El Sifon

El Sifon

Of the half-a-hundred wind-pumps which once stood in the area around Cartagena (Spain) only two are in working order. This one stands on the edge of the town of El Algar. It is used to irrigate an orange grove.

Being similar in design to the local corn-mills, the "sifon" is not very efficient. Fortunately, it does not need to be since comparatively little effort is required to lift water, particularly if the well is not very deep.
The lifting mechanism is as rustic as can possibly be imagined. It consists of a series of earthenware pots which are hung, like beads on a necklace, along the length of a rope belt. The belt is slung over the top of a wheel which is notched into the side of the windmill tower and geared to the rotor. The clay buckets dangle down below the wheel - those on one side facing down and the others facing up - and the bottom-most bucket sits in the water.
When the wind blows and the rotor spins, the wheel on the side of the mill also turns, so causing the the necklace of buckets to travel down into the well and up again, gathering a cargo of water as they go. As they reach the top, and pass over the wheel, the water pours out and falls into a trough. From the mill, on its podium, the trough follows a very gradual incline so that the water can be made to reach the farthest corners of the grove.
Once the system is up and running it works very well; the only problem is getting it going. Inertia is the enemy of every machine. Because the sails are too inefficient to lift the pots of water "from a standing jump", the pots have to be vandalised; each one has a hole in the bottom, allowing the water to flow out. Although it seems ridiculous, this method works well; the problem of inertia is overcome, and when the sails are turning fast, and the belt is rushing around, the pots are travelling so fast that they still manage to get most of their load to its proper destination.

(Watercolour 15 x 11" / 38 x 28cm)