In Memoriam: Mansoor Ali

Mansoor Ali, an active early member of the Hanpump Technology Network (HTN), recently passed on.

Main Photo: 5 June, 2003: HTN Meeting at Durban – Vishwas, Raj, Mansoor (R K Daw)

by Raj Kumar Daw

Summer, 1973, Groundwater Surveys & Development Agency – GSDA, Pune had just been created and was acquiring its drilling rigs. The founding Director of GSDA, Dr. Venkataraman, constantly raided the NGOs for whatever he could get. He sent me word that he was coming to Vadala. I was trying my first attempt at rehabilitating an abandoned bore well adjacent to our workshop. The work had gone well. Dr. Venkataraman arrived, passing through Geological Investigation Team, Ahmednagar, headed at that time by Sarma Nidamarthy. Sarma had sent two of his staff with Dr. Venkataraman. Gautam and Mansoor.

That was the first time I met Mansoor.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Mansoor Ali”

In Memoriam: Ken McLeod – India Mark II development lead

en McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.

by Rupert Talbot (former UNICEF and past Chair of HTN/RWSN)

Remembering Ken

Ken McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.

The Government of India’s fourth, five year development plan (1969-1974) envisaged the ambitious goal of providing drinking water in the hard rock, drought prone regions of the country, using innovative down-the-hole-hammer drilling and deep well hand pump technology. Drill rigs were to be imported by Unicef and locally made, cast iron hand pumps, supplied and maintained by Government. In 1974, at the end of the plan period, hand pump surveys concluded that 75% of some 40,000 installations were not working. The viability of drilling and hand pump technology was in question and there was the real prospect of UNICEF, the Government of India’s main partner, withdrawing support. The programme was in serious crisis.

Ken McLeod, his 1942 Jeep, and Myra who designed the first India MK II hand pump poster, New Delhi, 1976 (Photo: Rupert Talbot)

Water well drilling was virgin territory for Unicef in the early 1970s and Unicef’s Executive Board had been divided over the decision to invest in such costly technology in the first place. It was now faced with the hard option of either scrapping the programme or keeping faith. It was a close run thing. Fortunately, the ‘pro’ lobby won with the eminently wise decision to halt the supply of drill rigs until the hand pump problem was fixed. Which is where Ken McLeod comes in.

Ken was a pragmatic, no–nonsense, straight talking, tell-it-as-it-is Australian with a diverse engineering background which ranged from marine and civil engineering to blast hole and water well drilling with down-the-hole-hammers. He had an innate sense of what would probably work and what wouldn’t. Obstinacy was also a hallmark. A serious asset as it turned out. Once he had made up his mind it was difficult to persuade him otherwise. And he had a droll sense of humour. His repertoire of stories and anecdotes are legendary within the water well fraternity. It would seem that seriousness of purpose combined with good humour are prerequisites for successful development enterprises. Ken had both these qualities in spades.

Over the course of the next 4 years it fell to Ken to identify, coordinate, argue with and cajole, myriad organisations and individuals to develop what became known as the India MK II hand pump. This was an extraordinarily complex, collaborative venture, involving pioneering NGOs in Maharashtra, birth place of the fabricated steel Jalna, Jalvad and Sholapur pumps, spearheaded by Raj Kumar Daw and Oscar Carlson (names participants in the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development Forum will be familiar with); WHO, who were independently trying to develop their own cast iron ‘Bangalore Pump’; The Government of India, whose programme was in dire straits and who were being prevailed upon by the country-wide hand pump industry to continue with the supply of their cast iron products (‘junk pumps,’ in McLeod Speak); and an engineering enterprise, Richardson and Cruddas, a Government of India undertaking tasked with making prototype and then production pumps. It took a McLeod to handle all of that.

Ken McLeod, Arun Mudgal (Richardson and Cruddas) and Rupert Talbot, MK II test area, Coimbatore, 1975. A ‘what to do ?’ moment after experimental cylinders had failed. (Photo: Rupert Talbot)

It is getting on for 50 years since it was eventually agreed by all parties that the Sholapur pump would form the basis of a new design and we were able to make and test the first dozen prototypes under the deep water table conditions of Coimbatore, Southern India. The fact that the India MK II then went successfully into mass production was largely due to Ken’s clarity of vision, direction, smart technical choices and perseverence.

I spoke with Ken for the last time two weeks before he died. We talked of those heady days of trying to get the MK II programme off the ground, of the internal arguments, external battles and technical problem solving in the field and in the factory.

His voice was strong and his mind as clear as a bell as he recalled people, places and events in great detail and he spoke warmly of those free spirits with their out of the box thinking who strove to make better hand pumps.

He was amazed to learn that there are now several million MK IIs in India alone and that it is exported to 40 or more countries. But hugely disappointed that the third party quality assurance procedures set up in his day and honed over the years to become the corner stone of the MK II programme under Ken Gray, had been allowed to slide back and that MK II look-a-like ‘junk pumps’ are being exported from India to Africa. That, we agreed, is a great tragedy.

There were many brilliant, dedicated people involved in the development of the India MK II. Ken never claimed any credit for it himself, but we all know who led the charge. It wouldn’t have happened without him. He was the right man in the right place at the right time. It needed his force of personality, tough and uncompromising ways, solid understanding of technical issues and absolute determination to get the job done in the face of industrial strength, bureaucratic wranglings. Aussie grit personified.

After Unicef, Ken McLeod worked with Shaul Arlossoroff and his UNDP-World Bank Hand Pumps Project, initially based in Nairobi then out of Australia, spending much of his time in China where I have no doubt he brought the same skills and energy to bear as he did in India.

Pragmatic and stoic to the very end he told me he hadn’t got long and was resigned to being on the ‘home stretch’ as he called it.

No funeral for Ken. No grave, no head stone, no epitaph. He wanted none of that. Instead, he has the lasting legacy of the India Mark II hand pump itself. Millions of them in fact.

Kenneth Robert McLeod, 1932 – 2020


Rupert Talbot

Corrosion de la pompe à main et qualité des matériaux : Un défi pour le Burkina Faso et le reste du monde

Au Burkina Faso, le nombre élevé de forages équipés d’une pompe à motricité humaine (PMH) qui dysfonctionnent ou qui nécessitent de grosses réparations quelques années seulement après leur construction est alarmant. Les audits techniques effectués en 2013 et 2014 au Burkina Faso sur des forages équipés de PMH ont révélé des situations préoccupantes en termes de qualité de l’eau, de matériel inadapté aux profondeurs des puits et de pompes non-conformes. Dans plus d’un tiers des cas, les forages équipés de PMH dysfonctionnent ou deviennent même totalement inutilisables en moins de quelques années. Entre 0.6 milliards de FCFA (0.9 million d’€) et 2.9 milliards de FCFA (4,5 millions d’€) d’investissements annuels seraient ainsi perdus du fait de l’installation de PMH de qualité médiocre et de diverses malfaçons lors des travaux de construction. Chaque année, plus de 130 000 personnes bénéficient d’un service d’approvisionnement en eau dont la pérennité n’est de ce fait pas assurée au-delà des premières années.

La corrosion des PMH est un phénomène connu depuis plus de 30 ans ; elle demeure pourtant un problème majeur au Burkina Faso car les gouvernements successifs et les agences d’aide au développement ont continué d’installer des pompes fabriquées à partir de matériaux inadaptés. Ces pratiques ont généré des coûts d’entretien élevés, de multiples pannes et le rejet de nombreux points d’eau par les communautés car l’eau y était de mauvaise qualité. La corrosion des PMH est un problème mondial majeur, dont le secteur EAH ne s’est jusqu’à présent toujours pas saisi à sa juste mesure, et qui risque d’empêcher la réalisation de l’Objectif du Développement Durable n°6 au Burkina Faso comme dans d’autres pays. Sur les forums de discussion en ligne du Réseau pour l’Approvisionnement Rural en Eau (RWSN), les experts internationaux font notamment remonter comme principales préoccupations à ce sujet : des matériaux et des pièces composantes de qualité inadaptée, un manque de contrôle qualité, des prix anormalement bas, et des pratiques d’achat et de commande problématiques.

Une enquête sur la qualité des composants des pompes manuelles au Burkina Faso a été lancé début 2017. Des échantillons de la conduite principale montante et de la tige de la pompe ont été achetés auprès de fournisseurs à Ouagadougou, et d’autres échantillons provenaient de pompes en service ou abandonnées. Tous les échantillons ont été testés pour leur composition chimique. En 2019 des tests de composition chimique ont été réalisés sur l’ensemble de ces échantillons. L’analyse des résultats de ces tests révèle que : cinq des six colonnes d’exhaure et deux des quatre tringles ne sont pas conformes aux normes internationales de composition de l’acier inoxydable du grade indiqué. La faible teneur en nickel de ces échantillons signifie notamment que les pièces analysées ont en réalité une résistance à la corrosion moindre que celle qu’elles devraient avoir si elles étaient effectivement du grade indiqué.

Les 13 pièces composantes qui ont été testées dans le cadre de cette étude forment un trop petit échantillon pour s’avérer statistiquement représentatives de la situation du Burkina Faso dans son ensemble.  Cet échantillon corrobore toutefois les inquiétudes du Gouvernement et des foreurs. Il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas avec certains composants disponibles sur le marché, malgré le fait qu’ils soient vendus comme étant de l’acier inoxydable. L’ampleur du problème reste inconnue à ce stade au Burkina Faso ou dans d’autres pays. Comme le montre ce rapport publié par la Fondation Skat, le constat est celui d’un échec du « marché » à fournir systématiquement des matériaux de haute qualité. Afin de rectifier cette situation, il est nécessaire de trouver des solutions à la fois au sein des pays d’importation, comme le Burkina Faso, et au niveau international.

Cette étude rapide a révélé pour le Burkina Faso et au-delà une série d’enjeux interconnectés:

  1. Il est nécessaire de poursuivre les recherches sur l’utilisation des pièces composantes en acier inoxydable afin d’éviter la corrosion des pièces de PMH immergées dans des eaux souterraines agressives.
  2. La norme indienne pour les modèles India Mark II et III comprend quelques erreurs, et aucune option n’est proposée pour les cas d’eaux souterraines agressives. Les normes internationales (notamment celles publiées par SKAT/ Le Réseau pour l’Approvisionnmenet Rural en Eau-RWSN) portant sur les matériaux des pièces de PMH adaptés aux eaux souterraines agressives pourraient être améliorées.
  3. De nombreuses entreprises en Inde vendent des PMH et des pièces de modèles India Mark II et III. Les prix de vente pratiqués par certaines de ces entreprises sont si bas qu’il semble impossible que la qualité de ces pompes et pièces soit conforme aux normes internationales.
  4. Il n’existe aucun organisme international chargé de contrôler systématiquement la qualité des matériaux de PMH, et le rôle et l’activité du Bureau de Normalisation International à ce sujet ne sont pas clairs ni évidents.
  5. Lorsque les PMH sont achetées dans le pays où elles doivent être installées, la longue chaîne d’approvisionnement (souvent anonyme de surcroît du fait de la multiplicité des intermédiaires) fait qu’il n’existe pas ou peu de lien entre les fabricants (situés majoritairement en Inde) et les installateurs des PMH en question. De plus, l’absence de compilation systématique des problèmes rencontrés préalablement signifie que les agences, les entreprises et les ménages s’engagent dans l’installation de PMH sans saisir l’ampleur de ces soucis de qualité et ne s’en rendent compte que trop tard.
  6. De nombreuses PMH utilisées en Afrique sont importées d’Inde (et visiblement du Nigéria également), donc les efforts menés pour résoudre cet enjeu de garantie de qualité doivent absolument inclure l’Inde ainsi que plusieurs pays africains.
  7. L’intérêt des financeurs pour l’équipement des PMH est probablement actuellement au plus bas depuis 30 ans, il s’avère donc très difficile de mobiliser à grande échelle pour développer un processus de certification internationale ou financer davantage de recherches à ce sujet. Une telle initiative nécessiterait d’une part des investissements supplémentaires et d’autre part des engagements de long terme de la part des principales agences et des gouvernements qui financent et mettent en œuvre des programmes d’installation et d’entretien de PMH.

Nous espérons que cette courte étude attirera l’attention des gouvernements, des organismes de recherche et des agences internationales d’aide au développement et les incitera à travailler sur la résolution des problèmes pressants que sont la corrosion et la mauvaise qualité des pièces composantes des PMH. Si rien n’est fait la communauté mondiale de l’approvisionnement en eau, par négligence ou désintérêt, prive de fait les populations rurales du Burkina Faso et d’ailleurs des bénéfices d’un approvisionnement en eau élémentaire et fiable.

L’étude complète peut être téléchargée ici : Qualité et corrosion des pièces composantes des Pompes à Motricité Humaine au Burkina Faso et au-delà (anglais et français)

Crédit photo: Colonnes montantes corrodées photographiées au Burkina Faso dans le cadre de l’audit d’équipements d’approvisionnement en eau in situ. (Kerstin Danert)



Handpump corrosion and material quality: A challenge for Burkina Faso and globally

In Burkina Faso, concerns have been raised regarding the high number of handpump boreholes that have failed, or need to be rehabilitated within a relatively short time of their initial construction. Physical audits of handpump boreholes in 2013 and 2014 raise concerns over water quality, inappropriate handpump for deep water and non-conformant pumps. In more than one third of cases, the handpump boreholes will function poorly, or cease to function completely within a few years. It is estimated that investments of between FCFA 0.6 billion (€0.9 million) and FCFA 2.9 billion (€4.5 million) per year are lost due to the installation of poor quality handpumps and other aspects of the construction. In one year, over 130,000 people were provided a water supply service that is likely to break down within a few years.

Despite knowledge of handpump corrosion for over 30 years, it remains a problem in Burkina Faso, as governments and aid agencies have continued to install pumps manufactured with unsuitable materials, leading to high maintenance costs, pump failure and rejection of water sources due to poor water quality. Handpump corrosion is a major global problem which the WASH sector has so far, systemically failed to address, and which will impede the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Concerns cited by experts from a range of countries on the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) online discussion platforms include the following: inadequate quality of materials and components, lack of quality control, unrealistic (low) prices and problematic purchasing practices.

A renewed call to investigate the quality of handpump components in Burkina Faso was raised in early 2017. Samples of the rising main and pump rod were purchased from suppliers in Ouagadougou, and additional samples were from pumps in use or abandoned. All samples were tested for their chemical composition. Analysis showed that of the samples, five of six riser pipes, and two of four pump rods did not conform to international standards for the composition of stainless steel of the specified grade. In particular, the low nickel content means that the components have less corrosion resistance than they would if they were of the specified grade.

The small sample size of 13 components tested in this study is not a statistically representative of the situation in Burkina Faso as a whole but it verifies concerns raised by the Government and drillers themselves. Something is not right with some components available on the market, despite the fact that they are being sold as stainless steel. What we do not know is the extent of the problem, in Burkina Faso, or other countries. What is being witnessed, as documented in the new study published by Skat Foundation, is a failure of “the market” to guarantee high quality materials. Addressing this failure requires solutions from within importing countries, such as Burkina Faso, but also internationally.

This short study has shed light on a number of interconnected issues for Burkina Faso and beyond including:

  1. There is no international body systematically controlling handpump material quality.
  2. The need for further research on the use of stainless steel components to prevent the corrosion in aggressive groundwater is needed.
  3. Many of the handpumps used in Africa are imported from India (and apparently Nigeria too). There is often no connection between manufacture (primarily in India) and installation of the pump (in African countries). Agencies, companies or households installing handpumps are not aware of the extent, and scale of quality problems until it is too late.
  4. Donor interest in handpump hardware is arguably at its lowest in 30 years, and so galvanising interest to develop an international certification process or fund research is extremely difficult. Such an initiative would require not only investment, but also long-term commitment from the large agencies and governments that fund and implement programmes installing handpumps and their maintenance.

It is hoped that this short study will trigger interest by governments, and by research organisations, and international development agencies to explore ways to solve the problems of corrosion and poor quality handpump components. If this is not done, by inadvertent neglect, the global water supply community is arguably preventing rural populations in Burkina Faso and beyond from the benefits of a reliable, basic drinking water supply.

The full study is available for download here: Concerns about corrosion and the quality of handpump components in Burkina Faso and beyond (English and French).

Photo credit: Corroded rising mains being photographed as part of a physical audit of water facilitiesin Burkina Faso (Kerstin Danert).


Opportunity to publish: handpumps in drinking water services

(photo: (C) Skat Consulting Ltd.)

Dear Colleagues,

It has recently been suggested that an up-to-date review of the issues around handpumps in drinking water services be undertaken.  This would be in the form of a book, which supersedes the documents published in the 1980s including Arlosoroff’s “Community water supply: the handpump option” and IRC’s Technical Papers 10 and 25. 

The new book would not be a direct update, since those documents were published in the UN Water Decade at a time of large-scale laboratory- and field-testing of handpumps and other initiatives which have not been matched in intensity since that time.  However there has been much experience and reflection as well as some research and evaluation in the intervening years which now needs to be brought together in one place. 

I envisage a book which places handpump services in the wider context of the SDGs, the human right to water, self-supply, community-based maintenance, financing considerations, emerging management models, and transitions from handpumped point water sources to (for example) solar pumped networked services.  The book would bring together in roughly equal measures natural sciences and engineering on one hand, with issues around management and financing, social aspects and institutional arrangements on the other. 

The book would be primarily addressed to organisations and individuals involved in planning, financing, implementing and supporting rural water programming – a readership which needs a broad but reasonably detailed overview of the subject.  The messages for policy-makers and higher-level decision-makers will need to be distilled from the book, in shorter form.  Likewise the book would not attempt to be a detailed technical document; indeed it is likely that only two chapters out of the 12 which will be included would focus on handpump technology per se.

Given the wide range of aspects to be covered, I envisage the need for a good deal of co-authorship and peer review.  A publisher has already shown keen interest, and I would be optimistic that funds could be raised to enable open access to the final publication. 

This message – the first on the matter – therefore invites your response to three questions: (1) do you think such a publication would be a useful contribution to current attempts to bring safe and sustainable drinking water services to all? (2) Would you like to be kept informed as to progress in the drafting of the book? (3) Would you be interested in participating as a co-author or peer-reviewer (if so, please send me a short statement outlining your area of interest and expertise). 

Finally, I am well aware that there are some strong opinions and loud voices in the community of those interested in handpumps; it will be part of my lead-author/editor role to try to present evidence-based and balanced analysis while minimising opinionated and biased views.  I am especially keen to find contributors and reviewers who are well-experienced in implementing handpump programmes but who are not vocal in the online discussion groups. 

I look forward to hearing from you by writing to my personal email address (below) with your initial answers to the questions above, and of course any other views you may have on the matter.

Assuming the idea meets with some approval from those of you who read the correspondence on this discussion group, I will put together a draft list of contents and start to identify potential co-authors and reviewers.  So please watch this space for further news!

Best wishes,

Richard Carter
richard ^at^

In Memoriam: Arun Mudgal – a great handpump guru, mentor and friend

Reflections from 3 past leaders of HTN/RWSN on the loss of great friend.

(1) Rupert Talbot, former Chair of the Handpump Technology Network (UNICEF – retired)
(2) Dr Peter Wurzel, former Chair of the Handpump Technology Network (UNICEF – retired)
(3) Erich Baumann, former Director of the HTN/RWSN Secretariat (Skat – retired)

Rupert: “I am writing to let you know that Arun Mudgal died on September 13th after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

“Although his many friends will surely regret his passing, those of us who visited him in recent times will be glad that he did not linger for longer; Alzheimer’s is a fearful illness.

“Arun was a familiar face to many within the HTN/RWSN fraternity. He made an unparalleled contribution to hand pump development in India from the 1970s and was instrumental in putting the first India MK II and MK III hand pumps into production.

“I would argue that the Mark II simply would not have happened without Arun. At least, not in the form that we would recognise today. He was absolutely key at Richardson and Cruddas, the Government of India engineering company that manufactured the prototype Mark II pumps, field tested them in the deep bore wells of Coimbatore and closely monitored their performance, translating technical problems encountered in the field into pragmatic, engineering solutions; Arun was the conduit between Unicef field staff and the factory that first made the pump.

“It was his persona – his charm and calm disposition combined with astute engineering expertise and manufacturing know-how – that led to the mass production of the India MK II. The development of the pump is best summarised in the Skat/HTN Working Paper WP 01/97 : ‘India Hand Pump Revolution: Challenge and Change‘. Written by Arun, it is probably the most authentic account of how the MKII and Mark III hand pumps came about.

“Arun’s legacy is much more than the MkII and MkIII hand pumps, of course; in a career spanning some forty years, Arun also contributed to the development of the Afridev and the VLOM concept and he worked extensively on water quality issues, especially arsenic testing and treatment. His influence on rural water supply programmes stretches far beyond India’s borders.

“I and many others will miss his thoughtful insights into troublesome problems; we shall miss too, his companionship on those long field trips….”

Peter: “Arun was a dear and much admired friend. I had the privilege and pleasure to work with him in Mozambique and Ethiopia and we met several times over the years at handpump meetings. It was an education to talk handpumps with Arun and such was his towering knowledge and authority of handpump issues that his assertions on the topic were always received with little argument.

“But he was much more than a supreme handpump guru – he had an appealing, if somewhat serious, retiring and studious, personality. In essence a supremely nice guy. I shall remember his Arun as genuine and kind, humble, self-effacing with a quick mind who achieved much during a lifetime devoted to our sector and specifically handpumps – and even more specifically the India Mark II (though knew a thing or two about the Afridev too!).

“Farewell Arun – a friend and mentor to all who were fortunate enough to know you.”

Erich: “I do not know what to write. Even though Arun had in the last few years faded out of our life because of his illness. He was and will forever be remembered as the great friend and professional.

“A true handpump guru with many other qualities. I had the privilege to work with him for years very closely. We travelled several trips together and his input into the work was very valuable. As Peter rightly said also the Afridev development profited from his knowledge and experience. Look at the piston. But Arun did not a want to be put into the lime-light.

“One incident will stay with me for ever. Arun visited us in Switzerland and stayed in our house. Our youngest son had a bit of a rough time in school. During my next visit to India Arun gave me a small statue of Ganesh. He mentioned that Ganesh has a calming effect and if we would put the statue in my son’s room it might help him. He was not only a very rational engineer but also a believer.”

Arun leaves behind his wife Krishna, a son Prashant and a daughter Ankur.

Three common myths about solar-powered water pumping

By Andrew Armstrong (Water Mission), RWSN co-lead for Sustainable Groundwater Development

Solar pumping is the trendiest technology in rural water supply today. Policy-makers and practitioners are eager to better understand its benefits and limitations and the private sector is responding with a variety of product offerings. Much of this interest is motivated by the Sustainable Development Goal to increase water service levels in the most remote areas. A more compelling driver is that rural water users are willing to pay for service that is accessible near or within their homes. There is currently no more promising technology for meeting these expectations in off-grid settings than solar pumping. Despite this high interest and the fact that solar pumping technology has been around for decades, a great deal of misinformation is being propagated.

This post aims to address a few of the most common misconceptions.

Myth #1: Solar pumping is too complicated and not appropriate for remote, rural settings

The most common barrier to adoption of solar pumping is misunderstanding of its complexity and applicability. The technology is often avoided because of perceived technical and management challenges, which are in fact common to any rural water supply system. In reality, the design and installation processes associated with solar pumping are no more complicated than other motorized pumping schemes. Operation and maintenance is more straightforward than with handpumps and generator powered schemes which, as indicated in recent evaluations published by UNICEF and the Global Solar and Water Initiative, likely leads to higher functionality and reliability rates.

Solar pumps are applicable across the same head and flow profiles as grid- and generator-powered pumps, and most solar pumping equipment available today is essentially “plug and play”. External power backup for periods of low sunlight are rarely necessary if water demand is estimated and storage is sized appropriately. In addition, current off-the-shelf computer software tools simplify equipment selection and automatically consider daily and seasonal weather and solar irradiation fluctuations when estimating water outputs.

The high capital cost of solar pumping equipment often brings its large-scale applicability into question. However, the life-cycle cost benefits of solar pumping are well documented and are within and on the lower end  of IRC’s WASHCost benchmark ranges for piped schemes and boreholes fitted with handpumps. There is no fuel cost associated with solar pumps, and the cost of maintaining power generation equipment is greatly reduced because solar modules have no moving parts and long functional lifespans. Furthermore, the cost of solar modules, which represent the most expensive element of a solar pumping scheme, continues to decrease at a rapid rate.

Click here to read about the advantages of solar pumps compared to alternative technologies commonly utilized in remote, rural settings.

Myth #2: All solar powered water pumping equipment is created equal

Equipment manufacturers have taken advantage of demand and have flooded the market with solar pumping products of all varieties and price tags. Unfortunately, many are of poor quality and likely to fail in a fraction of the lifespan of higher priced, higher quality equipment. Low-quality products seldom come with warranties covering the first few years of operation during which failures are most likely to occur. Uninformed customers often fall into the trap of choosing cheaper equipment without considering that low-quality equipment fails quicker and costs more to maintain in the long-term. This results in solar pumping schemes which were expected to function for years failing and being abandoned after a few months in operation. The best way to guard against this is to stick with brands that have a proven track record for durability and reliability, even if it costs more up-front. It is also important to verify that products adhere to internationally-recognized certification and testing standards.

Another related challenge is that imitation spare parts for major brands are easier to find than authentic ones. Logos and barcodes can be forged such that it becomes difficult to detect if a part is counterfeit. This issue can be resolved by sourcing products from trusted dealers with good technical support capacity. The private sector can also have a positive influence on product quality. By providing local dealers with exclusive access to advanced training and support networks, major manufacturers can incentivize sales of quality equipment. In fact, some solar pumping suppliers such as Bluezone Malawi  are choosing to base their business model solely on high-quality products.

Myth #3: Scaling-up solar powered water pumping will lead to widescale depletion of groundwater aquifers

There is concern that solar pumps, because they can operate automatically whenever the sun shines, could pose a long-term threat to groundwater resources. It is true that exploitation of groundwater paired with low or misunderstood aquifer recharge can lead to potentially irreversible depletion, and there is a deficiency of good hydrogeological data in countries where the most interest is being placed on solar pumping. However, abstraction technology is just one of many factors that influence aquifer sustainability and solar pumping should not be devalued because of potential risks which can be mitigated. It is also important to note that the risk of groundwater depletion due to over abstraction with solar pumps depends on the application. Domestic supply withdrawals, in comparison to agriculture and protracted emergency applications, are likely to have negligible impacts.

Below are some actions that can be taken to mitigate the risk of groundwater depletion:

  • Proper borehole development and pump sizing to safe yield – Ensures solar pumps are physically incapable of depleting aquifers. A good resource for this is the RWSN/UNICEF Guidance Note on Professional Water Well Drilling. Simple control measures such as float valves and switches can also be employed to prevent wasting.
  • Better groundwater monitoring alerts authorities to potential risk areas. Many countries successfully employ remote monitoring systems (see, for example, the USGS’s National Groundwater Monitoring Network. Read more here.
  • Water pricing in the form of tariff collections and abstraction charges enables sustainable and equitable allocation of groundwater resources, but requires sound management built on transparency and accountability. Prepaid water metering technologies may also play a role.

Further resources

Resources are available to equip rural water professionals with knowledge and skills and stop the spread of misinformation about solar pumping. Of note:

In order to generate rich discussion and continue raising awareness of existing resources around solar pumping, the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development theme will host a three-week e-discussion from 28 May to 15 June 2018. For more information or to participate in the e-discussion, join the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development DGroup.

(Photo credits: Water Mission)



Handpump standardisation in sub-Saharan Africa: Seeking a champion

by Jess MacArthur, IDE Bangladesh

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Download the new RWSN Publication “Handpump standardisation in sub-Saharan African”

As a millennial, I have to admit: I really enjoy technology and innovation. I love to read innovation blogs and to dissect innovation theory. So just over two years ago as I began researching how innovation intersects development in the world of handpumps, I felt a bit stumped. An estimated 184 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) today rely on handpumps for their domestic water and many of these use designs that were developed before I was born. Yes, that makes me young and maybe that make you feel old. But mostly, it made me sit back and think. Is this beneficial or is this concerning? At the time I was helping Water4 navigate the policy-sphere around new handpump integration.  I wanted to know why certain handpumps have more dominance in certain areas and how innovators can pilot in the sector with both evolutionary and revolutionary designs.

Continue reading “Handpump standardisation in sub-Saharan Africa: Seeking a champion”


Improve International: Guidelines for Resolution of Problems with Water Systems

Resolution is the process of addressing problems with water systems or toilets. Such problems are often identified during monitoring or evaluation after a project. Resolution reflects the concept that the organizations that are made aware that water systems or toilets they built aren’t working are responsible for doing something. Read more in the Guidelines for Resolution of Problems with Water Systems (Executive Summary) and Guidelines for Resolution of Problems with Water Systems (full report).

Improve International: Lignes directrices pour la résolution des problèmes des systèmes d’eau

Résoudre est le processus d’aborder les problèmes des systèmes d’eau ou des toilettes. De tels problèmes sont souvent identifiés lors du suivi ou de l’évaluation après le projet. Résoudre reflète le concept que les organisations qui se rendent compte que les systèmes d’eau ou les toilettes qu’elles ont construit ne fonctionnement pas sont responsables de faire quelque chose pour y remédier. Plus d’information dans Lignes directrices pour la résolution des problèmes des systèmes d’eau (résumé exécutif) et Lignes directrices pour la résolution des problèmes avec les systèmes d’eau (rapport complet).

Water for People: monitoring innovation for “Everyone Forever”

Metered hand-pumps: Privately operated hand pumps as a way to improve sustainability and service delivery

To encourage private sector engagement in the management of water points, Water For People and Appropriate Technology Centre, Uganda are testing a meter for hand pumps. This product has been introduced to entrepreneurs with the expectation that they will prove to be better managers of water points than the current committees.

Water For People Core Indicators and Monitoring Process

This piece outlines how Water For People currently conducts district-wide community and household-level monitoring in all Everyone Forever districts at least once per year. Data is typically collected by teams consisting of our staff and local government officials.

Water for People: suivre l’innovation pour “Pour chacun, pour toujours”

Des pompes manuelles avec compteur: des pompes manuelles opérées manuellement comme façon d’améliorer la durabilité et la fourniture de services

Pour encourager l’engagement du secteur privé dans la gestion des points d’eau, Water For People et Appropriate Technology Centre, Ouganda sont en train de tester un compteur pour les pompes manuelles. Ce produit a été introduit aux entrepreneurs avec l’espoir qu’ils seront de meilleurs gestionnaires de points d’eau que les comités actuels.

Principaux indicateurs et processus de monitoring de Water For People

Ce document met en exergue comment Water For People met en œuvre actuellement au moins une fois par an un monitoring à l’échelle des ménages et des communautés au sein des districts du projet « Pour chacun, pour toujours ». Les données sont en général collectées par des équipes composées par le personnel du projet et celui du gouvernement local.

Poldaw Designs: Call for Project Partners: New Handpump for Deep Wells

“In various regions there is a need for a Public Domain handpump for very deep boreholes with Static Water Level (SWL) 60m to 100m. Existing public domain handpumps are often unreliable at these depths.

Poldaw Designs with WaterAid have developed a solution. Prototypes have been successfully field-tested in various countries for 3 years, and the results have been assessed by a Skat expert engineer. Before releasing into the Public Domain as a proven design, a final validation programme is needed, testing on at least 20 boreholes with Static Water Level in the range 60m to 100m.

We are urgently seeking a partner (or partners) operating in the field, to provide suitable sites and to work with us on installing and monitoring the pumps. Funding partners are also welcomed to share in this valuable project.

 If your organisation operates in areas with water levels in the range 60 to 100m, and you are interested in participating, then we would like to hear from you.”

For more information, please contact:  Paul Dawson pdsundew @ or Sandy Polak tapolak @ Poldaw Designs, UK. (Poldaw Designs is a not-for-profit division of Neale Consulting Engineers

Poldaw Designs: Appel à des partenaires: Nouvelles pompes manuelles pour des puits profonds

“Dans de nombreuses régions, il y a le besoin d’une pompe manuelle du domaine publique pour les forages très profonds avec un niveau statique de l’eau de 60 à 100m. Les pompes existantes du domaine public sont souvent peu fiables à ces profondeurs.

Poldaw et WaterAid ont développé une solution. Des prototypes ont été restés avec succès sur le terrain dans différents pays pendant 3 ans et les résultats ont été évalués par un ingénieur expert de Skat. Avant de le sortir dans le domaine public comme design ayant fait ses preuves, un dernier programme de validation est nécessaire, avec test sur au moins 20 forages avec un niveau statique variant entre 60 et 100m.

Nous cherchons de toute urgence un ou plusieurs partenaires opérant sur le terrain pour nous fournir des sites appropriés et travailler avec nous pour installer et suivre les pompes. Des partenaires financiers sont aussi les bienvenus pour faire partie de ce projet de valeur.

Si votre organisation opère dans ces régions avec des niveaux d’eau oscillant entre 60 et 100m et que vous êtes intéressés de participer, alors nous serons ravis d’en savoir plus. »

Pour plus d’information, contacter : Paul Dawson pdsundew @ ou Sandy Polak tapolak @ Poldaw Designs, UK. (Poldaw Designs n’est pas une division à but non lucrative de Neale Consulting Engineers)

WEDC: WEDC Conference 2015

The 38th WEDC International Conference will be held on 27–31 July 2015, Loughborough University, UK. The call for abstracts will be launched soon on the WEDC Conference website.

WEDC: Conférence WEDC 2015

La 38ème conférence internationale de WEDC se tiendra du 27 au 31 juillet 2015 à l’université de Loughborough au Royaume Uni. L’appel à proposition pour les articles sera lancé bientôt sur le site de la conférence WEDC .

UNC: Water Safety Planning Distance Learning Course

The Water Institute at UNC now offers a distance learning course on Water Safety Plans (WSPs) aimed at those in the water industry with management, engineering, or operational responsibilities.  Water Safety Plans represent a new approach to managing risks of water system failure that was developed by the World Health Organization and field-tested in the UK, Australia, Iceland, Nepal, and Uganda. Registration for the course is now open. To register or for additional information, email us: or visit the Water Safety Plans distance learning webpage.

Skat/WaterAid/Waterlines: Writing for WASH courses

In the run-up to the 7th RWSN Forum in 2016 (see below), we are looking to organise more RWSN “Writing for WASH” courses. The format is flexible and can be run over 2 or 3 days. Since 2012, Skat and WaterAid have run courses in London, Kampala, Dar Es Salaam, Monrovia, Madagascar, Bangladesh and Kiev. We are looking for host organisations, so if you would be interested in developing the writing and presentation skills of your staff or partners then please contact the RWSN Secretariat (sean.furey @

Skat/WaterAid/Waterlines: Ecriture pour les cours WASH

Dans la preparation du 7ème forum du RWSN en 2016 (cf ci-dessous), nous planifions de réaliser plus de cours RWSN « Ecrire pour le WASH ». Le format est flexible et peut être tenu sur 2-3 jours. Depuis 2012, Skat et WaterAid ont effectué des cours à Londres, Kampala, Dar Es Salaam, Monrovia, Madagascar, Bangladesh et Kiev. Nous sommes à la recherche d’organisations hôtes. Alors si vous êtes intéressés dans le développement de l’écriture et des compétences en présentation de votre personnel ou de vos partenaires, alors merci de contacter le secrétariat du RWSN (sean.furey @

a new phase of RWSN is on the way…..

2015 Theme Icons

RWSN is not a formal organisation, more of a shared idea. In 1992, the network was founded as the Handpump Technology Network (HTN) with a narrow focus on…. handpump technology. 22 years on, and this small group of engineers from the Water & Sanitation Program of the World Bank, UNICEF, Skat and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has become a much bigger family.

As of this morning we have 6,301 individual members, 23 RWSN Member Organisations (the newest are Yobe State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Nigeria and the German-based NGO, Welthungerhilfe) and we have an active team of thematic leaders from Skat, WaterAid and IRC as well as a tremendously supportive Executive Committee.

So where now?

Continue reading “a new phase of RWSN is on the way…..”