Le RWSN a façonné ma vie professionnelle

Cette année, nous célébrons les 30 ans de la création officielle du Réseau rural d’approvisionnement en eau. Après des débuts très techniques en tant que groupe d’experts (essentiellement masculins au sein du Handpump Technology Network) nous avons évolué pour devenir un réseau diversifié et dynamique de plus de 13 000 personnes et 100 organisations travaillant sur un large éventail de sujets. Au fil du temps, nous avons acquis une réputation d’impartialité et sommes devenus un rassembleur mondial dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural.

Le RWSN ne serait pas ce qu’il est aujourd’hui sans les contributions et les efforts inlassables de nos nombreux membres, organisations et personnes. Dans le cadre de la célébration du 30e anniversaire du RWSN, nous organisons une série de blogs sur rwsn.blog, invitant nos amis et experts du secteur à partager leurs réflexions et expériences dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural.

Ceci est un blogue du Dr Kerstin Danert, membre du RWSN, basée en Suisse.

C’est à Entebbe, en Ouganda, à la fin de l’année 2004, lors de ma première rencontre avec feu Piers Cross, qui gérait alors le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque Mondiale en Afrique, que j’ai été attirée dans l’orbite du RWSN. En fait, en 2004, le RWSN venait juste d’être remodelé – à partir du Handpump Technology Network (HTN). Piers avait été mis sur la piste par Erich Baumann, qui, à l’époque, dirigeait le secrétariat du RWSN, hébergé à Skat, dans le canton de Saint-Gall, en Suisse. Nous avions eu des échanges lors de mes recherches doctorales en Ouganda quelques années auparavant, Erich ayant même travaillé dur sur une pompe à pédale pour aider l’équipe de forage avec laquelle je travaillais à maintenir la circulation dans un puits foré manuellement. Nous avons perdu le forage, mais je me suis fait un ami et un futur mentor.


J’ai déménagé en Ouganda en 1998, et en 2004, je travaillais comme consultant indépendant ; je voyageais dans tout le pays dans ma Land Rover à châssis court (oui – cliché, je sais) et je passais du temps sur divers projets ruraux fascinants d’approvisionnement en eau et d’assainissement.


À 32 ans, et alors que je travaillais principalement avec des ONG locales, je dois dire que la Banque mondiale me semblait plutôt grandiose. Piers m’a offert le rôle de coordinateur du thème sur le forage à faible coût pour le RWSN, et le WSP a financé 60 jours par an de mon temps pendant environ 3 ans.


J’ai donc ajouté le RWSN à mon portefeuille d’emplois à l’époque, et j’ai essayé de contribuer à ce réseau en cours de réforme – et au “thème”en question. Au cours de la quinzaine d’années qui a suivi, cela est devenu le travail de forage professionnel d’aujourd’hui, et j’ai en quelque sorte appris sur le tas à le diriger.


Je vais vous épargner les détails, mais plutôt résumer tout cela comme une courbe d’apprentissage abrupte et continue ! Avec Sally Sutton, qui avait le même rôle pour l’auto-approvisionnement, et Joe Narkevic, qui dirigeait un programme similaire sur les chaînes d’approvisionnement, nous avons essayé de développer nos thèmes et le réseau dans son ensemble.


Cela fait maintenant 18 ans que j’ai rencontré Piers à Entebbe, ce qui fait de moi une adolescente du RWSN. Je n’ai jamais regretté avoir dit oui. Pas une seule fois, même si j’étais parfois épuisée après avoir fourni trop d’efforts et d’énergie.


Pour moi, il y a tant de choses que j’apprécie dans le travail avec et pour RWSN. Le premier point est la partie RURALE. Les besoins des habitants des zones rurales en matière d’accès à l’eau restent énormes, et – relativement parlant – sont toujours invisibles et massivement sous-financés. Deuxièmement, j’ai apprécié le mode de fonctionnement du RWSN. Le RWSN peut être agile, il est ouvert et il est possible de poser des questions difficiles.


Ayant également pris la relève d’Erich Baumann à la tête du secrétariat du RWSN en 2009, ce que j’ai fait jusqu’en 2017, j’ai contribué au mode de fonctionnement du RWSN. Il y a toujours eu quelque chose de très spécial pour moi dans le fait de travailler avec et de rassembler différentes personnes et différentes organisations, qu’elles soient petites ou grandes, mondiales ou locales, qu’elles fonctionnent avec des budgets modestes ou des millions.


Ainsi, à l’occasion des 30 ans du RWSN, permettez-moi de le remercier, ainsi que ceux qui font partie de ce formidable réseau, pour près de deux décennies d’opportunités de s’engager auprès de différentes personnes, d’entendre des points de vue différents et, surtout, de se joindre à d’autres personnes qui tentent également de résoudre un problème très difficile : garantir que tous les habitants des zones rurales disposent de services d’approvisionnement en eau satisfaisants.


Si vous souhaitez travailler davantage avec le RWSN, faites part de vos idées au secrétariat, aux responsables de thèmes et au comité directeur. Le travail du réseau est loin d’être terminé !

A propos de l’auteur : Kerstin Danert dirige le thème du forage professionnel du RWSN depuis 2005. Elle a été directrice du secrétariat du RWSN de 2009 à 2017. Kerstin a travaillé comme consultante indépendante en Ouganda de 2003 à 2008, puis a rejoint Skat Consulting, en Suisse, où elle est restée jusqu’en 2020. En 2020, elle a créé Ask for Water GmbH, également basée en Suisse.

Photo : Kerstin observant le forage manuel lors de sa première mission sur le terrain avec RWSN – au Niger en 2005 – documentant l’histoire des puits forés à la main au Niger.

RWSN shaped my professional life

This year we are celebrating 30 years since the Rural Water Supply Network was formally founded. From very technical beginnings as a group of (mostly male) experts – the Handpump Technology Network- we have evolved to be a diverse and vibrant network of over 13,000 people and 100 organisations working on a wide range of topics. Along the way, we have earned a reputation for impartiality, and become a global convener in the rural water sector.

RWSN would not be what it is today without the contributions and tireless efforts of many our members, organisations and people. As part of RWSN’s 30th anniversary celebration, we are running a blog series on rwsn.blog, inviting our friends and experts in the sector to share their thoughts and experiences in the rural water sector.

This is a guest blog by RWSN Member Dr. Kerstin Danert, based in Switzerland.

It was in Entebbe, Uganda, in late 2004, at my first meeting with the late Piers Cross, who was then managing the World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) in Africa, that I was pulled into the orbit of RWSN. In fact, in 2004, RWSN was just being reshaped – out of the Handpump Technology Network (HTN). Piers had been put up to it by Erich Baumann, who, at the time, was running the RWSN secretariat, hosted in Skat in St. Gallen, Switzerland. We had interacted during my PhD research in Uganda a couple of years previous, with Erich even working hard on a treadle pump to help the drill team that I was working with to maintain circulation in a manually drilled well. We lost the borehole, but I made a friend and future mentor.

I had moved to Uganda in 1998, and by 2004, I was working as a freelance consultant; travelling all over the country in my short chassis Land Rover (yes – cliché I know) and spending time on various fascinating rural water supply and sanitation projects.

Aged 32, and, then working mainly with local NGOs, I have to say that the World Bank sounded rather grand. Piers offered me the role of Flagship Coordinator – Low Cost Drilling for RWSN, and WSP funded 60 days per year of my time for about 3 years.

I thus added RWSN to my portfolio of jobs at the time, and tried to figure out how to contribute to this reforming network – and to the “flagship”. Over the subsequent decade and a half, that flagship grew into the professional drilling work of today, and I somehow grew into the role of leading it.

I will spare you the details, but rather summarise it all as an ongoing steep learning curve! Together with Sally Sutton, who had the same role for Self-Supply, and Joe Narkevic leading a Supply Chains flagship, we tried to develop our topics and the network as a whole.

It is now 18 years since that first meeting with Piers in Entebbe, which I guess makes me an RWSN teenager. I have never looked back from saying yes. Not even once – not even when I was exhausted at times after having perhaps put in too much effort and energy.

For me, there is so much that I enjoy about working with, and for RWSN. The first point is the RURAL part. The needs of rural dwellers in relation to accessing water remain enormous, and – relatively speaking – are still unseen and massively underfunded. Secondly, I have appreciated the way that RWSN works. RWSN can be nimble, is open, and it is possible to ask difficult questions.

Having also taken on the role of leading the RWSN Secretariat from Erich Baumann in 2009, which I did up to 2017, I contributed to the way that RWSN operates. There has always been something very special to me about working with, and bringing together different people and different organisations, whether small or large, whether global or local, whether operating on shoestring budgets or with millions.

And so, as RWSN turns 30, let me thank it, and those who are part of this tremendous network, for almost two decades of opportunity to engage with different people and hear differing perspectives, and most importantly join hands with others are also trying to solve a very difficult problem – ensuring that all rural dwellers have satisfactory water supply services.

If you want to work more with RWSN, let the Secretariat, the theme leaders, and the Executive Steering Committee know about your ideas. The work of the network is nowhere near complete!

About the author: Kerstin Danert has led the RWSN theme of Professional Drilling since 2005. She was the director of the RWSN Secretariat from 2009 to 2017. Kerstin worked as a freelance consultant in Uganda from 2003 to 2008, and then joined Skat Consulting, in Switzerland, where she remained up to 2020. In 2020 she established Ask for Water GmbH, also based in Switzerland.

Photo: Kerstin observing manual drilling on her first field assignment with RWSN  – in Niger in 2005 – documenting the history of hand drilled wells in Niger.

Stop the Rot – Stakeholder perspectives on handpump corrosion and quality – Part 2

A summary of the second part of the RWSN webinar (April 2022)

The findings of the ‘Stop the Rot’ study on handpump* corrosion and component quality was presented at an RWSN webinar in April 2022, attended by 135 people from over 60 countries. What were the reactions of those that attended the webinar and what is next?

In this second blogs of the series, I try to summarise the perspectives shared by the audience as well as the questions and responses. In case you would like to read a summary of what the discussants said, click here.

Groundwater mapping
In the webinar chat, it was noted that that mapping pH levels, and thus identifying areas where pH levels are lower than 6.5 and at risk of causing rapid corrosion of galvanised iron (GI) materials would be a good starting point. Solutions for such areas are needed, whatever the pH level, as all people need access to suitable drinking water service.

Alternatives to GI riser pipes
In cases where the water depth is less than 45 meters, the Afridev, which uses PVC rather than GI offers an alternative pump to the India Mark pumps. However, for countries that have locked themselves in to an India Mark II/III pump, it is a big issue to move to using an Afridev. However, it may be a viable option, despite the need to retrain handpump mechanics and communities as well as ensure the supply of different spare parts.

Practical solutions to avoid using galvanised iron (GI) riser pipes on India Mark pumps put forward include the use of uPVC riser with stainless steel couplers, or stainless steel riser pipes with stainless steel couplers. The fully stainless steel option is being promoted in Uganda. At depths greater than 45 meters, it is also worth considering solar pumping options, with use of PVC, or stainless steel riser pipes.

Suppliers attending the webinar pointed out that the above mentioned components could be availed in both Zambia and Uganda. However, the grade of stainless steel is also important, with one supplier stating that “Stainless Steel Riser Pipes should be of AISI 304 grade if you want to control the corrosion. Nowadays for cost cutting Stainless Steel AISI 201 or 202 grades Riser Pipes are used in most of the countries”. Good quality stainless steel does not corrode as rapidly as galvanised iron, but the quality of stainless steel varies, as does the quality of galvanisation. While there are countries where replacing GI with stainless steel has been successful, this does come at a cost. And, whatever the material, quality assurance is required.

One participant explained that after ten years of experiencing the same issue with corrosion, their organisation switched to using PVC pipes. Other organisations are also opting for PVC. However, as Stop the Rot reports point out, these options are not specified in the current international standards or in specifications issued by the Indian Bureau of Standards. There is need for alignment, and the specifications should provide alternatives that have been adequately tested.

Efforts to prevent corrosion
Change takes a long time, but UNICEF has taken steps to prevent rapid handpump corrosion, and international procurement from India by no longer procuring GI components. While there could still be some cases where there is local procurement of GI with partners, UNICEF is trying to stop that too. Further, galvanised iron is no longer in the UNICEF supply catalogue.

The need for the donor community to better understand costs
The call by Ron Sloots for a stronger involvement and larger responsibility of the donor community to address the issues raised by Stop the Rot was supported by several people in the webinar chat. One participant noted that there is more emphasis on infrastructure cost rather than service costs, and called for a paradigm shift to service provision and sustainability. Another participant shared the link to a recent publication: Donor’s Guide to Rural Water Service Delivery. A participant from Rotary, which works in multiple countries, informed the group that they are focusing on Life Cycle costs, not just implementation costs, which allows higher cost for quality materials and capacity development to offset the cost of ongoing operations and repair over the life of a well point or water distribution system.

One participant stated very clearly, “the new dawn government wants lowered costs, how can we specify stainless steel couplers which will turn out to be higher than the usual GI pipes. Many of our decision makers do not fully understand the problems in the rural area. How can this be addressed to stop the rot of corrosion?” This is a key issue, as highlighted by Ron Sloots. Decision makers need to fully understand the true cost of quality service delivery, and any ideas to do that are most welcome (see contacts below).

Emerging approaches
WaterAid informed the participants that they are strengthening their own internal contracting and procurement processes for borehole drilling, as well as exploring alternative management models for rural water supply services (beyond community management). Further, the organisation is supporting local service providers and authorities to enhance asset mapping, service performance monitoring, district-wide planning and full life cycle costing assessments to inform its advocacy at higher levels of government.

Involve and inform handpump mechanics and area pump minders
In the case of any changes to the materials used, it was pointed out that it is essential that handpump mechanics/area pump minders are trained accordingly, with a participant from Uganda stating that one of the challenges is that handpump mechanics working in rural areas are not updated on the availability of better quality handpump parts and the supply chain.

Whave in Uganda are undertaking a programme that tries to move away from repetitive maintenance, and to continuous operation and maintenance. There is clearly need for awareness raising on this issue, right to local level, and this webinar is part of that process.

Regulation and quality assurance
The India Mark and Afridev pumps are mainly manufactured in India and exported to Africa and other regions. UNICEF has recently been invited to sit on the handpump section of the committee of the Bureau of India Standards, which is a major development, given the lack of influence there in the past. This has partly come out of the Stop the Rot project, and raising the profile of the issue, leading to UNICEF seeking out how to influence policy within India.

Specific questions and responses

The future of handpumps: one participant asked whether “we still need boreholes fitted with hand pumps. I guess we can reduce the risks with submersible pumps installed and overhead tank installed to allow multiple collection of water by taps”. Kerstin Danert, author of the Stop the Rot reports responded by stating “there are still 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa using handpumps, and another 230 million who use unimproved sources or surface water. Handpumps are going to be around for a while”.

Handpump sensors: apart from all the actions outlined to Stop the Rot, could remote handpump sensors be a key in monitoring the handpump functionality performance against handpump parts quality. Response – “there is certainly a role for sensors, but the installation needs to be high quality in the first place, and … there is also need for a clear, robust and viable operation and maintenance service to be in place”.

Lead: what about leaching of lead from brass handpump components? Is there any work being done on this? Response – The Stop the Rot report II includes information about the leaching of lead from brass and bronze components, drawing on emerging research. This is an emerging issue, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in the process of developing a guideline on lead, which is actually a broader issue in water supply systems than brass and bronze handpump components. An informal working group on trace metals has been established by the University of North Carolina and comprises a large group of organisations that are really thinking through the lead issue.

Drilling casing: in Lagos, Nigeria we have the problem of metal casing corrosion (for deep wells) due to salinisation of the coastal aquifers. However, there are some companies that use PVC casing to solve this problem. Response “this problem has also been noted in Kenya, and is documented report II of the Stop the Rot trilogy. Corrosion of steel casing and screen has been observed in certain places there too.

PVC riser pipes: I recall we installed some handpumps in the past with PVC riser pipes. Are there any efforts to look in that line? Response “The Afridev has PVC riser pipes, but it can only reach about 45 m depth. There have been attempts to use PCV riser pipes on the India II with mixed results – some good, but the documentation is weak, and the material specifications, including pipe thickness and type of PVC, or most suitable couplings are not included in the current RWSN/SKAT specifications”. In the case of particularly shallow groundwater, the Tara pump (can lift from a depth of 15m), as well as the EMAS pump, the rope pump and small scale solar pumps may be an option – all rely on PVC pipes.

Quality control: In Zambia, is there a process to control the quality of the pumps and their validity period? If so, is the community involved in this process? Response: “There is no such process to control quality. For now, it is left to the vendor. There are however plans to develop a national technical standard for boreholes which document can contain such controls which can then be used by procurement entities.”

Long and short term solutions

Solving the rapid corrosion and poor quality components problem requires long term thinking and action, with the involvement of basically everyone who is working on handpump solutions for rural water supplies. Regulation is a key issue and it is essential that industry standards are brough in, as described by Christopher Lindsay.

A Stop the Rot action group is being established, and one of the issues that this group will look at is awareness-raising. This group wants to engage with others, and will reach out through the RWSN DGroups platforms and other means. For those who want to continue to be involved, please let us know (contacts below). There is a lot that needs to be done, from advocacy to grass roots work in communities, as well as quality control and regulation. The group welcomes contact from webinar participants and others, including those from other sectors.

If you would like to know more about, or engage with the ongoing Stop the Rot initiative, please contact info@rural-water-supply.net or ask@ask-for-water.ch

* The Stop the Rot research looked specifically at the main public domain handpumps – the India Mark Pump, and the Afridev Pump, and drew learnings from the Zimbabwe Bush Pump, documenting experiences of rapid corrosion and poor quality components.

Série de blogues do 30th aniversário da RWSN: reflexões do Dr Peter Morgan

Este ano estamos a celebrar os 30 anos da fundação formal da Rede de Abastecimento de Água Rural (RWSN em ingles). Desde o início muito técnico como um grupo de peritos (na sua maioria homens) – a Handpump Technology Network (Rede de Tecnologia de bombas manuais)- evoluímos para ser uma rede diversificada e vibrante de mais de 13.000 pessoas e 100 organizações que trabalham numa vasta gama de tópicos. Ao longo do caminho, ganhámos uma reputação de imparcialidade, e tornámo-nos um convocador global no sector da água rural.

A RWSN não seria o que é hoje sem as contribuições e esforços incansáveis de muitos dos nossos membros, organizações e pessoas. Como parte da celebração do 30º aniversário da RWSN, estamos a correr uma série de blogues no rwsn.blog, convidando os nossos amigos e especialistas do sector a partilhar os seus pensamentos e experiências no sector da água rural.

O primeiro é o Dr. Peter Morgan, membro da RWSN, baseado no Zimbabué.

Dr. Morgan, porque começou a trabalhar no sector da água rural?

Bem, só comecei a trabalhar no sector da água rural em 1973 no que era então a Rodésia.

Continue reading “Série de blogues do 30th aniversário da RWSN: reflexões do Dr Peter Morgan”

Serie de blogs del 30 aniversario de la RWSN: reflexiones del Dr. Peter Morgan

Este año celebramos los 30 años de la fundación formal de la Red de Abastecimiento de Agua en Zonas Rurales. Desde unos inicios muy técnicos como grupo de expertos (en su mayoría hombres) la Red de Tecnología de Bombas de Mano- hemos evolucionado hasta convertirnos en una red diversa y vibrante de más de 13.000 personas y 100 organizaciones que trabajan en una amplia gama de temas. En el camino, hemos ganado una reputación de imparcialidad, y nos hemos convertido en un convocante global en el sector del agua rural.

La RWSN no sería lo que es hoy sin las contribuciones y los incansables esfuerzos de muchos de nuestros miembros, organizaciones y personas. Como parte de la celebración del 30º aniversario de la RWSN, estamos llevando a cabo una serie de blogs en rwsn.blog, invitando a nuestros amigos y expertos del sector a compartir sus pensamientos y experiencias en el sector del agua rural.

El primero es el Dr. Peter Morgan, miembro de la RWSN y residente en Zimbawe.

Dr. Morgan, ¿por qué empezó a trabajar en el sector del agua rural?

Bueno, empecé a trabajar en el sector del agua rural en 1973, en lo que entonces era Rodesia.

Continue reading “Serie de blogs del 30 aniversario de la RWSN: reflexiones del Dr. Peter Morgan”

Série de blogs sur le 30e anniversaire du RWSN : réflexions du Dr Peter Morgan  

Cette année, nous célébrons les 30 ans de la création officielle du Réseau rural d’approvisionnement en eau (Rural Water Supply Network). Après des débuts très techniques en tant que groupe d’experts essentiellement masculins au sein du Handpump Technology Network, nous avons évolué pour devenir un réseau diversifié et dynamique de plus de 13 000 personnes et 100 organisations travaillant sur un large éventail de sujets. Au fil du temps, nous avons acquis une réputation d’impartialité et sommes devenus un rassembleur mondial dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural.

Le RWSN ne serait pas ce qu’il est aujourd’hui sans les contributions et les efforts inlassables de nos nombreux membres, organisations et personnes. Dans le cadre de la célébration du 30e anniversaire du RWSN, nous organisons une série de blogs, invitant nos amis et experts du secteur à partager leurs réflexions et expériences dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural.

Notre premier contributeur est le Dr Peter Morgan, membre du RWSN, basé au Zimbabwe.

Dr Morgan, pourquoi avez-vous commencé à travailler dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural ?

Je n’ai commencé à travailler dans le secteur de l’eau en milieu rural qu’en 1973, dans ce qui était alors la Rhodésie.

Continue reading “Série de blogs sur le 30e anniversaire du RWSN : réflexions du Dr Peter Morgan  “

Launch of RWSN’s 30th anniversary blog series: reflections from Dr Peter Morgan

This year we are celebrating 30 years since the Rural Water Supply Network was formally founded. From very technical beginnings as a group of (mostly male) experts – the Handpump Technology Network- we have evolved to be a diverse and vibrant network of over 13,000 people and 100 organisations working on a wide range of topics. Along the way, we have earned a reputation for impartiality, and become a global convener in the rural water sector.

RWSN would not be what it is today without the contributions and tireless efforts of many our members, organisations and people. As part of RWSN’s 30th anniversary celebration, we are running a blog series, inviting our friends and experts in the sector to share their thoughts and experiences in the rural water sector.

First up is RWSN Member Dr. Peter Morgan, based in Zimbabwe.

Dr Morgan, why did you start working in the rural water sector?

Well I only started working in the rural water sector in 1973 in what was then Rhodesia.

Continue reading “Launch of RWSN’s 30th anniversary blog series: reflections from Dr Peter Morgan”

A final personal tribute the Erik Nissen-Petersen (1934-2022)

Dear fellow Rainwater Harvesting Enthusiasts,

It is with a heavy heart that I wanted to report to this network the sad news I recently received about the recent passing of Erik Nissen-Petersen in Nairobi.

While I am not party to all the details, I understand he had been in hospital for some weeks following an incident in which he was attacked by a stranger with a stun-gun while he was riding a taxi. Nevertheless, it is his life’s work that I want to focus on in this short personal tribute and I invite others, particularly those who knew or worked with Erik in East Africa and beyond to add their own tributes.

Continue reading “A final personal tribute the Erik Nissen-Petersen (1934-2022)”

Stop the Rot – Stakeholder perspectives on handpump corrosion and quality – Part 1

A summary of discussions at the RWSN webinar (April 2022)

Handpump reliance, rapid corrosion, component quality and supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) were the subject of the trilogy of reports from the ‘Stop the Rot’ published in 2022. The research looked specifically at the main public domain handpumps – the India Mark Pump, and the Afridev Pump, and drew learnings from the Zimbabwe Bush Pump. A RWSN-hosted webinar in April 2022 presented the findings, heard from seven panellists and the chair as well as the audience. So, in a nutshell, what was discussed? With this blog I share with you a number of stakeholder perspectives as the Stop the Rot Action Group to tackle handpump corrosion and improve component quality is established.

Weld failure in riser pipe, source: Tony Beers.

Donald John MacAllister (British Geological Survey – BGS) recognised Stop the Rot complements on the work of the BGS Hidden Crisis project, which investigated the underlying factors of handpump borehole functionality in SSA. It is great to see the new estimates of the number of people relying on handpump boreholes, and how important they will remain in the future, and have light shone on the corrosion problem that many rural communities face. In addition, it is useful for the wider causes such as procurement modes and supply chains issues to be considered, areas that require more. From a BGS perspective, there is interest in looking at where there are risks for corrosion across SSA, and what can be done to alleviate the problem, given that we know that handpumps will remain important in the future.

Levy Museteka (Water Resources Management Authority – WARMA, Zambia) explained that the country has suffered from handpump corrosion, especially in the north, where naturally low pH, compounded with the use of galvanised iron (GI) pipes led to most of the pumps failing due to corrosion. When he worked in the north-western province, Levy mentioned that there used to be an annual budget for rehabilitation, with most of that money used to replace GI pipes, returning activity every year. If there is no proper plan for replacement, after a few years you have a “graveyard of boreholes”. Zambia currently lacks regulations regarding pump materials. Switching handpump pipes from GI to stainless steel would come at a significantly higher capital cost, and any changes would require advocacy with the multi-lateral agencies in the country.

Corroded Galvanised Iron (GI) riser pipe repaired with bicycle inner tube (source: Richard Carter)

Duncan Marsh (Pump Aid and Beyond Water) is involved in an organisation developing professional repair and maintenance services in Malawi, where there is a very high rate of non-functionality of handpumps. The shift in a ‘payment by results model for asset management’ amongst some donors, involves being paid to increase pump functionality. The quality and costing of spare parts is vital in such a model, whereby service providers and governments, need to be able to forecast repair and maintenance costs over a multi-annual basis. Such forecasts are used in contracts between the service provider and government to provide a minimum guaranteed uptime (functioning time) of water supply services. Rapidly corroding spare parts increase the servicing costs considerably, and there is also less certainty with respect to providing that sustainable service. From the perspective of Beyond Water, it is essential that spare parts imports are regulated, and budgeting of repair costs is accurate over a number of years. Poor quality spare parts have an associated opportunity cost, but regulation and increased quality spares also have associated costs.

Christopher Lindsay (IAPMO Group) IAPMO, is an industry trade association, formed by water officials who recognised problems with the way that the water infrastructure was coming together, and now develops standards, provides training and runs testing and certification labs around the world. The Stop the Rot initiative is dealing with performance problems in a complex ecosystem. Christopher states that it is time to engage industry processes better; to protect the quality and performance of handpumps. This involves three major steps: (1) standards development organisation to develop international standards for these pumps (recognising the work by Skat and RWSN to date); (2) adoption of the international technical standard into national regulations; (3) for products that impact public health and safety, there is need for a layer which formalises testing and certification requirements. With these three steps in place, it is then possible to focus on local enforcement mechanisms and ultimately increase the market share for quality products.

Ron Sloots (TGS Water Ltd and WE Consult, Uganda): TGS water is currently rehabilitating about 60 boreholes in Uganda, and each one of them has a corrosion issue. All of the GI pipes are being replaced with stainless steel, in line with the Ugandan government policy mandatory installation of stainless steel pipes. To address the issues raised by Stop the Rot, there is need for a stronger involvement and larger responsibility of the donor community. Unfortunately, existing standards and specifications, are not always used. One problem is that the budgets prepared by certain NGOs are not very realistic, and risks, such as of drilling dry boreholes, or facing deeper water tables, or the water chemistry, tend to be transferred to the contractor, despite the fact that they cannot do anything about these risks. However, NGOs operate in a very competitive environment and rely on money from donors. And so, they quote very low, and do not include the cost of the risks, which are simply transferred to the contractors. Meanwhile, many donor organisations are not even aware of these challenges and just follow and engage the NGOs. The donor agencies need to take responsibility, and put more effort into project design – don’t just find a project but make sure that you know everything about the area where they are taking place, and influence so that standards are used.

Handpump Borehole Rehabilitation, source: UNICEF Nigeria

Abdou Aziz Linjouom (Consultant, Cameroon): the phenomenon of handpump corrosion is a reality in Cameroon, with handpumps an important source of drinking water for rural dwellers, as well as those who lack piped water supplies in urban areas and for institutions such as schools and hospitals. Following discussions with numerous stakeholders in Cameroon, notably the enterprises import and sell handpump components, it is clear that there is a lack of knowledge about material standards. Further, those installing the pumps have also stated that component quality is often poor. This has negative consequences for handpump users, and can affect water quality. Users have explained that while for the first months, they are satisfied with the source, that after a few months, the water quality deteriorates with rust from the pump. This has a knock on effect on use of the source, and ultimately upon children. There is need to fully quantify and qualify the extent of the corrosion problem, and invest in training to improve the situation, as well as monitor sources.

Steven Kumwenda (Baseflow, Malawi) concurs with the findings of Stop the Rot. Borehole forensics is a methodical way of trying to investigate issues affecting a borehole, from the boreholes pump parts, and yield as well as siting. Baseflow has undertaken forensics on more than 200 boreholes in Malawi. The handpump corrosion due to low pH that has been found in the Stop the Rot study is rare, but corrosion as a result of highly saline wells does occur. However, it has also been observed, that the less a handpump is used, the more serious the iron problem becomes. In Malawi, if you find a borehole affected by iron, the communities still use it, and the more they use it, the clearer the water becomes, with the water mostly reddish early in the morning. Highly saline boreholes will rarely be used, and so salinity is this a bigger issue for Malawi than iron. Over the years borehole drillers have mushroomed in the country, hundreds and hundreds of boreholes drilled. However, a cohort of boreholes do not last long, breaking down within and one or two years.

Malawi faces a problem whereby boreholes are not being drilled to the standards required, which is further compounded by the fact that, unlike other construction sub-sectors, the borehole drilling sector does not follow the accepted arrangement of having an independent consultant (in this case, a hydrogeologist) for quality control and ensuring adherence to contractual requirements and standards. Target numbers are a key part of the problem, with NGOs and donors wanting to see numbers of handpump boreholes. A well supervised drilling process should take no longer than two days to complete, which also allows for data collection, taking measurements and checking the quality of the installed parts. However, all of this is rushed. While this issue has been raised, checks that standards for drilling and spare parts are being complied with are still lacking. This presentation needs to be shared at higher policy levels, and regionally, there is need to look at mechanisms that can improve drilling quality and the quality of handpump parts.

Peter Harvey (UNICEF), chaired the webinar recognising that change takes time. There are many common threads from the panellists, in terms of professionalisation, not just going for the lowest cost, ensuring quality and giving the necessary attention to that. With the SDGs and their focus on sustainable services, there is no excuse to be making the mistakes of old. Finance is important – not just for maintenance, but also for the regulatory framework. There is need for the consideration of realistic per capita costs of delivering sustainable services, while true value for money means the value of an ongoing service rather than static infrastructure that may not function after some time.

While many professionals in the sector are aware of this problem, not everybody is. What we hope from Stop the Rot in the future, is to see how we can work collectively, communicate better and advocate for changes with decision makers.

If you would like to know more about, or engage with the ongoing Stop the Rot initiative, please contact info@rural-water-supply.net or ask@ask-for-water.ch

I Tried to Save the World and Failed

by Larry Siegel

My book, I Tried to Save the World and Failed, reflects on a time and effort to find rural water solutions in Mexico, Malawi and Cambodia that could be used everywhere

by Larry Siegel

My book, I Tried to Save the World and Failed, reflects on a time and effort to find rural water solutions in Mexico, Malawi and Cambodia that could be used everywhere.  The effort started during the Vietnam war while working on an Army Civil Affairs team. There I was confronted with the reality that not everyone turns on the tap and drinks good water.  Several of the rural communities I worked in desired more water, cleaner water, and more convenient water.  Echoes of that experience grew from travels in later years.

A drinking water partnership formed when as a Congressional staffer I worked on the Safe Water Act of 1974.  Years later I joined with a few of those colleagues to form Safe Water International (SWI), which had dreams of a silver bullet solution for the billion or so citizens around the world with only contaminated water to drink.

SWI put Rotary funds and private donations to the task of seeking that silver bullet through rural drinking water projects in Mexico, Malawi, and Cambodia. As these projects moved from one country to the next, it became clear that every rural drinking water project demanded a long-term commitment to the project community. 

It is said that 35% of water well projects break down or are abandoned by users.  Sad to say, the work of SWI in three countries met this unfortunate goal. As a consequence, I Tried to Save the World seeks to identify lessons learned from those drinking water efforts in remote rural communities. The observations that result come largely from field work and then from reflection in succeeding years on the successes and failures of those projects.

The book closes with a set of lessons aimed at sustainability.  The lessons are not meant to be the final word.  It is hoped they will provoke discussion on how to go about achieving project sustainability.

While there are stories of disappointment, there is also praise for the commitment and perseverance of all who undertake work to improve the health and sanitation of those desperately in need of help.  The closing anthem of the book is “Help is Help.”  Even unsuccessful projects can bring life-long benefits to those who for some short space of time have safe water and good sanitation. 

Also available on Kindle from Amazon.com