water from an otherwise inoperable well. Maybe, just maybe, a trick worth remembering when you find yourself in dry country.

An intended bailer bucket made of 20 inches of 4” PVC pipe with a similar ball valve on the bottom is not too difficult. Multiple plans are available on the internet. It’s cheap and a lot more durable than the 2L bottle I just described. Here’s hoping we never need this.

– Papa Smurf

[ Ken adds: A few water well emergency hand pumps on Amzn: ]

Emergency Hand Water Well Pump – 50 Foot
Water Well Hand Pump – 25 Foot


  1. Papa S
    Good idea for cheap well bucket.
    I have a 5 foot length of 4 inch pvc with a tapered 4 inch to 2 inch reducer glued to one end. I use a rubber toilet tank stopper (the tapered kind with the hollow bottom for floatation) to plug the pipe when filled with water. The float is kept near the bottom with a bolt through the pvc pipe.
    I can pull up about half a pail full each time – a little heavy but is a good workout – need to build a winch on a tripod.
    One problem is that I have to pull out the submersible pump first for clearance.

  2. Papa Smurf;
    Good article, thanks for contributing.
    I happen to live in one of those “Dry” counties, although there is plenty of Gin-n-Beer.
    Until my current home I have always lived on a ‘well’.
    Your BAILER BUCKET is a good idea for a quick fact solution, even at 2 litters a pull is a LOT better than nada.

  3. – I wanted one that I could if necessary improvise easily even out of a GHB. Obviously, the PVC bailer bucket is a better choice, I just didn’t want anything else to carry.
    – Papa S.

    1. Ya but, you have to see the reaction on people’s faces when you walk along with a long black tube on your shoulder. :) Just joking but I did get questions from neighbors.

  4. Papa smurf,
    Excellent article. A tripod with a pulley would help with the larger 4″ bailer bucket. I too hope we never need such a thing. Please also consider dc solar powered pumps. All ya need is the pump, you can probably use the existing wire on your submersible, and enough 1/2″ pipe to get significantly below water level. These pumps can’t handle large pipe. Too much weight. In fact, a check valve (one way valve) halfway to the top will help. You need about 200 watts worth of solar panels and no battery is required. When there is enough sun, the pump kicks on, when there isn’t, it kicks off. Don’t forget the heat shrink for the electrical connections, underwater.

    Your bailer bucket is a terrific solution, $$ wise. I especially like the 2 ltr pop bottle and marble trick. Basically a free source to potable water.

    My grandfather was in the pump and well business. Worked for himself. I worked along side him as his laborer for many summers as a kid. I learned a lot from that ol’ man. Brought a smile to my face, thinking back on those days. I learned about putting in cased wells and sandpoints, the old fashioned way. He had an old truck with gin poles and a winch to lift the metal bailer when putting in a cased well. I was the guy lifting and dropping the bailer. Over and over, til it filled with gravel, dirt, water whatever. We used an old homemade weight board and stacked cement blocks on it to add weight enough to slowly sink the casing.

    Sometimes the easiest way is the best way. Excellent way to get folks thinking about what to do for long term water. Good job Papa smurf!

  5. Papa Smurf,
    Good basic tool fabricated from stuff in your GHB. How many people would stand right next to a well in a SHTF situation and die of thirst for lack of a simple tool to get water out of a well.? Any of us that might get stuck out in the great Western Expanse would be travelling from town to town. All of them have a well someplace, even the abandoned towns. Great idea, thanks for the article.

  6. Has anyone used an EarthStraw? They are a little pricey but they seem pretty practical.

  7. – I had a dream the other night, and thought maybe I should add one more thing to this post. The original reason I got frustrated was whenever I went looking for ideas, and found none* to speak of, the only thing I found otherwise that could be improvised from a bug-out-bag was a wad of cloth on the end of a piece of 550 cord. It’s not great, but maybe someone will need to know that. It would have seemed pretty obvious to me, but maybe someone would need the hint.

    INPrepper, my DIY hand pump is very similar to the Earthstraw you are asking about. It’s just cheaper (Look up EMAS hand pump on Vimeo)

    – Papa S.

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