Sand dam’s contribution to year-round water supply

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 blog post from RWSN Member Hannah Ritchie, based in the United Kingdom

In 2020, I joined forces with Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW) to help them answer the question of “how long water from sand dams is lasting throughout the year”. In this short blog post, I am happy to discuss with you our findings and the implications of this study. We’ll be discussing “why we are interested in this question”, “how we researched this question”, and “what we found out”.

Firstly though, for those of you not familiar with what a sand dam is, I would like to direct you here for a video, which explains them better than I could, and here to SDW’s website where you can find everything sand dam related you might need to know.

Why are we interested (and why you should be too)?

So, why do we care about whether sand dams are providing water year-round? There is uncertainty over whether water from sand dams is lasting all the way through the dry season, or whether people can only abstract water from sand dams at the beginning of the dry season, when they have just been replenished by the rains. Because of this conflict in results, we can’t easily conclude how effective sand dams are as a dryland and specifically dry season water source. For example, can people rely on them when other water sources are unavailable (such as when surface waters have run dry)? Or are the dams dry by the second week of the dry season? Answering this question is very important for understanding their level of use, acceptance, and financial viability, helping to inform future water management interventions and to ensure that communities are serviced with a continuous improved supply. Knowing whether there are certain dry season months when sand dams have no water being abstracted can also inform on months when water supply from other sources needs expanding. Finally, knowing which sand dams have more or less water being abstracted can aid in optimising sand dam design.

You might be thinking, “but no water abstracted doesn’t necessarily mean no water being available”, and you would be right. Because, whilst abstraction volumes may be linked to storage, many other variables, such as convenience, quality, and the use of other sources can also impact abstraction. Thus, the contribution that sand dams make to water security is not synonymous with the amount of water actually stored in the dam. Therefore, whilst this study can show us abstraction patterns from sand dams and therefore behaviours of use, it cannot confirm for certain whether there is or isn’t any water available.

How did we do it?

Now you know why we’re interested and why it matters, how did we actually go about answering the question: “how long water from sand dams is lasting throughout the year”? In 2019, 26 sand dam hand pumps in Makueni and Machakos Counties, Kenya were fitted with Waterpoint Data Transmitters (WDT) by ASDF. These devices measure the number of times and with what force a handpump is used over an hour and convert this into an estimated volume of water abstracted (Thomson et al., 2012). This data point is then transmitted by SMS. I had access to this remotely sensed data from April 2019 until October 2021. With a data point every hour for 26 sites over 31 months, I ended up with a very large data set!

Alongside this abstraction data, I also had access to interview and observation data provided by MSc student Joanna Chan, ASDF, and SDW. These variables included perceived salinity, abstraction limits, livestock use, whether the dam is said to have ever run dry, presence of rainwater harvesting tanks, actual salinity (μs/cm), area of dam wall (m2), average distance travelled from home to dam (km), and user numbers (Chan, 2019).

This data was then analysed to assess how much water people were abstracting and for how long throughout the year the water continued to be abstracted for. The variables collected from interview and observation were then analysed to provide insight into differences in abstraction between sites. For example, did sites with larger dam walls have more water being abstracted, or did salinity impact abstraction in any way?

Finally, we looked specifically at the last week in September (as a proxy for the end of the long dry season) to assess whether enough water to specifically meet drinking water needs (2 L/p/day) was still being abstracted at any sites. Due to the necessity of an improved source of water for drinking (of which a handpump is one), we wanted to know whether the handpumps could independently meet drinking water needs, in case no other water sources were available.

What did we find out? 

After analysing all of the data and wrapping my head around some statistical analysis, I like to think that we found some interesting results.

The most obvious finding was that of high variability in abstraction volume between the 26 hand pumps and seasons. We found abstraction to be significantly higher in the long dry season, indicating a high reliance and delivery of water when other sources are compromised. The diagram below shows median monthly abstraction (L/month) (red line) and average monthly rainfall (mm) (brown bars – dry season and blue bars rainy season) across all sites – indicating higher abstraction when rainfall is lower.

There was abstraction data available from 21 handpumps (81%) by the end of at least one of the analysed long dry seasons, with at least some water still being abstracted. At 59.1% of these sites, enough water to meet each user’s drinking water needs (2 L/p/day) was being abstracted in at least one of the analysed years. This indicates that such dams can meet the drinking water needs of users independently of other sources.

Using the variables which were collected in interviews and observations, we found that sites with a greater proportion of people using the water for livestock, higher salinity, and larger dam walls had significantly higher levels of abstraction. This is to be expected as higher salinity sites are often used more for livestock (Chan, 2019), which have a greater water demand than that for drinking, whilst larger dam walls can lead to a greater volume of sand build up and therefore water storage (Maddrell & Neal, 2012). 

These results highlight sand dams as a sustainable alternative to other dry season sources such as water vendors, which can be expensive and unreliable. However, lower abstraction in certain months and sites highlights that we must approach water management holistically. No one technique is necessarily the answer to dryland water security and all available water sources must be considered. Clearly, not all sand dams behave the same, with certain sand dams always likely to have higher levels of abstraction than others. However, high abstraction and sustained water availability by the end of the long dry season at many sites profess the positive contribution that sand dams can make to a community’s water supply, offering opportunities for further success in the future.

Closing remarks

I really hope you enjoyed learning about abstraction trends from sand dams as much as I enjoyed studying them (most of the time!) If you’re interested in learning more, I hope the paper will be published soon, which will be freely available for everyone to read. If you’d like to reach out, my email is hannah.ritchie@cranfield.ac.uk. Many thanks for reading.

A bit about the author

I am a PhD student at Cranfield University. I began my PhD in September 2019 in WaSH with the CDT Water WISER. With a background in geology and environmental engineering, I wanted to design my PhD project around earth sciences and development. This was how I ended up finding sand dams and partnering with SDW and Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF).

Outside of work I love to run, hike (generally be outdoors as much as possible), read, and am learning French. I am very passionate about science communication and firmly believe that research results need to be translated into accessible formats for all to read and understand, hence why I have written this blog post for you (definitely shorter, more fun, and less boring than reading a 15-page paper!)

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.

Photo credits: Hannah Ritchie

References

Chan, J. (2019). Abstraction of Water from Sand Dams in Machakos and Makueni Counties (Kenya) via Handpumps.

Maddrell, S., & Neal, I. (2012). Sand Dams: a Practical Guide.

Thomson, P., Hope, R., & Foster, T. (2012). GSM-enabled remote monitoring of rural handpumps: A proof-of-concept study. Journal of Hydroinformatics, 14(4), 829–839. https://doi.org/10.2166/hydro.2012.183

Las tecnologías EMAS WaSH – experiencias, logros y objetivos futuros

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.

Este blog fue escrito por nuestro miembro de RWSN, Jaime Aguirre, de Bilbao, España.

EMAS es el acrónimo de “Escuela móvil del agua y saneamiento”; fue acuñado en los años 80 en Bolivia por Wolfgang Buchner, con el apoyo de un grupo de voluntarios

La misión principal de EMAS es enseñar a las familias a obtener agua limpia por sí mismas. El “aprendizaje práctico” es la forma más óptima de aprender estas técnicas.

El programa WaSH de EMAS incluye varias tecnologías Do-It-Yourself, como la bomba manual  EMAS,  la perforación manual de pozos de hasta 90 metros, tanques de almacenamiento de agua y los aseos VIP, entre otros. Todas las tecnologías han estado en constante desarrollo desde los años 90. Se han implantado en más de 25 países, principalmente en América Latina y África. La biblioteca de la RWSN alberga documentación y evaluaciones del uso de las tecnologías EMAS en Uganda, Sierra Leona, Panama y Bolivia, entre otros.

El objetivo de las tecnologías de EMAS es facilitar el acceso al agua potable y al saneamiento mediante la formación de técnicos locales y beneficiarios. Estas formaciones son cursos compactos en los que durante varias semanas se muestran y practican todas las técnicas. A largo plazo, todas las instalaciones pueden ser mantenidas por el usuario debido a la simplicidad de la tecnología. El resultado:

  • Mejora del acceso al agua potable para las poblaciones rurales del mundo, combinada con instalaciones sanitarias sencillas, evitando así la propagación de enfermedades infecciosas y reduciendo las tasas de mortalidad.
  • Aumento de la calidad de vida, por ejemplo, al eliminar el laborioso acarreo de agua, lo que ahorra tiempo a las mujeres y los niños y permite realizar pequeños trabajos agrícolas.
  • Los constructores de pozos formados son autosuficientes e independientes, y pueden, si es necesario, recibir más asesoramiento y formación.
  • Sostenibilidad: Los pozos y las instalaciones de agua son muy asequibles. La experiencia ha demostrado que los propietarios mantienen bastante bien las instalaciones, lo que se traduce en una larga vida útil. Las reparaciones que puedan ser necesarias suelen ser fáciles de realizar.
  • Todos los materiales necesarios para estas reparaciones pueden obtenerse localmente.
  • Los materiales y los métodos son respetuosos con el medio ambiente y la mayoría de los pasos se realizan manualmente.
  • La extracción de cantidades moderadas de agua y su uso disciplinado no tienen un impacto negativo en el medio ambiente ni en los niveles de agua subterránea.
  • Mejora de las oportunidades para que las personas permanezcan en sus regiones de origen de forma permanente.

    Algunas de las principales tecnologías son:

Perforación en el centro WASH de Sierra Leona

La bomba manual EMAS es el componente clave de las tecnologías EMAS porque es capaz de bombear agua verticalmente hasta 50 m. Mientras que otras bombas manuales tienen una mayor resistencia al uso intensivo o incluso inapropiado (muchas veces cuando la bomba está siendo utilizada por toda una comunidad), la bomba EMAS está diseñada principalmente para el uso doméstico. Las bombas EMAS tienen una larga vida útil, ya que las reparaciones que puedan ser necesarias suelen ser fáciles de realizar por el usuario.


Las instrucciones en vídeo pueden verse en nuestro canal de YouTube que cuenta con unos 15.000 seguidores y algunos vídeos tienen más de 700.000 visitas.  

A veces hay que hacer adaptaciones de las tecnologías en algunos países debido a la disponibilidad de material.

Amadou, técnico de Senegal marchando con su equipo de perforación a hacer un nuevo pozo


Por el momento, se han perforado aproximadamente 70.000 pozos EMAS en todo el mundo. La mayoría han sido financiados por las familias o los beneficiarios. Desde los años 80, más de 100 técnicos formados han creado una microempresa que ofrece servicios WASH a su comunidad. Las tecnologías de EMAS se han implantado en más de 25 países a través de cooperaciones con diversas organizaciones locales e internacionales (por ejemplo, OPS). Como resultado de la cooperación con Welthungerhilfe se han perforado más de 3.000 pozos EMAS en Sierra Leona.

EMAS pretende asociarse con organizaciones que incluyan WASH en sus programas y que también deseen implementar las tecnologías mencionadas a través de proyectos de formación en WASH. Los proyectos deben incluir un seguimiento y apoyo a los técnicos WASH formados durante su camino para convertirse en PYMES. Muchos casos demuestran que los trabajadores de las PYMES crean su propia empresa y sirven a otras regiones que tienen una gran demanda de servicios WASH.


A corto plazo, se lanzará una página de aprendizaje de EMAS para compartir todas las experiencias en varios países y también facilitar todo el material disponible. Esta página también se dirigirá a los usuarios con conocimientos técnicos que deseen aprender más sobre las tecnologías.

Curso de creación de bombas EMAS en Sierra Leona

Perforación en Mali

Sistemas EMAS incluyendo captación de agua pluvial con cisterna enterrada, bomba manual, ducha, lavamanos y baño

Sobre el autor: Jaime Aguirre es originalmente un ingeniero mecánico que trabajo muchos años como ingeniero de diseño en el sector de la energía eólica. Después de algunas experiencias decepcionantes con la implementación de tecnologías WaSH de alta tecnología, se unió en 2014 voluntariamente a una formación EMAS en Bolivia. Desde entonces, se ha dedicado permanentemente a impartir formación junto con la ONG EMAS-International e.V. con sede en Alemania. En 2015 puso en marcha la ONG española TADEH en Bilbao, España, que ofrece formación en tecnologías de autoabastecimiento EMAS en todo el mundo.

¿Le ha gustado este blog? ¿Le gustaría compartir su perspectiva sobre el sector del agua rural o su historia como profesional del agua rural? Invitamos a todos los miembros de la RWSN a contribuir a esta serie de blogs del 30º aniversario. Los mejores blogs serán seleccionados para su publicación y traducción. Por favor, consulte las directrices del blog aquí y póngase en contacto con nosotros (ruralwater[at]skat.ch) para obtener más información.Si aprecia el trabajo de la RWSN y desea apoyarnos económicamente, puede hacerlo aquí.

The EMAS WaSH technologies –­ experiences, achievements and future goals

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:

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.

The Hand-pump project: 35 years on, what have we learned? 


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 Saul Arlosoroff, based in Israel.

I grew up in a kibbutz which is an Israeli Agricultural institution and became interested and experienced in agriculture and rural water supply. I studied Engineering in Israel; my Masters was on the design of modern pumps, mainly vertical. After some time working on the topic, I was then sent to the USA to work in the rural water sector, thus becoming a Rural Water “expert”. When I returned home, I climbed the ladder to become a national water manager, mainly in the rural sector. Later I was selected to be a senior water manager in Ghana.

The 1980’s was the International Decade of Water Supply and Sanitation. At the time, UNDP and the World Bank established the Water & Sanitation Program (WSP); one of its flagship projects was the Hand-pump Project. Having become experienced in rural water supply in developing countries, I was recruited by the World Bank to be the manager of this project, with staff and involvement in about 40 countries, along with John Kalbermatten from the World Bank, and staff from UNDP, UNICEF and representatives of Donors who were active in the sector. I participated in 3 multi-expert meetings on what should be the role of the rural water sector actors; and what should be the main activities to solve the problem for those in real need.

These meetings of experts lead to the agreement that the Hand-Pump should be the main tool for Rural Water Supply as it was financially feasible, most villages were above or close by to the centers of demand, and the source of water in the ground, at a reasonable depth, and can produce clean water relatively cheap. However, most of the Hand pumps at the time were yard pumps from non-poor countries which were not adequate for the needs of the rural populations in developing countries.

It was decided that a new variety of pumps would have to be developed for that purpose, tested by experts in a testing facility and in the field. The testing facility was selected to be in the UK. Donors were selected in approximately 20 countries where conditions were suitable and where Governments agreed to undertake field testing.

After 2 years, the new pumps were ready for field testing in about 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America; about 500 pumps were installed in the Donor-promoted testing sites. The dominant characteristics were simplicity of maintenance and local manufacturing adaptation to groundwater depth and water quality, and the ability to serve from a whole village to a few users.

Millions of these Hand-pumps are still operating globally and they have turned to be one of the main sources of rural water supply. What I have learned through this experience was that rural water supply is one of the most important global issues, which will need important financial resources including from technical and financial partners for many years to come. The organization of the rural water sector differs depending on the country but often suffers from a lack of prioritization by governments.

The Hand-Pump project is considered one of the most important global examples of successful multi-organization cooperation around the world and showed that what seemed impossible proved possible. Our final report “Community Water Supply: the Hand pump Option” (1987) is still one of the defining publications in rural water supply and hand-pump literature. The hand-pump project also defined Village Level Operation & Maintenance (VLOM), the concept of making hand-pumps easier to maintain by the users so that minor breakdowns could be repaired quickly. The Rural Water Supply Network is partly a continuation of this programme, which proves that success in access to water services for rural populations can only be achieved through cooperation between countries.

Community Water Supply: the handpump option (1987) Author: ARLOSOROFF, S.,TSCHANNERL, G., GREY, D., JOURNEY, J., KARP, A., LANGENEGGER, O., and ROCHE, R.

About the author: Saul Arlosoroff is a senior water engineer and management consultant. He has been involved in rural water supply in many countries including Israel, Zambia, and Ghana. He is best known for his seminal book “Community Water Supply: the Hand pump Option”.

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.


From Tractors to the Tara pump

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 Erich Baumann, based in Ireland.

I grew up in Switzerland after graduating as a mechanical engineer, and started working in the agricultural sector, designing tractors with reasonable success. Back then, (in the late seventies) the Swiss tractor industry was suffering badly and many factories, including mine, had to close. My marriage fell apart too. I therefore had to look around for another solution. When Caritas looked for an engineer to help them with the development of local tractor manufacturing in Bangladesh, we both found that this could be a match made in heaven.

In 1979, I moved to Bangladesh and started working in the Mirpur Agricultural Workshop and Training School (MAWTS). It was there that the Mennonite Agricultural project (MCC) asked me for help, not with tractors, but with the Rower pump: a simple direct-action pump for small-scale irrigation that had been field tested in Comilla. We worked together with Dan Spare on improving the manufacturing processes and using only local materials; eventually we managed to ensure maintenance was possible without using any tools. The MCC ordered 1,000 pumps; this helped the MAWTS to launch a manufacturing process at large scale. Luckily the MAWTS had a small group of professionals that helped me in identifying small factories that used indigenous technologies.

At the same time another NGO, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), was implementing a small-scale irrigation project in the north of the country, using treadle pumps. They had a large market for these pumps but not enough manufacturing capacity. This was a great opportunity for some of our trainees, who could set up small rural workshops with relatively little help. So, within a short time, Bangladesh established a manufacturing capacity of about five thousand pumps annually.    

There was a lot going on at the time with regard to irrigation pumps, but the drinking water pumps were not that prominently on the agenda. The World Bank-UNDP Water and Sanitation Programme and UNICEF were keen to get some development started as the No. 6 pumps were not very reliable. They approached MAWTS to see whether the training school would be interested. After several meetings between Ken Gibbs (UNICEF), Tim Journey (World Bank), Md Ikramullah and myself (MAWTS), we agreed that we would, based on the Rower pump technology, work on a direct-action drinking water pump. Many components of the Rower pump could be used for drinking water but some others (for instance the filters) would need to be invented.

Within a few days we had a working prototype which we thought seemed promising, and UNICEF placed an order for 110 pumps with MAWTS. In the good old days, procurement was not fully regulated;  thus the 110 pumps were manufactured and delivered before the purchase order even reached MAWTS. Field testing showed some good results, and we started working on the development of an all-plastic filter. Tim [Journey] found an article about a Robo-screen, tried in Australia. We replicated the design and started producing this screen. Caritas Switzerland sent us a sizeable number of 0.25mm wide milling cutters, which we needed to finalise the production process.

Once the testing pumps design was successful, it was transferred to India where the Indian Bureau of Standards took it up; the Tara pump was then turned into a national standard.

After 3 years in Bangladesh, in 1984, I decided to turn down an offer to join the World Bank-UNDP Water and Sanitation Programme and returned to Switzerland to join SKAT. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) agreed that the World Bank could pay for the services that SKAT would offer. A very fruitful cooperation started and my career as a handpump specialist began.     

The Birth of the Handpump Technology Network, and the Rural Water Supply Network

By 1992, handpump technology had made its way into rural water supply. Many local governments started to accept the point sources with handpumps for drinking water. The policy promotion by UNICEF and the World Bank made handpump supplies viable. With this change in the environment, it became interesting to enter the market; competition was fierce between pump manufacturers. To get some stability into the sector, the UNDP-World Bank project decided a handpump workshop would be helpful. The venue for this workshop was Kakamega Golf Club in western Kenya. About 50 experts came together to discuss the technology aspect of handpumps. 

The meeting point was ideal as Kakamega did not offer many distractions. Even going out for a meal was a bit of an adventure. You had to bring a very strong fork to be able to penetrate the chicken.   

Kakamega was a small town with several thousand handpumps. There was a Finish project that had used India MKII pumps initially and had just recently decided to change to Afridevs. It was a new a concept that you could take the piston out without lifting the cylinder and there was still quite a bit scepticism about the open top arrangement.

As usual in a competitive environment, people felt very strongly about who had the best hamdpump design. The two pumps in the public domain, the India KMII (cheap but sturdy) and the Afridev (with more unusual design aspects) were also fighting for acceptance. The arguments were often dominated by arguments such as “not designed by me”. I too had some strong views on designs and we were discussing design details for hours. The arguments often run up to the early hours; since the Golf club did not have a bar there was also no option of a final conciliatory drink. 

There were some wise men in the group who concluded we were wasting a lot of energy without coming to a useful result. Peter Wurzel and Rupert Talbot suggested that the arguments would go on for ever and it would be best to form a design group: the Handpump design working group. Peter Wurzel should be the chairperson of the group, with Scott Devereux from Consumer Research in England, Leif Hommelgaard from UNDP-WB and me as permanent members.

And that’s how the Handpump Technology Network was formed without defined Terms of Reference or constitution. We concentrated on a few aspects, namely standardisation and handpump specifications.   Rupert, Leif and Peter kept a good eye on me and helped me to find some support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Handpump specifications were generally accepted as key documents for public domain pumps. Piers Cross of the World Bank suggested in 2006 that the Handpump Technology Network should broaden its remit from handpumps only to rural water supply more generally; and this is how the Rural Water Supply Network was born.   

About the author: Erich Baumann is an internationally recognized technical expert in the field of rural water supply with 30 years of experience. He headed the secretariat of RWSN (formerly the Handpump Technology Network HTN) from 1992 to 2008. He was instrumental in establishing the network in supply chains, low cost drilling, self-supply household solutions, handpump research and development, capacity building in local production, technology transfer, quality control and quality assurance, and training. He authored many publications on handpumps and rural water supply which can be found here.

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.

Photo credit: Erich Baumann

Remembering Paul van Beers (19 April 1950 – 19 April 2020)

“Always eccentric, often controversial; always authentic, often misunderstood; Paul was never boring. He enjoyed challenging the status quo and stirring things up.”

by Dr Peter Harvey, Chief – Water, Sanitation & Education Centre, UNICEF Supply Division

When I first met Paul twenty-odd years ago at a WEDC Conference, he was (surprise, surprise!) talking about handpumps. I was immediately captivated by his passion and imagination.

Always eccentric, often controversial; always authentic, often misunderstood; Paul was never boring. He enjoyed challenging the status quo and stirring things up. He sometimes upset people by his exaggerations (e.g. the ‘spare parts free handpump’) and his repeated promotion of everything ‘blue’ but none of this was in the interest of ego or self-gain. He was passionately committed to improving the well-being of those living in the poorest communities in rural Africa, and he was convinced the water sector could do so much better.

He believed passionately that handpumps should not breakdown often and that the prevailing statistic of one-third of non-operational pumps in sub-Saharan Africa was unacceptable. He was frustrated by the apparent insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. He recently quoted the car manufacturer Henry Ford, who said that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses, highlighting how people tend to stick to what they know. He believed in the power of innovation and that no one should have to make do with inferior products or services.

A professional hydrogeologist, Paul’s passion was rural water supply. He lived and worked for extensive periods in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique, Angola and Kenya, before returning to the Netherlands to set up the FairWater Foundation https://www.fairwater.org/. Despite his scientific training, he was, in many ways, an engineer at heart.  He loved technology and the intricacies of engineering design. Among his numerous inventions were the Kisii Water Filter, the Afripump, the Water Donkey, the Beers Piston, Handpump Leasing, the Ribbon-and-Bead Pump (an improved version of the rope pump), and, of course, the Blue Pump and Blue Zones.

On one memorable occasion he jumped onto the table in a Nairobi bar and sat on a small plastic stool with a hole cut in it. “Look, the EasyShit!” he announced. That particular sanitation invention didn’t take off but actually made a lot of sense for the old and infirm. I had the pleasure of meeting him on many occasions to put the world to rights and ‘imagineer’ all sorts of solutions from bizarre soap alternatives to a submersible pump design based on the capillary action of plants (that one didn’t take off either!).

He was never afraid to have a daft idea. It would be much worse to have none at all. When he was diagnosed with cancer, Paul remained as positive as ever. Even when his leg was amputated in 2015, he was more focused on tinkering to make improvements to his prosthetic leg than feeling sorry for himself. His mobility was affected, but not his passion, nor his ability to post controversial contributions to the RWSN D-group!

I spoke to him shortly before his death and he told me of how his own story evolved. When he first worked in Africa 35 years ago, he would see a broken handpump and think ‘that’s a shame, a broken pump’. It took him many years to look at a broken pump and see the bigger picture behind it of suffering, dependency, self-interest and corruption. He was frustrated that many charitable endeavours were more focused on giving money to feel good than to do actual good.

His was a call for us to wake up and connect the dots: to look beyond technology, to the systems and behaviours that create dependency; to not be afraid to discard them and develop new blueprints for truly sustainable water services. He didn’t have all the answers, but he certainly provided some, and he never gave up searching for more.

The day before he passed away, he sent me a message: “We live and learn, a fascinating growing process, essential in life… Maybe that is why I hate so much if things do not develop, it is directly opposing the roots of life; innovation should always be there!”

Paul brought much colour to my life, as well as the many, many people in the communities he served over decades. I will miss him greatly and I am privileged to have called him a friend.

He was a keen flyer and had many tales of bush flying in Africa; I like to think he is now soaring high above us through the ‘blue zone’.

Pete Harvey

P.S. For those of you who may be interested, in future the Bluepump will continue to be manufactured and promoted on a non-profit basis by Join the Pipe https://join-the-pipe.org/eng/, the first social network of tap-water drinkers.

Photo: Paul at home in Amsterdam, 2018 (P. Harvey)

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

RIP

Rupert Talbot
RWSN
26/1/20

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^ richard-carter.org
[www.richard-carter.org]

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.