To address problems of inadequate access to clean water in Mkutani, Tanzania, the Boston Professional and MIT student chapters installed a solar-powered pump in August as the second part of a three-phase water supply project.
Mkutani is a village with a population of around 3,000. When they began a partnership with EWB-Boston Professional Chapter (BPC) in 2012, the villagers had three main sources of water, none of which were particularly optimal: they could gather water from the highly polluted river nearby, purchase water from neighboring farms at unsustainable prices, or dig wells by hand, an arduous and dangerous task. In response, BPC designed a three-phase water supply project meant to introduce a sustainable water source with increased ease of access. Implementation of the project began in 2016 by digging a borehole and installing a hand pump 3 kilometers away from Mkutani, at a site determined by a hydrogeologic survey.
When the MIT student chapter joined BPC to work on the Mkutani project the following year, an assessment trip concluded that the hand pump was not a long-term solution to Mkutani’s inability to access potable water and its corresponding demand. In addition to its distance from the village center, the hand pump was difficult to manage by the people in the village, especially the elderly, and provided very little water in return for the amount of work that was being done. After excessive use, the hand pump proved to be prone to mechanical failures and eventually burdened the village with its high repair costs. Even after installation of the hand pump, obtaining drinking water still had to be complemented by other water sources.
After analyzing the potential alternatives – switching to a pump powered by gas, diesel, or solar power – the chapters decided to a solar-powered pump, a solution which would minimize recurring costs and which the villagers had shown interest in during the assessment trip.
The solar pump was installed in an implementation trip in August. To do so, the hand pump was removed and replaced with a solar pump, powered by six solar panels. Water from the well was pumped to and stored in a local tank, which sat atop a tank stand constructed by a local supplier. Finally, a tap stand was connected to the tank, and security fencing built to enclose the entire system. Preliminary testing indicated sufficient flow from the tap stand, and the entire system was functioning at expected efficiency.
To promote sustainability and longevity of the pumping system, chapter members conducted training sessions throughout the duration of the trip on its operation, maintenance, and monitoring. The new solar pump should be more robust and less prone to breaking than the hand pump, and provide easier access to water for the residents of Mkutani.
In phase 3, the goal will be to further increase accessibility through a distribution system that decreases or eliminates the 3-kilometer distance between the pump and the village. Additional solar panels can be appended to the existing pumping system for additional power if needed, and several alternatives for the distribution system will be considered, including a hilltop tank and an additional generator.