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 Jaime Aguirre, based in Bilbao, Spain.
EMAS is the Spanish acronym for “Escuela móvil del agua y saneamiento” meaning Mobile School of Water and Sanitation; the acronym was coined in the 1980´s in Bolivia by Wolfgang Buchner, supported by a group of volunteers.
The main mission of EMAS is to teach families how to obtain clean water by themselves. “Hand-on learning” is the most optimal way to learn these techniques.
The EMAS WaSH scheme include various Do-It-Yourself technologies like the EMAS manual pump, manual well drilling up to 90 metres, water storage tanks, and VIP toilets among others. All technologies have been in constant development since the 1990’s. They have been implemented in more than 25 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa. The RWSN library hosts documentation and assessments of the use of EMAS technologies in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Panama and Bolivia amongst others.
The goal of EMAS technologies is to provide access to clean water and sanitation through training of local technicians and beneficiaries. These trainings are compact courses where over several weeks all techniques are demonstrated and practiced. In a long term, all facilities can be maintained by the user due to the technology’s simplicity. The result:
- Improved access to clean drinking water for the world’s rural populations combined with simple sanitary facilities, thus preventing the spread of infectious diseases and reducing mortality rates.
- Increased quality of life, e.g. by eliminating laborious water-hauling, thus saving women and children time and enabling small farming operations.
- The trained well builders are self-sufficient and independent, and can, if necessary, receive repeated advising and training.
- Sustainability: The wells and water facilities are very affordable. Experience has shown that the owners maintain the facilities quite well, which results in long service lives. Any repairs that may be needed are usually easy to complete.
- All materials needed for these repairs can be obtained locally.
- The materials and methods are environmentally responsible and most of the steps are performed manually.
- The withdrawal of moderate amounts of water and its disciplined use have no negative impact on the environment or groundwater levels.
- Improved opportunities for people to stay in their home regions permanently.
Some of the main technologies include:
- EMAS manual well drilling up to 90 m
- EMAS hand Pump
- EMAS wells equipped with solar pumps
- Improved hand dug wells
- Ventilated pit latrines
- Shower cabins
- Solar heaters (3 models, video 1, video 2, video 3 and video 4) and sinks
- Ferro-cement tanks (model 1 and model 2) and underground systems
- Rainwater harvesting system
- Micro- irrigation systems
The EMAS hand pump is the key component of the EMAS-technologies because it is capable of pumping water vertically up to 50 m. While other hand pumps have higher resistance to intensive or even inappropriate use (many times when the pump is being used by a whole community), the EMAS pump is designed mainly for household use. EMAS pumps have a long service life since any repairs that may be needed are usually easy to complete by the user.
Video-instructions can be viewed on a YouTube channel which counts about 15.000 followers with some videos having over 700.000 views.
Sometimes adaptions of the technologies have to be made or are even necessary in some countries due to material availability.
As of now, approximately 70.000 EMAS wells have been drilled worldwide. The majority have been financed by the families or beneficiaries. Since the 1980’s, worldwide more than 100 trained technicians have created a micro enterprise offering WASH services to their community. EMAS technologies have been implemented in over 25 countries through cooperations with various local and international organizations (e.g. PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) ). As a result of the cooperation with Welthungerhilfe more than 3.000 EMAS wells have been drilled in Sierra Leone.
EMAS aims to partner with organizations which include WASH in their programmes and also wish to implement the mentioned technologies trough training projects in WASH. Projects should include follow-up and support to trained WASH technicians to help them in becoming SMEs. Many cases show that workers of SMEs create their own company and serve other regions which have high demand for WASH services.
An EMAS learning page will be launched shortly in order to share all experiences in various countries and also facilitate all available material. This webpage will also target users with technical skills who wish to learn more about the technologies.
Drilling a well in Sierra Leona WASH Center
Amadou, EMAS technician from Senegal going with his drilling equipment to make a new well
Training of EMAS pump making at Sierra Leone
Drilling training at Mali
EMAS systems including rainharvesting, underground tank, bomba manual, toilet, shower and sink
About the Author: Jaime Aguirre is originally a mechanical engineer who acted many years as design engineer in the wind energy sector. After some disappointing experiences with the implementation of high-tech WaSH technologies he joined in 2014 voluntarily an EMAS training in Bolivia. Since then, he has permanently been engaged in providing training together with German based NGO EMAS-International e.V. In 2015 he initiated the Spanish NGO TADEH in Bilbao, Spain which provides training in EMAS Self Supply technologies worldwide.
Did you enjoy this blog? Would you like to share your perspective on the rural water sector or your story as a rural water professional? We are inviting all RWSN Members to contribute to this 30th anniversary blog series. The best blogs will be selected for publication. Please see the blog guidelines here and contact us (ruralwater[at]skat.ch) for more information. You are also welcome to support RWSN’s work through our online donation facility. Thank you for your support.