FairWater: durable handpumps for low-cost operation

Wouldn't it be nice if we live in a world
where donated handpumps
do not break down all the time
and are easy and cheap to maintain?

Click on the picture to hear the story

Therefore we developed the rock-solid, reliable BluePump
to function in a "BlueZone", where professional local partners
take care of the installation and service.
This creates local jobs & reliable water supply
at the lowest costs for the users


Why are BluePumps needed?
Good question, you probably know that over the last decades, over 10 million US$ per day was spend on water projects in Africa and still NGOs ask for more funding. But did these funding openend a better future for the the rural people?                   

Click here for the video of the Bill Gates 15M US$ study.
(Unfortunatly, so far Bill Gates only funded this study,
but even good software without proper hardware goes nowhere.
Let's hope that the next 15M will be spend on BluePumps

Most donated handpumps don't work anymore 

Over 350.000 handpumps have been installed in Africa, but UNICEF/ SKAT data show that in most countries 40%, in some areas even over 80% of thepumps don't work anymore. Most of the abandoned pumps are so-called "VLOM" pumps made in India. VLOM means that the community should maintain them without external support.

However, the VLOM type pumps are cheap but not reliable. Due to frequent repairs and missing spare parts these pumps become a nuisance for the users and expensive or impossible to maintain. 

Conclusion 1.
It is not fair to impose fragile VLOM pumps to the communities.

Conclusion 2.
Sponsors should insist that NGOs use more durable handpumps.


What is the best way forward?
The good news is, that most of the broken VLOM pumps are installed in good wells that can still be used. The broken VLOM pump can be taken out and replaced by a reliable BluePump. Such a rehabiliation is easy and can be done in a few hours because the BluePump fits directly on the base of most VLOM pumps.


  Click HERE or on the picture
to hear what this woman has to say
about the high maintencance cost
of these fragile India pumps


What about the MDG's??
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) aimed to improve the water supply by the year 2015, through massive funding injections from many donors. Thousand of new India VLOM pumps were again donated. In some countries the situation has temporarily improved. But not for long; also these recent VLOM pumps will be soon abandoned and the situation will be the same again. Click here for the report. 

Statistics are hard to beat, also in Africa. Sustainability is the result of low recurrent cost for the users. To make that possible, you need a reliable pump. Sustainability cannot be forced by flashy fundraising campaign, it is more how you use the funding wisely and effective.


Problems are worse in deep boreholes
In areas with deeper groundwater the handpump failure rate can be even over 80%. Some pumps already break down within a few weeks and the poor people pay a fortune for the many repairs.This is really bad news. In stead of lifting them out of poverty, the VLOM pump makes them more poor.

There is an underlying, even deeper problem to solve...
A recent UNICEF / SKAT study is amazingly open about handpump maintenance problems:


 ... "However, not only has progress been slow, but, more shamefully, many of the constructed services have not continued to work over time"....


... "Thousands of people, who once benefited from a safe drinking water supply, now walk past broken handpumps or taps and back to their traditional, dirty water point. Despite the best intentions, the fact is that we, sector professionals and practitioners, have contributed towards the problem in numerous ways" ...


The same report also highlights the underlying main problem, which is that many NGOs have become fundraising institutes and lost focus to invest in more sustainable solutions:


 ... "Nevertheless, most of us carry on as before. A rehabilitation programme tends to use the same management and maintenance principles and training"....


Why do VLOM pumps break down so fast ?
Most VLOM pumps break down due to relatively "small issues". The main problem is caused by the "simple" rubber seal on the pluger (see picture below). It is very difficult to replace, because it is located deep inside the well. To make matters worse, many of those "simple" part are often not locally available, do not fit right or are put in wrongly, or cost a fortune on the local black market for spares. The result is all the same: in the end people give up and the pumps is abandoned.

Statistics show that handpumps in Africa have an average functional life of maximal 3 to 5 years; This means, that each year about 10.000 handpumps need to be replaced, which is an equivalent loss of funding of about 150.000.000 US$ per year, or nearly 500.000 US$ per day...

problem is the small rubber washer

Girl showing the killer ; the rubber seal on the plunger ...

The handpumps that work are from recent projects.
Obviously, NGOs don't like to talk about this. Understandable, also because until recently, there was no good alternative to the VLOM pump.

About 150.000 broken down handpumps in Africa

Typical picture: all over Africa you find broken India VLOM pumps

FairWater BluePump solution works
To get out of the misery, FairWater developed with the help of several NGOs (Oxfam, UNICEF, IRD, ASAP, CSC, etc.) the reliable BluePump with a maintenance concept that provides a safe & reliable water supply at very low cost for the users: The BlueZone Approach.

In a BlueZone there is one Area Mechanic who installs and maintains the BluePump

There are already several BlueZones in Africa with over 800 BluePumps, sponsored by major NGOs Oxfam (Kenya), UNICEF (Mozambique), ADRA (Niger), UNDP (Tanzania and Gambia), Global Water Resources (Tanzania), Obakki (South Sudan) and many smaller NGOs.

The BluePump is extreamly strong and reliable and can be maintained at low-cost without the need for such a critical spare part as a "simple" rubber seal. It is therefore now considered by international experts as the most suitable and vertile community handpump for Africa for all depth. The BluePump is rapidly becoming popular with the users and with serious NGOs, due to it's reliable operation, higher water output andlighter pumping.

Happy kids using a FairWater BluePump from a depth of 65m in Mozambique

Innovative Sponsor Concept
FairWater also developed an innovative sponsor concept to contribute for the maintenace cost of the BluePump. The Cap of the BluePump can be used for advertising or for any message for the community or for a sponsor logo. For instance a donor that would like to advertise a health related subjects like Stop Smoking, or Aids Prevention, could sponsor a BluePump near a hospital or school and put his message on the cap. 
This is highly effective, because a water point is always a focus point in a community and people will see the message every day.EEPC sponsored BluePump in Burkina Faso

EEPC sponsored this BluePump for a school in Burkina Faso

FairWater school BluePump with advertising in Burkina Faso

The FairWater rehabilitation approach
The most cost-effective way to help communities and schools is to rehabilitate a broken down handpumps and not to drill new expensive boreholes. A new borehole cost between 10.000 to 20.000 US$, while with a rehabiliation with a FairWater BluePump only cost € 2.500,- all in.

The FairWater "Water4Schools" program
We focus with our rehabilitation on schools, this is very cost-effective, because school pumps are well looked after by the tecahers and often also used by the community.

Obviously, we cannot rehab every broken pump in Africa ourselves, for that we need that other NGOs will also take up the approach of rehabilitaion rather than drilling new holes.

Information about Water & Sanitation (WatSan) issues
On our watsan.com website FairWater also offers easy access to more WatSan information for the industry and specific WatSan topics on the WatSan information pages.

If you look for WatSan News or have information to share...

go to www.watsan.com
and make your own page

it's free, easy and fast

You can also sponsor a BuePump with your banner logo, contact us for details

FairWater Foundation

Keizersgracht 676 
1017 ET Amsterdam 
The Netherlands
Phone +31 (0)20 - 260 1171

Email to: info@fairwater.org

"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. 
When you pay too much; you lose a little money - that is all. 
When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything
because it was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do".
- - -
"The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot
 - it cannot be done -.  If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to
add something for the risk you run, and if you accept that
you might as well pay some more for something better".

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)


Disclaimer: Fairwater is not responsible for the quality of any information, products or services offered on this site and cannot be liable for any misspelling, misuse or event in whatever way, which may be caused, directly or indirectly by using this website, or any of the articles, contributions or items published on this site. We reserve the right to edit, change or update the content of this website without prior notice if deemed necessary.

Please note
Fairwater has changed early 2010 the name of its handpump design into "BluePump" and that we do not use the previous name "Afripump" anymore to avoid confusion with the existing Afridev public domain handpump.