More than 780 million people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. This reality means that many women and children around the world spend hours every day walking miles to collect water from streams and puddles that are usually contaminated. The unsafe water causes disease and death, and the time spent collecting water means sacrificing other opportunities such as going to school, farming, or starting a business. Providing clean water is a crucial first step in bringing health and economic opportunity to a community.
It sounds simple, but there are challenges to providing clean water. In many villages, the water table is too deep for traditional hand pumps. Even if water is accessible, the pumps are often unreliable, sometimes needing repairs after only a few months of use. Alarming statistics show that in many African countries nearly half of the installed pumps are no longer working. Tragically, there are over 125,000 nonfunctioning wells in Africa, leaving 31 million people with no access to clean water.
Design Outreach (DO) began working on a completely new hand-powered water pump that was more reliable and could reach water in the deepest wells. The first pump was successfully installed in the village of Yamando, Central African Republic with Water for Good, and was able to pump to water from 400 feet deep! Previously, Yamando’s well sat unused because there was no pump available to get the water out.
After testing in one village, DO immediately began working on a 2nd generation pump, incorporating the lessons learned from the first design. The team went back to the Central African Republic again with this new and improved version, and with much better results. However DO continued tweaking the design, and today DO is proud of the 3rd generation pump called the LifePump!
Design Outreach’s LifePump has been designed to last longer and reach deeper than the pumps commonly available. The LifePump can be outfitted with monitoring devices to provide timely and valuable feedback. All of these improvements will help water organizations become more effective in fulfilling their mission of delivering clean water to those in need.
How it Works
In a clockwise rotary motion, LifePump users turn the handles mounted on a right angle bevel gearbox, which then rotates drive rods that are connected to the helix shaped rotor (which is underwater at the bottom of the borehole). Also at the bottom of the borehole sits the stainless steel rotor and elastomeric stator, which combined is called a progressive cavity pump (PCP).
PCPs are extremely durable and operate when the rotor turns relative to the stator, creating progressing pockets of water being pushed to the surface. PCPs allow for the extreme depth capability, where piston or diaphragm style pumps are unable to operate due to physics. The LifePump is designed to wear slowly over time, so that there is not a catastrophic failure, leaving users suddenly without water. Longevity is extremely important, and through lab and field-testing the LifePump is proving to be much more durable than other hand pumps. This is accomplished in part with heavy-duty components fabricated from stainless steel – or in some cases high strength steel that is coated or plated for optimal corrosion resistance.
Under normal operating conditions users will get about 2.5 gallons per minute at 325 feet. LifePump features such as handle length, required handle torque, and height of the pump above ground are engineered to be ergonomically correct for women and children.
Design Outreach was recently featured in the Journal of the American Water Works Association – read all about our first few years of operations below!AWWA Article
Today, LifePumps are being evaluated with World Vision in Africa to ensure that the solution is ready for wider distribution. Qualitative and quantitative data on the LifePump is being collected by village water committees, World Vision WASH personnel, DO personnel, and through satellite-linked remote data loggers. All of the information collected so far indicates that the LifePump is an easy to use, reliable, cost-effective, long-term solution for the communities it serves.
DO believes that the true value is not in just helping a few villages, but in scaling up so that eventually thousands of villages will have clean water.
If you are interested in learning more about the current progress of the project or get to know our team members, please visit our Facebook page and please feel free to contact us, we would love to talk with you!