This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
Where the interior of the well is faced with bricks - "steined" as it is termed - a simple method of proceeding is as follows: - A dram-curb is provided, being a circular frame of wood, with a strong flat ring, of the same diameter as the intended well at top and bottom, the breadth of the ring being equal to the breadth of a brick; the depth of curb is 5 ft. or so. The ground being excavated to a depth equal to that of the curb, this is lowered into the excavation. The operation of digging is continued, the curb gradually descending - the excavated earth being removed by buckets lifted by tackle supported above the excavation by a triangular frame. The steining or brickwork is then built on the upper ring of the curb; the bricks are laid without mortar, care being taken to arrange them so as to keep the form of the circle as perfect as possible, each course breaking joint with the one under it. As the sinking of the curb goes on, the laying of the bricks is proceeded with, until the necessary depth is obtained.
Well-sinking is performed in the following simple way in India: - A curb (neemchuk) or ring of wood 9-18 in. thick is laid on the ground, the masonry built upon it about 4 ft. high, and left to dry. The earth inside the curb is then scooped out, and the well descends gradually, when another 4 ft. of masonry is added, and the sinking continues till water is reached. In making a further descent, a sort of huge hoe (jham) is used being worked from above into the soil, and hoisted up with its load; meantime a churus is kept going to prevent the work being impeded by the inflow of water.
Of all the methods in use for raising the water from the wells, the ascending and descending buckets (the empty one descending as the full one is being pulled up) form the simplest. The buckets must be comparatively heavy to allow of their sinking into the water on being let down. The rope to which the buckets are attached is wound round a wooden barrel, revolving on 2 uprights at each side of the well mouth, and turned by a winch or handle. The well-covering should bo made in 2 halves opening upwards and hinged at the outer edges to a wooden frame placed round the mouth of the well. A small space should be left between the edges of the flaps, to admit of the rope passing freely. A small curb-wall should be made round the mouth, in order to prevent surface water running into the well; and a railing, some 3-4 ft. high, to prevent children having access. Especial care should be taken to sink the well at a spot where the surface drainage from the house, yard, etc, and underground drainage from cesspools and such barbarous structures cannot possibly contaminate the water.
Several ingenious contrivances are in use in uncivilized countries for raising water for irrigation and other purposes. In India, when the lift does not exceed 3 or 4 ft., and when the hole or excavation is not too small, a swing basket covered with leaves or matting is used as a bale, being swung by 2 men. Water may be lifted in this way some 12-16 ft. in 3 or 4 stages, by as many pairs of men, at the rate of 1800 gal. per hour. For higher lifts, in Bengal use is made of the paecotta, or lever bucket, the counterpoise on the short arm being a heavy stone or mass of clay; this is the shadoof of Egypt, common throughout the East and even in Hungary, and naturalized among the gold miners of Australia, where it is called a " hand whip." In the N.W. provinces of India a large leathern bag drawn up by bullocks, with the aid of a roller, is the generally adopted contrivance; it is termed a churus or chursah. The Chinese pump, or Persian wheel, consisting of an endless chain of buckets, worked by bullocks or other power, is often to be seen in Australian and Californian gold diggings.
Ponds are generally understood to be hollows filled with water which has flowed from higher ground around into a low-lying depression. Such water is generally very impure from stagnation and the accumulation of impurities washed in by the torrents during heavy rain. But it is available for all save drinking purposes. Even the water of under-drainage on clay lands may be collected in ponds or underground reservoirs for irrigating, supplying steam threshing machinery, etc. According to Bailey Denton, in some parts of the chalk districts underground tanks have been made by burrowing into the earth, and making a chamber or cavern (with an opening at the top for the removal of the soil), which, being lined inside with a thin covering of cement, is made perfectly watertight. Thus the most capacious tanks may be provided for comparatively a few pounds. This mode of constructing tanks might also be adopted in other geological formations besides the chalk, where the water level is low in the earth, with a considerable depth of drained subsoil above it, within which to make the "cavern tank." Such a receptacle for water can only be adopted where the soil is naturally drained, and where there is no pressure of external subsoil water.
Much more important in many respects is the so-called "dew-pond," which is really an artificial rain-pond. The one described by Slade is situated immediately on chalk strata in the highest part of the Berkshire hills, and is entirely fed by rain and snow. In shape it resembles a shallow rain-gauge, without a vertical rim. Its greatest diameter is 69 1/2 ft. The straight sides meet nearly at a point in the bottom, and form an angle of 11° 21' with the surface horizon. A layer of clay, about 12 in. thick, mixed with lime to stay the progress of earthworms, and covered over with first a coating of straw (to prevent the sun cracking the clay), and finally with loose rubble, make up its waterproof bed. The extreme depth is 80 in. It does not, however, hold this head of water, since a ring of the slope, extending from the top, and some 4 ft. in width, is unpuddled, in order to avoid an overflow and the consequent deterioration of the sides. In 40 years it has been only once known to fail, and that instance resulted principally from the growth of rushes whose roots struck through the clay bottom, causing leakage. The rush of cattle down its sides also helped to damage the clay bed.
The ponds, kept free from these pernicious influences, have never been known to fail even in seasons of extraordinary drought. It remains to point out the weak features of the pond. Its efficiency is most impeded by evaporation and slope absorption. This absorption should be removed, since it is also associated with capillary attraction, and, in a twofold character, tends to weaken the supply and increase the loss. Were the slopes formed of a non-absorbing, non-conducting material, not only would all the rain be drained into the basin, but the capillary attraction of the sides would be banished, and evaporation from this cause cease. The faulty points, then, are the absorption by the rubble slopes and capillary attraction.
The stoneware drain pipes used for conveying refuse water, slops, etc, from the house to the main sewer or to the liquid manure tank, should be throughout laid watertight, and as smooth and even inside as possible. Where stoneware pipes cannot be procured, a good sound drain may be made of timber, in the form of a square covered trough, which is much used in Sweden. The entrance to all drain pipes and sewers must be carefully " trapped," to prevent the reflux of the bad gases arising from the decomposing fluids conveyed through the pipes. The principle of the trap is shown in Fig. 1402 : a, bed of sink trough; b, pipe leading into drain; c d, the 2 arms of the trap, which are so formed as to always retain a certain quantity of fluid in the angle, and thus prevent the passage of any vapour from d towards c. Should the angle at any time become choked with solid matters, the perforated lid of c is taken off to admit of their removal.