How Solar Power is Bringing Water to Rural Tanzania

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Drone footage of the solar panels in the village of Mdilu in Singida, Tanzania

Sustainable access to safe water is critical to the health and economy of rural communities in Tanzania. In the past, many communities have seen water systems fall into disrepair because of high costs and limited capacity to maintain and repair them. Solar power is creating new opportunities to provide rural Tanzanians with safe, affordable water.

In June of 2018, the Water for Development Alliance, a partnership between The Coca-Cola Foundation and USAID, collaborated with The Ohio State University’s Global Water Institute, Waterboys, WorldServe International, and their local Tanzanian partner Majitech, to deliver sustainable water access to over 70,000 rural Tanzanians. The project, WADA Tanzania: Entrepreneurship for Resilient Village Water Systems, in collaboration with the Ministry of Water, will empower communities to use solar-powered water systems to access safe water and establish maintenance and financial plans to sustain the water systems.

A year into the project, the team is making progress toward increasing access to sustainable water across the rural villages. Each village will receive a solar-powered water system and training for a private water operator, selected from the village, to run the system. The solar-powered system replaces expensive water pumps powered by either diesel fuel or electricity. The costs to run the pumps are high, and availability of either fuel or electricity can be intermittent, which limits the village’s ability to access a sufficient water supply. Working with the community to install and operate the solar-powered water systems will improve the village’s self-reliance. A more sustainable and reliable water supply can increase economic and new business opportunities. Through June 2019, the team successfully installed complete systems, including boreholes, solar-powered pumps, solar panels, and well monitors in six villages.

For each system installed, the village owns the infrastructure and receives technical training from Majitech to operate and maintain the system. Each water system includes a solar panel and a Lorentz pump. The private water operator charges a nominal fee per user for 20 liters of water to cover the system’s capital replacement and maintenance costs. The operator customizes the capacity of the pump and the position of the solar arrays based on the groundwater flow rate. In addition, sensors and data modems are installed at each well to allow for remote monitoring. This locally managed system and its financial viability ensure village ownership and self-reliance.

There are many benefits to this collaborative approach with local partners. For example, this approach allows for collaboration on maintenance and troubleshooting if there are technical issues. The sensor will indicate the amount of water pumped and can provide visibility on private water operator and the village council’s finances and profitability. Additionally, the sensors measure groundwater levels so that the government and academic team can monitor recharge rates over time.

The system and the approach to implementing it address previous failures in rural water service delivery. It combines solar-powered water systems with multi-year maintenance support while accounting for the need to sustain the system with economic stability. Together, this presents a new paradigm for village water systems that can support the health and self-reliance of rural Tanzanians.

This story was developed in collaboration with WADA Alliance partners and may be posted or reprinted by these partners.

Last updated: October 26, 2020

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