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Pedal Power Provides Access to Clean Water

In some parts of rural Sri Lanka, long walks to fetch water from a well or river are part of the daily routine. Clean water is used sparingly for cooking and drinking and in some places the water used for bathing, washing clothes or pots and pans is contaminated and presents health risks. At the Mahawella Tea and Rubber Plantation in Ratnapura, health authorities have declared the runoff and surface water contaminated; some of the wells were not protected sufficiently to avoid being contaminated as well. Some of the people who live and work for the estate, especially on the higher hill slopes, began to suffer high rates of diarrhea and stomach ailments, diminishing their daily income through incapacitation by illness.

Searching for solutions to improve access to clean water at Mahawella, the management came across a simple yet innovative device called the SolarPedalflo. Developed by the U.S. based Moving Water Industries (MWI), the equipment was identified by Energy Management Services (EMS) Sri Lanka, during a USAID-sponsored visit to the Water Environment Federation Annual Exhibition.

USAID was instrumental in promoting a partnership between MWI and EMS, and also provided a technology promotion grant through the Council of State Governments to sponsor an MWI engineer to install and test the SolarPedalflo. Through USAID sponsorship, SolarPedalflo was introduced, providing much-needed clean water to the Mahawella estate community.

The SolarPedalflo is a solar powered water pump with back-up “pedal” power, much like a bicycle, to be used when solar power is not available. The solar panels produce 350 watts of energy, lifting up to 300 gallons of water per hour from a depth of 40-45 meters to elevated storage tanks. The unit comes with an automatic dechlorinator to destroy viral and bacterial contamination, as well as micron filters that remove impurities. Placed on top of the well, the unit protects it from the contaminated run-off water. It is best suited for areas with high rainfall and cloud cover, or remote areas that do not have pipe-borne water or grid electricity.

“The pump has made our lives so much easier. Our children aren’t getting sick as often since the pump arrived.”
– Valli Moganum, young mother who previously spent much of her days fetching water

A committee has been set up to manage the “affairs of the pump” in an open forum. The estate management has been supportive and works closely with the community to ensure that the operations are carried out successfully. A fee of Rs. 10 per month is collected from the users to meet maintenance costs, a small price to pay for the privilege of a constant supply of accessible, clean water. More than 350 estate workers and their families have benefited from the improved access to a regular clean source of water from the two taps connected to two tanks set up practically in their backyards.

USAID/US-AEP assistance allowed Sri Lanka to introduce new technology that not only proved suitable but also helped to develop and implement a community managed investment recovery mechanism that ensures sustainability.solarpedalfloCROP

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Clean Drinking Water Is A Lifesaver In Mali

Konodimini had serious potable water problems. For years, five small pumps served a village of 3,500. Half the time the pumps were broken. Even when all five pumps were working, they were never able to produce enough clean drinking water for the entire village, or irrigate vegetable gardens that were an important food source. Each neighborhood guarded its pump jealously. When the pump broke, they had to ask another neighborhood to help them out and the request was not always granted when water was scarce. There was bickering over water, and it divided the people in the village.

Effective and transparent governance was a problem, particularly when it came to managing the water supply. In Mali, lack of clean drinking water leads to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhea – which is the second highest cause of death among infants. Many villages in this mostly desert country were experiencing the same kind of drinking water problems. In Mali, 113 out of every 1000 infants die before their first birthday.

To help address its water challenges, USAID formed a partnership with Moving Water Industries, the West African Water Initiative (WAWI), the Government of Mali, and local community leaders to provide an adequate and reliable supply of potable water to villages desperately in need.

USAID invested over $490,000 and secured over $570,000 more from private industry, non-governmental organizations and the government of Mali in a public-private alliance to help bring clean drinking water to over 48,000 rural Malians. The money is used to work with villages in introducing a new, sturdier kind of water pump powered by the sun or villagers’ own feet: the SolarPedalflo.
When the people of Konodimini were told that the village would be an active participant in not only installing but also managing the new pump, they readily agreed. Konodimini immediately formed an oversight committee, comprised of both men and women, that would take responsibility for the proper functioning and maintenance of the pump. They drafted bylaws, established a price-per-bucket policy, and identified when certain groups would have access to the pump – for example, women in early morning and at dusk.

The pump provides enough water for 600 people a day (at 20 liters per person) -that’s three to four times the amount of water from one borehole that a hand pump can produce.
USAID expects diarrhea in the village to be reduced by 90%.

The SolarPedalFlo pump unites village and empowers people to manage safe, reliable water. This was the first time that the entire village actually put together a management plan -they were in fact governing. Two men, who hadn’t spoken to each other in years, were serving on the oversight committee together and were talking. Pride replaced jealousy. The pump united the village. With the much increased, reliable water flow, the women decided to greatly expand their vegetable garden from just a small plot to a full hectare. The garden provides an excellent source of nutritious food for the village. The surplus vegetables are sold in a nearby market. The proceeds will pay for school fees, medical supplies and more seeds.