River Pump

I have worked with the ram pump for some time now and I have to say that it is simply amazing. But it does not work in all situations. If you want to pump water from a river or creek that is mostly flat water you wont be able to use the ram pump. So what are your options? Well I found out about the River Pump also known as the Rife River Pump. This ingenious pump works by spinning a tube into the water and gulping water and air consecutively.  These pumps have been around for a long while and they work very well.  You can buy a professional model online for a few hundred dollars but I thought that I would give my best attempt at making one that was under $100. I hope that you enjoy the video series on the diy river pump.

Part 1:

This first video shows the construction of the river pump. This is my first test build of this pump and I have to say that it was close to $100. In the next build that I make I am going to use drainage grade PVC and that will cut the cost by quite a lot.

Part 2

This next section of the river pump build is the first test at the river. I take the pump out and place it in the water. The test is a better success than I thought it would be. The pump starts to rotate and water is being passed in the tube.

Part 3

Now that the pump has been tested and we know that it works its time to make a couple adjustments to get the pump to float better. In this part I add some bottles in the pump and get it to float a lot better in the water.

Part 4

In part four I install a new swivel that I found on Amazon from a company called “SuperKlean.” I think this product is for a power washer or some sort of water hose application. There are two swivels in this little unit and that is what allows the pump to swivel while the hose stays put. Now that we hae solved the issue with the swivel the pump is turning much better than ever. Will this fix the pump? Watch this video and find out.

Part 5

25 thoughts on “River Pump

    • Seth Johnson

      I think that would work. These blades seem to work well but I can see a fan style working even better due to the shape.

    • Seth Johnson

      Hello. I like your page. My wife and I have just moved into our new house this past week and I have not thought about the river pump. BUT you have actually gotten my creativity flowing on a better and cheaper design. I will start building it in the next week. I won’t post the video for a month though because of the house series. This new design should work well.

  1. Ahh…then you have begun a new chapter in the Land To House process.

    Thanks for the reply. Except for Rife’s pump, this seems to be some sort of holy grail. The best literature I have found to date goes down the spiral pump path and a Boy Scout effort on a big river with mixed results.

    Let me know of your efforts, I am about done with my latest version, #6.

    Good luck with the house, measure twice, cut once.

    • Seth Johnson

      Yes this is the true “land to house” experience 🙂

      I have begun to gather the materials needed for the new and hopefully improved design. It does seem like there are only a couple pump designs that work. I am here to fix that issue. Please let me know if you find some good results. I look forward to helping others pump from flat moving water. I should make my build next week.

  2. Just some food for thought… not sure how well it would work, but maybe put check valve between the swivel and the hose. My thought is that every time it gets stuck on the rock, the force pushing the water up also stops, and the water flows back down.

    Just a thought. Awesome videos!

    • Seth Johnson

      That is a fun idea! I am actually gathering the things needed to make a rebuild and upgrade to my design. SO I will have to give that a try when I start the testing. Thank you for the idea!

  3. would it be possible to join this concept of the river-pump into an waterwheel?
    when I forgot to drain my garden hose I turn my garden hose reel so that water is getting out at the tap end of the garden hose reel with a nice flow.
    sorry for my bad english because I am from The Netherlands

    • Seth Johnson

      Yes you could use a water wheel just like the hose idea. One of my first youtube videos was a wheel like that. I did not ever finish the design.

  4. Love your site, Land to house. I have 12 acres with a beautiful brook that runs good all year round. I was very interested in your Ram pump, but not sure if I have the elevation to reach my camp. What kind of elevation can I get with the Rife River pump? Thanks for your time.

    • Seth Johnson

      Hello. I worked on a river pump design but it did not supply any notable results. I have a new design that should provide much better results. The ram pump works on a 1:7 ratio. For every 1 foot of head pressure you can get 7 feet of lift. I find it helpful to use good earth to find the change in elevation in the creek and for the delivery pipe. You can also use a garden hose in the creek to determine the head pressure.

  5. Yes, I have watched all your videos, very informative. I was just wondering if the Rife River pump has the same 1:7 ratio, or would it be less than that? Thank you for the information. Most helpful.

    • Seth Johnson

      Thank you for watching my videos. From what little research I have done on the Rife Pump It seems that the height is based on two things. The number of coils in the pump and the height of the pump itself. So coils x height. I have not tested this math yet because I have not made the new design but this does seem right. I have been able to reach 70 feet with a ram pump and I hear the Rife can get up to 80 feet vertical.

    • Seth Johnson

      I have a new design half way built that I feel will bring better results. I have plans to finish the design this winter and get some testing done soon.

  6. Seth, I strongly believe you need to have a constant diameter of the coils on ALL the pumping coils, so they are all in phase. They all then have the bubble in the same position of all the coils as it’s rotating, otherwise, the length of the bubble and the length of the water slug, will not match as they move into the smaller diameter coils. Example: a 6 inch diameter coil has Pi x diam. equals 3.14 times 6 equals almost 19 inches. if half filled you have 9 inches of air and 9 inches of water. Now see how confused things get pushing that pattern into a 3 inch diam coil. See 3.14 times 3 equals half the previous or about 9 inches, so you’d have 1 coil of air and 1 coil of water. You’d have virtually no thrust at all in those coils because they’d be solid air or water. The same 6 inch diameter coil, then fed into 1 and a half inch diam coil you’d have 2 coils of air and 2 of water. With differing diameters of coils, the bubbles and slugs never get coordinated, to provide a united thrust forward. At times they are even fighting each other, so reduced cooperation, even neutralized thrust all together.

    I’m going to risk something here. Follow my math, or just take the results, or forget me all together.

    You said 40 feet of tubing, I suspect 3/8 diam. id. so area of tube is 3/8 inch divided by 2 is 3/16 radius squared times Pi is 0.11 square inches, then the volume of the tubing is area times length so 0.11 square inches times 40 feet times 12 inches is 53.01 cubic inches. the weight of 53 cubic inches of water with ( 231 cubic inches per gallon times 8.33 pounds per gallon) is 1.91 pounds . supposed you could get half the tube filled with water and half air, all bubbles on one side of the coils and all heavy slugs of water on the other side, all now cooperating, you’d have half of that 40 feet of tubing or 20 feet of water, or about 1.91 pounds of water, divided by 2 or about 1 pound pressing down on the 0.11 square inches of the inside Id. of the tube, that’s about 1 pound divided by 0.11 square inches or 9.05 pounds per square inch…. That would be the maximum potential pressure available …. either less water or less air in the tubes would diminish the total pressure available, or if the bubbles and the slugs of water get to where they are “out of phase” or fighting each other, this too would cause the the pressure to be reduced from the max 9 psi available.

    Just a thought, if you used 4 inch dia PVC pipe , with 3/8 inch id so about 0.5 inch od, so the dia of one coil would be about 4″+half tube dia + half tube dia would be about 4 1/2 inch dia so times Pi or 14.13 inches long per coil, divide that into 40 feet gets about, (40*12)/14.13= 33.95 coils and each coil is about 1/2 inch fat along the length of the 4 inch dia pipe, so 34 coils times 1/2 inch is about 17 inches along the length of the 4 inch dia PVC pipe. After coiling the 40 feet of 3/8 dia tube around the 4 inch dia pipe flush, side by side touching each other, pour the PVC cement on the tops of all the coils so it seeps in and glues all the coils to each other, and to the PVC pipe.

    I could imagine gluing 4 inch dia end caps on both ends, keep the infeed end of the 3/8 tubing outside the 4 inch pipe, drilling thru the other end cap and side of the pipe near that end to pass the pumping tube in thru the side and out thru the center of the end cap, similar to what you did. Could even mount the turning vanes directly to the end cap, again similar to what you did.

    Seth, Seems like a great project, and I might do it myself, but just getting over tripple bypass, surgery and for me an excursion is walking from my bedside to the bathroom and the return. I’m sure not telling you what to do, mostly wishing I could enjoy getting up and moving around and enjoying life the way you are. Good luck to you, and wishing you great success in everything you do.

  7. I’ve been watching your videos as you moved from ram pumps to traditional spiral pumps to river pumps. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Is one better or more optimal or does it depend on the situation?

    Are the commercial Rifle Ram pumps still being made and if so, how do you benchmark against them?

    I’ve setup a public facebook group for Water Powered Pumps – I hope that you will join in and share what you are finding.

    • Seth Johnson

      The ram pump is my favorite. The river pump seems like a great idea I just have not managed to get one working. The spiral pump that I started to work with just needed a good rotary union. I think that I have one now so I can get back to that project some day.

      I have not checked with rife ram to see if they are still making the river pump.

    • Seth Johnson

      I am not sure where you can buy river pumps there. That is why I was trying to make one DIY. So far I have not been able to get one working.

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