How to Prime an Irrigation Pump

If you have an irrigation pump that means you have a well from which you are pumping water. If it has been a while since the last time your pump was run, or if this is the first time your pump is being run, then it is probable that you will need to do what is called "priming" the pump. All this entails is adding a small amount of water to the pump's impeller blades. Most pumps, once primed, have a special valve that keeps them primed between uses, but if your pump seems to be working but no water is flowing, then you need to prime it again.

Some pumps are self-priming, while others need you to add water to the pump to get it to start pumping water.
  1. Locate the motor for your pump, if it is electric, or the handle for your pump, if it is manual.
  2. Locate the tube that comes up from your pump if it is electric. This is the "outflow" tube. There should be a "T" connection on your outflow pipe which will have a plug at the top. Use your crescent wrench to unscrew and remove this plug (keep the plug safe as you will need to replace it again later).
  3. Turn on your pump's electric motor. If the motor sounds as if it is running, then quickly insert your garden hose into the top of this tube or use a large pitcher to pour water down into this tube. The sound of your motor should change. Continue adding water to the tube until the pump begins to work and water is being discharged through the system. In some systems, this means water will suddenly shoot out of the pipe you are filling.
  4. Stop adding water to the system as soon as the water pressure is sufficient to keep the discharge pipe full and discharging. Quickly screw the plug back onto your pipe and snug it down with your crescent wrench. Wipe the plug dry and watch for leaks. Tighten the plug again if leaks develop.
  5. Look for a cap which can be unscrewed near the point at which the plunger moves up and down on a hand pump. If a cap exists, unscrew it and fill the pipe with water as you pump the handle. Keep the pipe filled with water until the handle begins to pump water through the system. Replace the cap and snug it down.
  6. Pour water straight down the plunger that moves up and down as you pump the handle of your hand-operated pump if there is no cap to unscrew. Many hand pumps are primed in this manner. Pump the handle and continue adding water down the plunger until the pump begins operating.

Things You Will Need

  • Crescent wrench
  • Garden hose
  • Pitcher of water


  • Most pumps, either electric or manual, do not need to be primed for each use. However, some of the older hand-pumped models will need to be primed for each use.

About the Author

Larry Parr has been a full-time professional freelance writer for more than 30 years. For 25 years he wrote cartoons for television, everything from "Smurfs" to "Spider-Man." Today Parr train dogs and write articles on a variety of topics for websites worldwide.

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