Self-Supply at Scale: Lessons from rural Bangladesh

Shops like this one satisfy local demand for new pumps and replacement parts. Pumps, like ipods, come in a range of colors! (photo: J. Annis, 2013)

by Jonathan Annis is a sanitation and innovation specialist with the USAID-funded WASHplus project ( His views do not represent those of USAID or the U.S. Government.

I recently traveled to southeastern Bangladesh to support WASHplus’s local implementing partner WaterAid as it begins a multi-year project in the coastal belt. The coastal belt is a marshy delta formed by Himalayan sediments transported thousands of miles by an extensive river network that settle as they reach the Bay of Bengal. Surface water is ubiquitous, and flooding—from tidal flows, excessive rainfall, or cyclones—is an annual event. I had never been in an environment so waterlogged.   Continue reading “Self-Supply at Scale: Lessons from rural Bangladesh”

USAID and Rotary International adopt innovative sustainability monitoring tool

A new sustainability tool for WASH

water services that last

By Harold Lockwood 

This is great news and fantastic to see USAID adopting and promoting this approach which aims to really track and better understand the underlying causes of poor sustainability in the WASH sector. Sustaining WASH services is complex and dependent not only the hardware (the pumps, latrines and pipes), but also a range of the so-called software elements, for example reliable management entities, long-term external support and monitoring, adequate financing and so on. Measuring coverage is one thing, looking at functionality is also a useful proxy, but if we really want to know where the pinch-points are and how something so seemingly simple as water flowing out of a tap can fall down, it requires a comprehensive and powerful tool.

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New RWSN publication on EMAS Technologies in Bolivia

EMAS has been promoting low cost technologies for rural water supplies in Bolivia for over 30 years – with considerable success. EMAS technologies comprise manually drilled wells, a locally fabricated pump and rainwater harvesting technologies. EMAS are combining low-cost water supply solutions with a relatively high level of service at the household. Today RWSN publishes an independent assessment of the EMAS technologies. The authors, from the University of South Florida, undertook surveys, semi-structured interviews, sanitary inspections and functionality tests in 86 households.

Please visit to download the publication.

EMAS is the Spanish acronym of the Mobile Water & Sanitation School in Bolivia.  An organisation established, and run by Wolfgang Buchner for over 30 years.  EMAS technologies are counted as contributing to the MDGs and SENSABA; the Bolivian national government agency responsible for rural water supply is a proponent of household water supply technologies in rural areas. Bolivia has a history of developing low-cost water supply technologies, particularly manual driller and handpumps. In fact, an estimated 20,000 manual drillers well systems are being used throughout the country.

The flexi-pump is a simple design comprising PVC, glass play marbles and rubber, thus allowing it to me fabricated by local technicians. The fact that the pump can collect water from significant depths to a tank above the ground is a key selling point.  It is meant one to 6 families. The pump is reported to cost US$ 30 to 45 (excluding the drilling). As you start to ask questions about its longevity, the research found that only one of the pumps of the 79 surveyed was non-operational. It was noted that after 11 years of operation, some pumps were working less than optimally. Repairs can and are undertaken locally.  Some people prefer the Baptist pump due to its higher flow rates.

Manual drilling comprises a combination of techniques, and can be undertaken by trained technicians. Relatively small diameters are drilled, and a polyester sleeve/sock is used to prevent fine materials from entering the pump. The researchers observed that the techniques were widely used by small business, with Reyes as an example of a small rural town where most of the population has a manually drilled borehole in their yard. Here, the drillers charge US$ 140 for drilling and completing a 15m well, including the EMAS or a similar pump. Although EMAS promotes the installation of an apron, many wells observed did not have this installed. Of the 75 wells surveyed, 73 were reliable, providing water for 12 months of the year

EMAS rainwater harvesting systems comprise below-ground or above ground storage tanks. Various sizes up to 7,000 litres are promoted. The below ground tanks use a cement sand mortar mix, whereas the above ground tanks are ferro-cement. Uptake to date has been rather limited, although the technology is now catching on in Cachilaya after several years of promotion.

In terms of finance, 63% of the systems surveyed were paid for fully by the households; 5% sing loans and 28% with partial subsidies from an implementing agency or local government. There are places, such as Somopai where poor families apparently cannot afford the wells. However, this is a topic which could be explored and researched further; to understand the reasons and options for such families.  There are examples of labour exchange rather than cash payment for well construction.

EMAS has trained technicians from all over Bolivia in these technologies, and runs regular training courses, which can also be attended by people from overseas. EMAS has moved beyond Bolivia’s borders to other Central and Latin American countries, Africa and Asia. EMAS support typically consists of supporting in-country groups and organisations with training. However, technician training needs to be accompanied by promotion of the news technologies in order to bring about their adoption.

“Added value” is at the core of the EMAS concept.  This means that water users can have a much higher level of service than they would with a community supply.  Water is piped into taps in the house, and people can even have a shower and solar-heated water. How is this possible, you may ask? Well, the EMAS manual pump is able to lift water from below ground and up into an overhead tank, from which it can be distributed throughout the homestead. As people become accustomed to a high level of service, they are more likely to fix it when something breaks. The analogy with electricity supply is a good one – when you only use it for light you may just revert to a lantern when it stops working. However if the electricity is used also for a fridge, television and computer, which you are used to, you are more likely to value it and do something if the power fails. Not all households surveyed had chosen the added value option, but they have access to volumes of water within their homestead.

If you want to learn more about EMAS, please contact Wolfgang Buchner on: or visit

To learn more about the research, you can contact: Mike MacCarthy on

Should you wish to share your comments about the EMAS approach with other RWSN members, you can do so through the appropriate RWSN online discussion forum, e.g.:

Wishing you a productive and enjoyable weekend!

TAF to be tested on other technologies Rwenzori region

WASHTech update from Uganda

WASHTech, THE project (2011-2013)

A comment from the recently concluded Hand Pump Mechanics Association Learning Visit to Rwenzori region indicated the need for the Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) to be tested on existing technologies in the region like the Manual drilling rig. This was  raised after a presentation made by NETWAS Uganda at the learning journey about the progress of the TAF. The suggestion was later lauded by HEWASA, a local NGO promoting manual drilling in Rwenzori who indicated that in order to scale up their technology, there was need for recommendations from the TAF.

The HPMA learning visit was organized to provide learning for the social, economic and technical transformation of the HPMAs functionality in Northern Uganda. And to be able to use the knowledge acquired to improve sustainability of water supply systems in the region. This gathering attracted 40 participants from regions of North, West and Central.

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Still or sparkling? Lessons from a WASH holiday

Rural water challenges are not just an African issue…

water services that last

I suspect that some of you, readers of this blog, are equal water nerds as I am, and that you also take your professional interest along on holiday. At least, I cannot resist visiting the odd water works or taking photographs of the local water and sanitation facilities during my holidays. This summer holiday I not only had the opportunity to take photos, but to live for a week the type of rural water situation, that I write about so much, but rarely experience in reality. As I spent my vacation on a family visit to my brother, who is managing a farm in the Moldovan rural village of Cuhureştii de Jos, I got some first-hand experience of the common problems around rural water supply and realized that some of the myths around it, are myths indeed.

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