This week I delivered this prototype Treadle Pump that was designed by Mike Fenley, an intern who worked with me last summer on Rainwater Harvesting projects. Mike was a Masters in Engineering student at Syracuse University and his internship at Grow NYC was sponsored and paid for by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Mike and I built the Treadle Pump from easily obtained lumber and plumbing parts as well as some homemade parts. The piston was made from a flip flop sandal cut to fit tightly in the cylinder. Mike's design was adapted from plans found on-line.
The Rainwater Harvesting systems we install in community gardens all use gravity to create water pressure which does not give enough pressure to water anything that is at a higher elevation than the level of the water in the tank. Community gardens also do not have access to electricity so using an electric pump is not a possibility. Using a solar powered pump is a possibility but it is expensive, somewhat technical for most community gardeners and an attractive nuisance for vandals and thieves. So we looked into human powered pumping. As an avid bicyclist, my first thought was a bicycle powered pump but I have not found any plans for modifying a bicycle to pump water directly. Many plans are available for generating electricity or powering a blender by pedaling.
There are Treadle Pumps available in developing countries that help tremendously with irrigation in areas where electricity is unavailable but they are not sold in the US. So we had to make one ourselves. Here is a video of the pump being tested.
The Walt Shamel Community Garden in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York was one of the sites where we installed a 1000 gallon cistern for collecting rainwater from the adjacent building. We could not raise the tank more than a few inches off the ground because the spot we were able to tap into the building downspout was very low. We promised Greg and Debbie Anderson, the garden contacts, that their garden would get the prototype treadle pump. This week I was able to keep that promise.
The Walt Shamel Community Garden has a number of elements of the sustainable garden. They have compost bins, raise chickens (the coop is just to the right in the above picture), have a beehive and the Rainwater Harvesting System. The Treadle Pump became the latest piece of the sustainable community garden puzzle.