Connecting a Shallow Well Pump

It is important to connect or plumb your shallow well pump so that it can be primed.   Occasionally, if you have a strong pump and a very high water table you can get by without proper priming but why risk it?  It is easy and for most wells, crucial.  It is important to be able to prime your well both above and below the check valve if your check valve is above the water table. 

It is simple but it is a little different than those connected to commercially drilled wells.   Consider the following well setup design with the check valve at the bottom:

This is a typical installation when a well driller puts in a six inch well.  The check valve is at the bottom of the well.  As a result, the priming plug in the pump itself will be sufficient for priming the pump in this arrangement.   This is because the check valve (called a foot valve when it is at the foot) is below the static water level.  If you put the check valve above ground at the pump level, an additional fitting is necessary so you can prime the pump.  The problem, for our purposes, is it is hard to get a foot valve down our two inch pipe and even if we can we probably don’t want to.  Once the foot valve is installed and buried, it is essentially impossible to get out.  By putting our check valve up by the pump, we can get to it if we need to service it.

I was trying to make another one of my crude drawings to show the proper way to install a shallow well pump with the check valve above ground when Tyler Cook in Waycross Georgia emailed me this one.  Thanks Tyler!

Here is another drawing of an excellent way to install an above ground check valve along with a way to prime both above it and below it.

Putting a PVC cut off valve above the downpipe permits both the downpipe and the portion of the pipe “down” from the check valve to be primed.  It is still necessary to prime the portion of the pipe “up” from the check valve or on the left in this drawing as well as the pump itself.   Most pumps have a removable plug that permits this easily.

Update Aug 2011 – Please check out this setup below from Mike in Altus, Oklahoma!  This is the perfect way to plumb a well so you can prime it.  Mike has installed valves to make it easy to prime both above and below his check valve.  Also, please note he not only has used a BRASS check valve, but he has installed it in the VERTICAL position too!  You can not setup a shallow well better than this.


When you first start trying to pump water with a newly installed pump, turn the spigot off.  Power up the pump.  Then gradually open the spigot as the pump continues to run and pump up pressure.

After you get your well operational, be sure and grout your well so groundwater runoff can not contaminate the water table.  Use cement with no aggregate or bentonite clay for this.   If you live in an area where pipes are subject to freezing, you’ll want to insulate them as well.

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