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Picture of Build an Irrigation System Powered by the Curvature of Space-time
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In this Instructable I will show you how to build an irrigation system for a small vegetable garden that is completely powered by the curvature of space-time. At this point, you may be thinking that this is something in the realm of science fiction, but it is quite real and possible. You won’t need fancy equipment either. Everything is readily available at your local hardware, plumbing supply store or on the Internet.

In Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity space and time are not two separate concepts but are seen to be essentially the same thing and can be treated as a single entity called space-time. Einstein realized that massive objects like stars and planets caused a distortion or curvature in space-time. The effect of that distortion is what we call gravity. Imagine setting a large body in the center of a trampoline. The body would press down into the fabric, causing it to dimple. A marble rolled around the edge would spiral inward toward the body, pulled in much the same way that the gravity of a planet pulls at rocks in space.

Stay with me as I explain my system. You may not be able to build a system completely like mine. However, I hope you find one or more ideas here that you can use in your own system. Please leave a comment if you do find something useful here. If you like this Instructable, please vote for it in the Backyard contest.

Prerequisites

The heart of the system, quite literally, as it pumps life-giving water just like a heart pumps blood, is a hydraulic ram pump. In this Instructable I will not cover the concepts or the building of the ram pump itself in any detail. There are several Instructables and web sites that already do this better than I could. One of my favorites is this one, LandToHouse.com. The site has some excellent videos, plans for building your own pumps and completed pumps for sale. What I am going to cover is the whole irrigation system that was built around the ram pump.

In order for the ram pump to work there are at least two significant requirements:

· 1. The Ram Pump will need a continuous flow of water to operate. A fast moving stream works, standing water in a pond doesn’t.

· 2. The ram pump requires a vertical drop in the water from the source to the pump. This vertical drop is called head. There is a ratio that determines the results of the pump and that is 1 foot of head will give you 7 feet of lift.

In my terrain I have a small stream that runs downhill behind our vegetable garden. The source of the water is a small pool in that stream. Over a 100 foot distance in the stream, there is a five foot drop from the small pool to the location of the pump. Using the ratio described above, my five feet of head allows my pump to lift the water up to 35 feet, which is more than enough to get it from the stream to our garden.

The sequence of this Instructable is based on the way the water flows from the stream to the garden.

Step 1: The Drive Pipe

Picture of The Drive Pipe
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The pipe that takes water from the water source and brings it to the ram pump is called the drive pipe. Ideally it should be a straight, rigid pipe. However, given the terrain around the creek, I had to go with flex pipe. I used a 100 foot length of plastic 1¼ inch diameter flex pipe.

The intake at the top of the pipe is immersed in a small pool within my creek and held down with some large rocks to keep it under water at all times. I covered the opening with a wire mesh “sock” that I made from some window screen material and picture hanging wire. This lets the water flow in yet keeps things like leaves, sticks, fish and other debris from making its way into the pipe and clogging the ram pump. I secured the wire mesh to the flex pipe using a hose clamp.

The intake opening is the only part of the flex pipe that must be underwater. The rest can be on the ground, in the air, or wherever it needs to be to have the water flow to the pump. The main thing is that it should flow downhill as straight as possible. There should not be any dips in the pipe. Small sideways bends don’t seem to affect the efficiency of the pump too much. The first year I had the system set up we had a very heavy rain and the creek became a raging torrent. My flex pipe and the pump were washed several hundred feet downstream and turned into a jumbled mess. It also caused the flex pipe to kink in several places requiring some major repairs to it. Since then, in addition to the large rocks near the top of the pipe, I have used some rebar and zip ties to secure the pipe so it doesn’t wash downstream in a heavy rain. I would not guarantee this will hold after a steady week of heavy rain, but it holds well most of the time.

The flex pipe is made of a somewhat rigid plastic that once kinked doesn’t go back to its round shape. In order to repair the kinks I had to cut the kinked section out, and then use a pvc coupling and some hose clamps to put the two cut ends together again. Since I had to do this in a few places, my 100 foot flex pipe is probably about 95-97 feet long by now. This does not seem to have affected the efficiency of the pump.

At the bottom end, the flex pipe is connected to the ram pump using a union.

BeardedPapa2 months ago
In a similar project, I connected 6 rain barrels together, being fed from my gutter downspouts, but I placed the barrel-to-barrel connections at the bottom of the barrels rather than at the top. That way they all were filling at the same time, and kept the level the same throughout the system. Love the ram pump idea, but no longer am near a flowing stream.
You could always interconnect each barrel at the bottom but have the first after the splitter fill from the top and the last overflow, of course, be at the bottom. Either way works, and realistically it'll still take just as long to fully fill, but you'll have even level and pressure across all the beds. That'd be the only real advantage.
Mike5403 (author)  BeardedPapa2 months ago
Sounds great. I would worry that once the barrels are somewhat filled, the downward pressure would send water out of the barrels through the barrel to barrel connections instead of in one and out the next. I suppose this is where it helps to have some knowledge of fluid dynamics.
Well, if you need the first one to fill more quickly because it is empty and you need to water the garden from that one, then if you have interconnecting valves, turn the outflow off till you can let it all equalize. My problem was I feeding at 4 or 5 points, with different filling rates, and I wanted prevent overflow (to the ground) at the faster feeding points.
cdavenport2 months ago
A bit of science genius there. BTW, your delivery system of soaker hoses to the plants is the most efficient way to water plants...pioneered by the Israelis to return their barren rock pile of a country back to the Biblical land of milk and honey. I remember reading about that when I was in high school in the late 60s. Kudos to you...wish I lived nearby to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
In my garden, the PVC pipes have holes spaced regularly to water the plants since my system doesn't have enough water pressure to use soaker hoses.
shalnachywyt2 months ago
I made a ram pump 20 years ago and discovered that despite my having a spring and a creek where the water flows out about 15 gallons per minute, it didn't work. Why? I discovered that you need a MINIMUM of three (3) feet of head for the pump to work. If you don't have that, and I only had a head of about 2 feet, there isn't enough pressure in the water flow to run the pump. Instead, I got a solar panel, a small pump used by boats to get water out of the boat, and hooked them up and put the pump in the crerek and that irrigates my garden just wonderfully!
Mike5403 (author)  shalnachywyt2 months ago
That is why I have a 100 foot drive pipe. Any shorter and I wouldn't have the minimum head required.
Well, I tried that and it didn't work either because from the top of the spring box to the bottom of the creek bed was only about 2 feet. I spent five years trying to figure out why the ram pump didn't work (yes it took me that long! ::grin::) until I stumbled upon one of Gene Logden's books on self-sufficiency (published in the 1960s or early 70s I believe) wherein he talks about ram pumps and defined "head" as the vertical distance from the where the water comes out to where it goes into the pump. That was my "ah!" moment and when I realized that, due to the short horizontal distance of the creek which is only about 75-100 feet before it hits my neighbor's property, that the ram pump simply wouldn't work for me. :(
The solar panel and bilge pump, however, is perfect for my situation and not only lifts water about 7 feet into the air where it gravity feeds into the garden, apparently it also pumps horizontally as well. Of course lately, with all the rain we've been getting, I don't need to irrigate. I expect that to change in a month since we're entering our "dry season" soon.
Still, for someone who has the right conditions, a ram pump is definitely the way to go.
maintann2 months ago
Have roughly similar ideas re watering plants in dry conditions. I use one of those 12Volt "Rule 360" bilge pumps with a 50 mm EVA foam disc fitted to the bottom of it. Remove the grate over the shower drain & the pump fits in nicely blocking off the drain. The pump outlet is fed through an elbow into 20mm pvc conduit & up to the window level. From there I use 20mm irrigation hose (thin wall black poly) to the garden. The hose snakes around the plants & ends up at another elbow with a 2' stub of pipe standing upright (to give some back pressure) I then went along & drilled a 3mm hole adjacent to each plant. Needs to be checked every month or so as hair etc does tend to block the holes.
Mike5403 (author)  maintann2 months ago
Your setup sounds very good too. My house is too far from my garden and downhill from it to use grey water.
pgs0709472 months ago
As others have said, having access to a stream is fortunate, but the Environment Agency in UK might take a dim view of water abstraction. Maybe you have more summer rainfall than here in water stressed Southeast England, but even if very small, water abstraction does require a licence, for obvious reasons. You might argue that you are returning the water, but very little will return to the stream. You might do better to increase your storage and take advantage of winter rainfall. Here, the main rivers are tidal and saline, and any freshwater feeder streams would almost certainly have licensed waste water effluents in them and in summer, the waste water makes up most of the flow. So, inventive project, but with reservations.
Mike5403 (author)  pgs0709472 months ago
Thank you for your comment. We have some rules where I live also, but I can take up to 500 gallons per day without a permit. My system doesn't take anywhere near that.
Also my stream is just rainwater runoff from the hill behind my house. It isn't a protected river.
carir2 months ago
Is there a mosquito breeding barrel without a top, like the photos show? Otherwise nice set up.
Mike5403 (author)  carir2 months ago
I normally keep all the barrels covered. I took the cover off to take a picture of the inflow and overflow fittings from the inside, also I was trying to show the water flowing in and out.
MartinB1952 months ago
Looks cool, but: TL;DR, sorry :) How about a short summary?
He made a pump that does not require electricity to move water from a stream to his garden.
JG492 months ago
Ideal for growing your "pot" plants deep in the forest...;)
JohnC430 JG492 months ago
no need for "deep in the forest" anymore at least in California or Colorado.
OutofPatience2 months ago
Thanks for your very clear and excellent explanation of not only the process and technicalities, but of the principles involved! Wish I had some nearby flowing water to work with...actually there is a creek that runs through several neighboring properties...just not really accessible to me...sigh!
BlakeB532 months ago
Thanks, I have a very similar setup at my garden, trying to figure out the same thing. This may work!
kenahoo2 months ago
I was going to post a pedantic comment saying that it's really *powered* by nuclear fusion 93M miles away, and uses the curvature of spacetime (and the entropy of water) merely to channel the energy to where you want it.

Then I realized what's powering the nuclear fusion is ... the curvature of spacetime.
jvector2 months ago
Nice work, nicely described! Just wish I had a plot with a stream with a 5 foot pressure head....
yrralguthrie2 months ago
I made one of these, but it space-time warped my water so that it flowed up and I lost it in the atmosphere. I think it went all the way to a star in the sillyway galaxy.
I think I will make another one much bigger and then rent a boat get in it and allow myself to be carried to a planet far, far away. I'll need a bigger pump and maybe the Niagara falls for power. If it works I won't be making any more silly posts for a long, long time! Wish me luck.
AngstromLogic2 months ago
Holy Heavens Above, Mike!! Ol' Petey here attempted to build one of these things but took your suggestion of curving space-time to the limits. He attempted to create a black hole in the lab to power this thing. He ended up rupturing the city water main and stretching himself to the shape of a noodle (massive tidal forces at the localized black hole). OMG!! Needless to say, the garden received ample water and a noodle head too.
... Great job Mike and nice introduction. Keep up the good work ...
drhughjohnson2 months ago
Great job. I did read it all, thanks.
shandafin2 months ago
Love your style and great idea/explanations!
Mike KC2 months ago
Good job Mike :)