“It starts with having a LifePumpTM that beings a source of clean, sustainable water to a community. No longer do women and children have to spend hours and walk miles to get water (often contaminated); now they can go to the village borehole and use the LifePump.
This is the case for Monica, living in western Kenya. She, like so many, struggled to get adequate water for daily needs. When she found a LifePump and the opportunity to have a consistent, trust-worthy source of water, she moved her family and built a new home near a LifePump. She expressed that everything starts with water: homes, health, food, and healthy animals. Not to mention the hours saved by not having to walk miles to find water that can instead be used to focus on studying and furthering her education. She is building a new life thanks to the LifePump.
Because LifePumps are a community’s lifeline, we want to ensure there are zero days without water. DO has been installing LifePumpLinks, satellite-based remote-monitoring systems developed in collaboration with SonSet Solutions. With this new technology, we now can tell how much a pump is being used. In fact, we are seeing that some pumps are being used as much as 20 hours a day! On average, pumps are used 3-5 hours a day, most often in the morning before the blistering sun comes out. However, since they are being used 20 hours a day, long wait lines are expected, which means that some people aren’t getting all of the water they need!
One solution is replacing the LifePump with a traditional electric pump to increase the flow rate and thus the number of people served. Nevertheless, this is costly and relies on electricity, which is often unreliable in these parts. Sadly, communities are left with no other choice but to ration the precious water. DO wanted to help solve this problem and began exploring solutions to improve the LifePump flow rate with a motorized pump that has a manual back-up and thus the seeds of the autoLifePump were planted.
DO visionaries and volunteers worked over the past several years developing ideas to make a motorized pump. Now DO Malawi Field Engineering Director, Hugo Van der Walt and DO Quality Engineer Ray Ehrig have been working with other members of the DO team as well as partner organizations, to prototype and test the first generation of the autoLifePump – a solar powered, manual backup, motor-operated LifePump.
The autoLifePump will be run by an electric motor, powered by a nearby solar array (or grid power). The motor will be connected to one side of the LifePump and will have an on/off switch (ideally a hands-free sensor). It will also have a manual back-up for times when solar or grid power is not available for any reason.
The autoLifePump can be an upgrade option for existing LifePumps to make them more efficient. With up to 4 times the current flow rate, this will reduce the amount of time to get water, which can spur community development such as the ability to install a water tank or piping system to take water directly to homes, schools, and churches.
The next phase of development is extensive testing, which has already started at the Design Outreach testing facility in Sunbury, Ohio, and will continue through this winter in Florida, when freezing temperatures restrict water flow in Ohio. Next year, Hugo and his wife will relocate to Malawi and field test the autoLifePump.
In the not-so-distant future, Monica will be able to get her water faster, perhaps have it piped directly to her house – thanks to people she will likely never meet or know, who wanted to make her life better. This is a great testimony to the God who loves her.