Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The rope pump, a local solution

New year, new post. Here at El Porvenir, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Well and rope pump in Puente Ocho, Sauce, Nicaragua, photo credit: Nile Sprague

El Porvenir is well-known (where we work in Nicaragua at least) for its hand-dug wells. Even on the machine drilled wells, however, we use the rope pump - the standard for water pumping in rural Nicaragua.

Rope pump in Tule Oriental, Camoapa, Nicaragua, example of a machine drilled well.

The rope pump was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago. Local stories say that the Nicaraguan version of the rope pump was invented by a Belgian technician, Jan Haemhouts, with Nicaraguan campesinos in the early 1980s. The rope pump caught on widely in Nicaragua and is the standard, as mentioned above. The rope pump technology has been exported to India and Africa as well.

What is the rope pump? From ropepumps.org: "The Rope pump consists of a wheel that pulls up an endless rope with cone shaped high precision washers that pass through a PVC pump tube, in this way lifting the water." A picture is worth a thousand words, so this diagram may help: http://www.akvo.org/wiki/index.php/File:Rope_pump_cross_section.jpg

Rope pumps are basically a bicycle wheel with a crank. Photo credit: Nile Sprague

Data from a few years ago showed more than 70,000 rope pumps installed in Nicaragua. Why did it catch on so well? The technology is fairly simple in concept and in fabrication. Thus it is easy to understand and repair. It is cheaper than most handpumps in terms of upfront costs and maintenance. In Nicaragua particularly -since it is our local standard - it is easy to find someone in a community or a nearby community that can repair a rope pump if something needs fixing.

12 year old boy repairing rope pump, photo credit: Lynn Gleason

For El Porvenir, it is part of the sustainability of our projects into the long term. We make sure the people install the rope pump with our staff so they know how to fix it. Parts are available in each rural town. Let us know what you think.

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