Poor technology choice can affect our water quality and supply
Handpumps are extensively used all over South Africa for community water supplies. They are used for livestock watering and even micro-industries such as brick-making. Most of the installed handpumps have shown high failure rates. ‘Almost 50% of the pumps installed for dependent communities are not working. The causes of failure are often not known to the users, whether they are mechanical or if the borehole has dried up’ says Jay Bhagwan a Director responsible for the project at the Water Research Commission (WRC). ‘Of the handpumps that are working, the majority are in extremely poor condition, causing long priming times in the morning and continued low delivery rates thereafter’ he adds .
The reason for low delivery rates is often not clear. Replacement is always with improvised ones with a loose point of attachment and that has bearings that are worn right through. ‘When they fail completely, it can take several months before they are repaired’ says Bhagwan. The common problems related to handpumps range from poor borehole development, inadequate pump design, poor pump selection and installation and inadequate monitoring and maintenance. Water quality also becomes poor because of contamination caused by corrosion products leached from incorrectly-selected borehole pump and casing material. Handpumps have been seen as the best current choice for an intermediate improved level of water supply to at least one third of 18 million South Africans living without access to basic safe water supply.
The study funded by the WRC has revealed that the use of low-cost solutions through the systematic adoption of appropriate design technologies and implementation policies could solve the current problem. The World Bank has motivated the adoption of a Village Level Operation and Maintenance (VLOM) concept for the provision of handpumps. This concept looks at the benefits of community participation, management, ownership, training and employment of community operation and maintenance technicians, and the reduction of communities’ dependence on external support systems.
According to Jay Bhagwan there is a need for handpumps manufacturers,suppliers,users,planners and project implementation agencies to have access to up-to-date comprehensive information on the strengths and weaknesses of handpumps installations and on how the VLOM concept should be used. VLOM handpumps are widely used in many countries and have contributed towards solving problems related to the use of handpumps for community water supplies. They are manufactured from non-corrosive materials and are easy to maintain. VLOM handpumps are highly priced and need a high level of skill during installation.
By using the WRC study (WRC Report No. TT 132/00) readers can gain knowledge on how to combine the use of VLOM handpumps with village level management and caretaking of installation together with adequate training of local private area mechanics .The study also provides guidelines on how to install, operate and maintain handpumps .
Compiled by: Hlengiwe Cele
Knowledge Dissemination Officer
Tel: +27 12 330 9006
For further information contact
Director: Water Use and Waste Management
Tel: 012 330 9042