Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

James R. Mihelcic


EMAS handpump, Madagascar, Rope Pump, self-supply, sub-Saharan Africa



Self-supply is widely reported across various contexts, filling gaps left by other forms of water supply provision. This research assesses low-cost household groundwater supply technologies in markets in developing country contexts of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, with a focus on the potential for improving Self-supply technology implementation and markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, a mature and unsubsidized Self-supply market for Pitcher Pump systems (suction pumps fitted onto hand-driven boreholes) is studied in an urban context in Madagascar, EMAS low-cost water supply technologies are assessed in Bolivia, and a technical comparison is completed with manual EMAS Pumps and family versions of the Rope Pump in Uganda.

In Madagascar, locally manufactured Pitcher Pump systems are widely provided by the local private sector, enabling households to access shallow groundwater. This market has developed over several decades, reaching a level of maturity and scale, with 9000 of these systems estimated to be in use in the eastern port city of Tamatave. The market is supplied by more than 50 small businesses that manufacture and install the systems at lower cost (US$35-100) than a connection to the piped water supply system. Mixed methods are used to assess the performance of the Pitcher Pump systems and characteristics of the market. Discussion includes a description of the manufacturing process and sales network that supply Pitcher Pump systems, environmental health concerns related to water quality, pump performance and system management.

The research additionally considers the potential of EMAS low-cost household water supply technologies in accelerating Self-supply in sub-Saharan Africa, and consists of a field assessment of EMAS groundwater supply systems (handpumps on manually-driven boreholes) and rainwater harvesting systems as used at the household level in Bolivia, focusing on user experiences and the medium/long-term sustainability of the pump (cost, functionality, etc.).

The EMAS Pump is a low-cost manual water-lifting device appropriate for use at the household level. Developed in the 1980s, the EMAS Pump has been marketed extensively for local manufacture and use at the household level in Bolivia, and marketed to a lesser extent in other developing countries (mainly in South and Central America). The simple design of the EMAS Pump, using materials commonly found locally in developing countries, allows for it to be fabricated in many rural developing community contexts. Its capability for pumping from significant depths to heights above the pump head makes it quite versatile (e.g. for pumping to household tanks, reservoirs at higher elevations, or for installing multiple pumps on wells). A survey/inspection of 79 EMAS Pumps on household water supply systems in areas of three regions of Bolivia (La Paz, Santa Cruz and Beni regions) showed nearly all EMAS Pumps (78 out of 79) to be operational. 85% of these operational pumps were found to be functioning normally, including 72% that were reported to have been installed eleven or more years earlier. It is shown that rural households in Bolivia are able to maintain EMAS Pumps. The EMAS Pump can be installed and repaired by local technicians, and numerous examples were seen of small groups of local technicians that operate small businesses installing and repairing such systems. The cost of a new EMAS Pump was reported by users to be US$ 30-45. Maintenance and repair costs of the EMAS Pump were found to be reasonable, with pump valve replacement (the repair most commonly reported by users) costing an average of US$9 (materials and labor).

The Rope Pump has some similar attributes to the EMAS Pump, in that it is can be made locally from materials commonly available in developing communities, it has a relatively low cost, and is simple to understand. The Rope Pump is well-known among international rural water supply professionals, and thus serves as a good baseline to compare the lesser-known EMAS Pump. A technical comparison completed in Uganda of the EMAS Pump and the Rope Pump considered performance (flow rates and energy expended, pumping from various depths), material costs, and requirements for local manufacture. The study concluded that, based on its relative low-cost (material costs ranging from 21-60% that of the family Rope Pump, dependent on depth and pumping pipe size), similar technical performance to the Rope Pump when pumping from a range of depths, and the minimal resources needed to construct it, the EMAS Pump has potential for success in household water supply systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Combined with the conclusion from the research in Bolivia, it is believed that there is considerable potential for the EMAS Pump as a low-cost option for Self-supply systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

Recommendations for further research focus on: (1) improvements to the Pitcher Pump system (focusing on reducing risk of water contamination); (2) formative research to identify factors that have led to the sustainability of the Pitcher Pump market in eastern Madagascar, and (3) development of the Self-Supply Market in Madagascar beyond Pitcher Pump systems.