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Caption:Kahumuza Stewart, 40 and Baguma Robert, handpump mechanics, repairing the Rukondwa Primary School borehole, Masindi district, November 2020.
Credit:WaterAid/ James Kiyimba
Usage Rights:(1) Images may be used for all purposes, globally, in perpetuity. Images may be used by third parties.
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Key Information:Project Title: Hand Pump Improvement Plan
Hidden Crisis: unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply

Location: Masindi District, Uganda

Project partner: N/A

Donor: Conrad Hilton Newton Foundation

Project code: UGJS4N10

Project status: Mid intervention
Background Information:Project Information
The handpump improvement research is piloted in Masinda district, which is located in the mid-western part of Uganda, 216 kms from the capital city, Kampala. The study is testing the UPVC (plastic) pipes on six U2 hand pumps for one year to see how the new technology works, and if successful can be scaled up.

This time around we are visiting the district at the end of the pilot to make a technical evaluation of the UPVC riser pipes technology in the handpumps. The evaluation entailed pulling all the UPVC pipes out of the pump to see how they have behaved in the last 12 months. This project aligns with WaterAid’s vision and mission as it will make a positive contribution to improving handpump water quality in corrosion prone areas and to reducing the cost of water supply service implementation through provision of cheaper (but high quality) pump riser pipes.
Project Information:Background Information

For the last 12 months, WaterAid Uganda with support from the Conrad Hilton Newton Foundation has been piloting an action research aimed at improving the functionality of handpumps, by changing the riser pipe from galvanised iron (GI) pipes to un-plasticised poly vinyl chloride (UPVC) plastic pipes. GI pipes are greatly affected by corrosion which leads to pipes developing holes and leakages as well as affecting the water quality especially when the water becomes brown and smelly. This poor water quality makes users revert to alternative, potentially unsafe sources with high microbiological risk. The solution to this would be to use stainless steel pipes but these pipes are very costly and heavy to install in deep wells. For example, a three-metre stainless steel pipe currently costs 175,000 Uganda shillings but the UPVC plastic pipe of the same length costs only 30,000 shillings. It is therefore much more cost effective to use the UPVC as compared to stainless steel.

The research team came up with an innovation of using heavy duty plastic pipes which don’t corrode. This technology is piloted in six selected handpumps in Masindi District, which are installed with UPVC riser pipes and left to be used by the community for a year. UPVC pipes has an added advantage because they can be locally manufactured in Uganda.
Interview:Interview details: Kahumuza Stewart, 40, handpump mechanic, Masindi District Local Government, Uganda

Pull out quote: “Handpumps fitted with plastic riser pipes are easy to work with. We can tighten or loosen the pipes with our mere hands and plastic pipes do not create leakages in the joints because their threads do not wear out like in GI pipes.”

Story summary

Kahumuza Stewart is an experienced handpump mechanic in the district. He has been involved in the project since its inception.


My name is Kahumuza Stewart, I recently made 40 years of age. I work with Masindi District Local Government in the department of water and sanitation. I’m also a handpump mechanic.

For the last 12 months I have been involved in the handpump improvement project, where we are replacing UPVC (plastic) pipes in six boreholes which previously had galvanised Iron (GI) riser pipes. In this project we are responding to a number of challenges that accrue due to the use of GI pipes.

Challenges with GI pipes
Galvanised iron pipes easily rust and develop holes thereby affecting the quality of water. Very often corrosion of pipes leads them to develop holes and thereafter the total breakdown of the borehole. GI pipes require a lot of labour when installing or removing pipes during repair, they also require several tools when removing pipes, these tools are not only heavy to carry but they are also costly for each handpump mechanic to own. Plastic pipes on the contrary require few tools and can be fixed by two handpump mechanics.

Role in the project

In this project, I’m the coordinator of all hand pump mechanics involved in the project. For 12 months, we have been assessing how the selected boreholes fitted with plastic riser pipes have performed as compared to when they had GI pipes. Our conclusion is that plastic pipes have a lot of advantages as compared to GI riser pipes and the community love them.

Lessons from the project

One important lesson is that as compared to GI, plastic riser pipes are easy to fix because they are light and require less tools. UPVC pipes, however, should only be installed in boreholes not more than 42 m deep.

Since plastic pipes do not corrode, it is evident that the use of UPVC pipes in the six boreholes has greatly contributed to improving water quality and quantity. Boreholes which previously had brown water after installing UPVC pipes, the water is no longer brown and does not smell.

Handpumps with plastic riser pipes are easy to pump, even kids are able to collect water with ease because the pump is soft while pumping. The cylinders we are using in the plastic pumps are very light and soft which makes pumping also very soft.

Technology assessment
All in all, handpumps fitted with plastic riser pipes are easy to work with. We can tighten or loosen the pipes with our mere hands and plastic pipes do not create leakages in the joints because their threads do not wear out like in GI pipes. As a hand pump mechanic, the use of plastic pipes makes my work easy. I do not have to move around with a heavy toolbox when on routine monitoring of boreholes as is the case with GI fitted hand pumps.

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