Stepping Up

March 5, 2015
Pumping solutions for disaster relief & rural living

About the author: Keith Teichmann is director of innovative networks and marketing for Xylem Inc. Teichmann can be reached at [email protected] or 978.282.5214.

A personal water system is not just a handy thing to have; it is of the utmost importance when disaster strikes or for those embracing a self-sufficient lifestyle.

In the absence of fossil fuels or electricity, water extraction capabilities and a means to move water to where it is needed can be a logistical challenge. A portable, human-powered pump can be a crucial piece of equipment in the event of a natural disaster or in rural areas that lack electricity or other power sources.

One such pump is the Saajhi stepping pump, a portable, human-powered foot pump that requires no fossil fuels, electrical connections or standing power supply, making it a net-zero product. Originally developed for subsistence farmers in rural India, Africa, Asia and South America, it is adaptable across multiple environments, from in-home water management and dewatering flooded areas to drip systems for rural farming where there is no infrastructure for water. 

Essence of Life

For those living a rural lifestyle or seeking backup in the event of disaster, a stepping pump is ideal for dewatering, farming, gardening and providing simple water infrastructure.

When deciding to live in a remote area, you need to consider your ability to abstract water without installed infrastructure. You might position yourself close to running water or dig a well, but you will still need to bring the water to your residence. Stepping pumps are designed for removing water from boreholes, wells, ponds, streams and canals, then moving it to elevated storage at the point of use. It is an efficient form of water abstraction not reliant on electricity or fossil fuels. 

Disaster Relief

If you live in a region prone to flooding caused by rain or hurricanes, there is also a high probability of electricity loss with no access to fossil fuels. Even if you have fuel backups and a portable generator, these supplies may be exhausted within a few days. If a sump pump fails, the stepping pump can efficiently pump water from flooded areas when the grid goes down. It is lightweight, portable, self-priming and able to withstand drops, kicks, weather, high-salinity water and other extreme factors. 

With floods and droughts responsible for the great majority of natural disasters during the last decade of the 20th century—86%, according to the World Health Organization—having a non-electrical backup plan might mean the difference between survival and collapse. 

Those seeking shelter in a sub-ground structure will need to consider dewatering solutions as well, because water is extremely invasive and can find its way into even the most well-constructed sub-ground facilities. You also will have to consider water extraction methods. Your fallback system must have the capability to not only abstract water when power fails, but also provide enough dynamic head to lift the water out and away from your substructure. 

Farmer’s Friend

A rural lifestyle often includes producing your own food through growing vegetables or raising livestock. As proven and tested in the difficult conditions of developing countries, stepping pumps can help in watering small cropping fields or tending to livestock. It can be connected directly to sprayers, micro-sprinklers and drip kits to effectively disseminate the water pumped, bridging the gap between purely manual solutions and motorized solutions while providing efficient water management. Having a method of providing water to livestock that is not near water sources can help avoid contamination of your water supply.

Human factors were a prime consideration in the design of the pump. The ergonomic design leverages the weight of the entire body—not just the arms, like with a hand pump—and gravity to move water, which puts the least amount of strain and stress on the operator. In addition, its parts are completely modular and it requires no tools for serviceability, maximizing efficiency in the field.

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About the Author

Keith Teichmann

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