Build a perpetual water tap

Date:1 May 2012

This is a project that will keep people guessing! Water flows from the tap, hour after hour, apparently being allowed to run to waste. Those with a wicked sense of humour will find it great fun to observe visitors’ faces when they notice it. The perpetual stream of water is a very successful illusion, and you will find that most people are compelled to turn the tap off, and to berate you for wasting water. By Alan and Gill Bridgewater

TIME A weekend (eight hours for the copperwork plumbing and eight hours for digging the sump and setting up the pump).

SAFETY Cut copper and clipped wire mesh are both difficult to hold, with lots of splinters of copper and sharp, jagged edges, so be sure to wear goggles and leather gloves.

You will need
Materials for a perpetual water tap 1 m high and 700 mm in diameter

● Plastic bucket (for the sump)
● Medium-size submersible pump
● Flexible armoured plastic pipe: long enough to protect the full length of the pump cable
● Hardcore: 1 bucketful
● Electricity circuit breaker
● Natural wooden post: treated with wood preserver, and with bark removed, 1 m long
● Tap: brass or copper wallmounted tap (old or new)
● Copper water pipe: 1,2 m long, 15 mm in diameter
● Copper tap bracket: Bracket wall plate with screw thread to fit the tap, a compression joint to fit the pipe, with screw to fix it to the post
● Copper saddle clip: 15 mm with screws to fit
● Compression elbow: 2 copper compression corner joints to fit the pipe
● Slates or tiles (waste pieces)
● Plastic tube: 500 mm long and 15 mm in diameter (to link copper pipe to pump), with hose clips to fit
● Natural border log roll: 2 m long, 300 mm high
● Plastic sheet: a circle about 1 m in diameter
● Galvanised 6 mm wire mesh: 600 mm square (allows for cutting waste)
● Cobbles: 25 kg


● Wheelbarrow
● Spade
● Tape measure
● Log saw
● Pipe cutter: large enough to cut the copper pipe
● Screwdriver
● Adjustable spanner
● Bucket: for hardcore
● Club hammer
● Scissors
● Wire snips


Water on tap

The perpetual water tap is an ingenious project: once the pump is running, the tap appears to have been left on. The quaint brass tap, with the understated wooden post and the log roll surrounding fence, suggest that the whole set-up is old. Visit car boot sales and flea markets to search out a tap that has character, and that can be wall mounted. Ours dated from the 1920s, and probably comes from an old bath boiler.

Clean the tap with metal polish and remove the washer. Because the perpetual water tap is self-contained, with its own integral sump and pump, it can be sited just about anywhere in the garden. However, to consolidate the illusion of a functional tap, choose a spot where you might conceivably want a water supply ““ perhaps in the corner of an orchard, by the garden door, or in a courtyard.


Step by step: Making the perpetual water tap

1 Use the spade to dig a hole wide and deep enough to hold the plastic bucket. When the bucket is in place, the rim should be flush with the ground. The bucket must not be jammed in place ““ it should fit easily into the hole. Level the bucket with pieces of stone if necessary.

2 Clean the bucket and position the pump in it, fitting the cable with armoured pipe and an electricity circuit breaker. Fill the bucket with water. Switch on the power and check that the pump is working. (Pumps can be fickle ““ keep testing them during construction.)

3 Measure and cut the post to size with the log saw. Use the pipe cutter to cut the pipe lengths, join the pieces of pipe with the compression elbow joints (but do not fully tighten the joints), and fit the tap bracket and tap. Fix the pipe and tap bracket to the post using saddle clips and screws, and tighten the compression joints with the spanner.

4 Set the post in the ground, placing it on tiles to broaden the base of the post and prevent it from forcing itself into the ground. The inflow end of the copper pipe goes into the bucket. Put broken hardcore around the post and beat it down with the club hammer. Link the pump to the copper pipe by means of the plastic tube.

5 Surround the bucket sump with the border log roll, making an enclosed well. Cover the well with the plastic sheet, cutting a cross in the middle so it flaps into the bucket. Cover the plastic with the wire mesh. Trim the plastic (with the scissors) and the mesh (with the snips) so that they fit within the well.

6 Fill the well with cobbles, concealing the plastic and the mesh completely. Finally, fill the bucket with water, switch on the power, and turn on the tap.

Reproduced from Water Features for the Garden, by Alan and Gill Bridgewater, Published by New Holland.

Latest Issue :

Sept-October 2021