Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Taking stock of the humble handpump

There seems to be much discussion about handpumps in my email inbox these days.  Considering how ubiquitous they are across rural landscapes globally, we know surprisingly little about the common handpump.  For example, how many handpumps are installed on the African continent, and of these how many are actually functioning?  What sort of designs exist and where are they typically used?  Which countries promote a standard design and which do not?  It's tedious work compiling and crunching the numbers, but taking stock of the infrastructure is critical if we are to make the most of the next generation of water supply investments.  This is especially true for initiatives that aim to improve the sustainability of non-networked water sources, since we do at least know that they fail and fail often.

Here are a few ways that you can contribute to improving our collective understanding of handpumps:

The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) invites water practitioners to take an online survey about recent experiences with handpumps and priorities for the sector going forward.

Also at RWSN, Sean Furey is working on updating their handpump functionality statistics from 2009--perhaps one of the most cited data sources for those working on sustainability of water supplies!  Data can be emailed to him in excel format at sean.furey (at)  Note that partial or imperfect data sets are welcome and will receive the appropriate caveats in the final presentation, and all data sources will be acknowledged.  More info in the May newsletter.

At Oxford University, Jessica MacArthur is investigating the effectiveness of handpump standardization policies and invites water professionals to voice their thoughts with this survey.  (Data will be shared publicly in September 2013).