A large part of rural India is dependent on hand-operated water pumps, simply called “hand pumps” for their water needs. The hand pumps are low maintenance and work well, but only until the water depth is about 30 meters. Beyond that you would need an electric/diesel pump. But in a remote area, both electricity and diesel would be difficult to find.
The problem is aggravated during summers when the water table recedes. A lot of time and effort is wasted to fetch water manually, and it is the women folk who have to suffer the most.
Sometime back we had reported on the rise of solar pumps in India. Now some of the planned projects have started taking shape and are showing progress. Information available from the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy shows that 50,000 solar pumps have been sanctioned for installation in various states for both irrigation and drinking water applications.
This includes 20,000 solar pumps which will come up in remote rural areas to provide piped drinking water to the residents of as many hamlets across the country. Non availability of electricity in these places otherwise makes it difficult to supply piped water to the households.
The program is essentially a scale up of pilot exercises carried out in a number of districts over a number of year. To begin with a high yield (at least 2000 litres/hour capacity), potable water borewell is selected. It is then fitted with a small solar water pumping system and an elevated tank. The storage tank provides piped water to the doorstep of the households. Best of all, the system does not require any battery and potentially has a long life. In most cases, the borewell already has a hand water pump, which continues to function even after installation of the solar pump.
Some systems also integrate rain water harvesting, while availability of already existing structures helps to reduce the system cost (rooftop solar installation). Even though the system is installed using grant money, it is recommended that the local panchayat (which is the village level elected governing body) collect some small payments for water usage. This helps to keep a check on water wastage as well as build a corpus for future O&M.
The capital cost of the total system for a small village of about 250 inhabitants is about $8000, excluding the cost of water treatment and drilling the borewell. The states have been asked by the central ministry to prepare a list of the beneficiary hamlets. If you would like to read more, an informative presentation from the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) of the Government of Maharashtra, India is available here.
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