We started with water, but there’s more we can do.
As we work toward our goal of installing 1,000 LifePumps to impact 500,000 people with safe water and the Gospel, our Research & Development team continues to develop new and innovative ways to give those living in poverty hope, dignity, and the possibility of a better life.
“The Design Outreach R&D team—staff, fellows, and volunteers—faced enormous challenges this year due to the shortages and interruptions caused in the supply chain. I am so proud of how our team not only persevered through these challenges and relentlessly sought out solutions but also continued to invest in our new project areas. We thank God for how He continuously provides resources to develop innovative, appropriate, and life-sustaining technologies for marginalized and low-income communities.” –Abe Wright, CTO and Co-founder
In 2022, supply chain disruptions and high rates of inflation resulted in significant increases in material costs—in some cases, by more than 50%. To keep LifePump affordable, our engineers got to work on our LifePump Cost Reduction project. The team is exploring replacing stainless-steel riser pipes in shallower wells with heavy-wall PVC, which could reduce LifePump material costs without sacrificing the technology’s durability and longevity. The team is analyzing and lab testing these new components while field testing with partners who have over 20 years of experience using PVC pipes. In the meantime, LifePumpLink continues to demonstrate 99% functionality—proof that LifePump truly is changing the status quo.
Our remote monitoring technology helps ensure that LifePump communities never experience a day without water. In 2022, we expanded the capabilities of our LifePumpLink online dashboard and mobile app, which provides staff and partners with real-time pump usage data and actionable alerts right on their mobile devices. We developed a community assessment module that allows field staff to gather key data, photos, and testimonials from a community to determine if LifePump is the best fit for their water needs. This new capability also ensures that assessments are available to our global team in real time—a tool that helps us get safe water to communities quicker than ever.
In 2022, supply chain disruptions made it impossible for us to access the bronze needed to produce the handles for LifeTap, DO’s self-closing valve designed to withstand heavy wear and prevent water waste and leakage at community tap stands. But our team did not give up. Demonstrating DO’s commitment to innovation and transforming communities despite impossible odds, we redesigned LifeTap’s handle so production could continue without using bronze.
Recognizing the need for sustainable, affordable latrines as a vital step in alleviating poverty, Design Outreach has been working to develop a safe, reliable, reusable, and affordable latrine technology. In 2022, our team of experts made significant design breakthroughs for LifeLatrine and developed new prototypes, which include a design that eliminates the need for a floor slab, one the most expensive items of a latrine. The prototypes continue to evolve, and the team is currently testing newer ideas at DO’s facility in Sunbury, Ohio.
This LifePump upgrade allows a solar-powered electric motor to be added to LifePump to provide a higher flow rate to meet increased demands in growing communities. In 2022, the autoLifePump team continued to conduct endurance testing to document the technology’s reliability and longevity while researching the ever-changing solar pumping market to ensure we are meeting community needs in the best way possible. These autoLifePump test units also allow us to complete lifecycle testing on other product development efforts such as the new PVC riser pipes, providing critical feedback before we install new components in the field.
Afridev/ India Mark II Hand Pump Upgrades
Around the world, an estimated 1 billion people rely on traditional hand pumps such as Afridev or India Mark II (IMII) for their daily water needs. In fact, over 4 million hand pumps have been installed in Africa, Asia, and India over the last 20 years. While LifePump is critical for communities that are remote, have large populations with high water demand, or where the water table is deep, traditional hand pump technologies are often an appropriate solution in smaller communities with shallower wells. In 2022, Design Outreach kicked off a new project to develop upgrade kits to bring the Afridev and IMII hand pumps up to standard. The kits will improve the reliability of these pumps by increasing the maintenance interval from 6 months to about 2 years. This will provide a cost-effective way to minimize the financial burden of continual maintenance and reduce the frequency of breakdowns so even more people can have access to safe water.
For more information on DO’s technologies, visit tech.doutreach.org.