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Elephant Pump

pumpaid.jpgReal globalism: a 2,000 year old Chinese design is now helping to bring clean water to poor rural Zimbabweans through the efforts of an Englishman.

Rope pumps have been around for centuries, emerging first in China. A loop of rope, if driven at sufficient speed, can pull water up from a well more efficiently than standard pump designs. The rope can be made from any material, and the volume brought up by the rope's motion can be increased with pistons spaced along the cable. The Elephant Pump is an improved version of the rope pump, designed by a group called Pump Aid, founded by Ian Thorpe. Their goal was to make a clean water system that would be as efficient, as inexpensive, as locally-appropriate and as sustainable as possible.

The community contributes some materials for construction of the pump, including sand and stones for building, hand made bricks for the pump housing and labour to assist in tasks during the building process. Ongoing maintenance costs are minimal since major components of the pump such as the axle have a lifespan of 50 years. The cost of maintenance and capital cost of the pump are far exceeded by the potential for income generation through small scale irrigation. [...]
The Elephant Pump uses the renewable energy source of hand or pedal power, not fossil fuels (which are unsustainable and polluting). The pump can also be adapted to use wind or solar energy where appropriate. The entire mechanism is enclosed in a brick housing with a cement apron and spillway to prevent waste water, people or animals from contaminating the water source. Renfiltration rates and water table history are investigated to ensure that pumps are only built where sustainable harvesting of groundwater is possible.

Elephant Pumps are significantly less costly than standard pumps, and able to produce a higher yield of water from wells of similar depth. Pump Aid has just won the 2005 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, recognizing their efforts to bring sustainable water to the poorest communities. Over 1,200 pumps have been installed so far, bringing water to over 300,000 Zimbabweans. Pump Aid is now set to bring the design to Mozambique and Malawi.

(Thanks, Luke Schubert)

Comments (2)


I like reading about these sort of creations, it awakens hope too see that there are cheap and functional options to bring water where it is needed.

Now what would be nice would be a sponsoring of the spreading of these pumps to where it's needed.

sponsoring of the spreading of these pumps to where it's needed

Self-spread might be even better.

Or a mixture of the two.

OneVillage Foundation is one of the many initiatives in this regard - check www.ms.lt for more. A mixture of "work for gain" and "work for loss".

All in all, it looks like we need to pay specific attention to how selection and spread of good practices (not "best" practices because weather, culture etc do matter) work. And how to improve that so it lets really exciting things bubble up and spread like wildfire.

Signaling candidates, gathering or producing evidence, sharing evidence, trying it a bit more ... This is the needed science and practice for today. If we become extremely good at it, then ...

(there are no capitals in my email)


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