16 November 2008

The Bore hole Pump

Water comes from deep in Macha. In this area boreholes are over 70 meters deep. The yields are low, apparently due to the rock formations in the ground. Boreholes often run dry. Continuity of water supply in rural Macha is a challenge, with today a miraculous saving of our single bore hole and pump at Ubuntu Campus.

We had to drill three boreholes, to find one yielding water - rated 1.5 ltr/second - 60 meters deep at Ubuntu Campus. Costs of drilling one bore hole range between EUR 4.000 and 8,000 depending on the supplier and relocation costs of the drilling rig.

Our 1 horsepower bore hole pump - costing about EUR 1,500 one year ago, excluding transport costs - stopped working about one month ago. Diagnosis at Macha: burned engine. Result: no water at Ubuntu Campus. While hauling drinking water in all kind of barrels and jars from MIAM Campus to Ubuntu Campus, I made a trip to Lusaka with the pump for assessment (transport cost USD 800). The diagnosis was confirmed: a burned engine due to stuck pump as the pump was worn out. As we have ran 'dry' in more then one aspect, I bought with our private funds the only available a new 1.5 horsepower engine with pump at the Lusaka supplier at that moment of time and took it to Macha.

Upon assembling the pump and pipes, and lowering in the bore hole, it was found that our two operational generators were not strong enough for the new pump. Fine tuning the voltage from a newly arrived generator took an other couple of days.

After a few minutes of pumping the new bore hole pump stopped working. The electronics became hot and the pump needed to be stopped. No water was flowing. Assessment by experts from Lusaka by phone: wiring mistake. Thus our chief technician Lemmie Muleya took the Thursday plane from ABFA-MACHA Aerodrome to Lusaka with pump, engine, electronics and all 100 meters of wiring. That same day it was assessed that the wiring was OK, however the pump was full with mud drawn during the short exercise. After cleaning of the pump Lemmie took the whole assembly back to Macha by taxi in Lusaka, bus from Lusaka to Choma, and taxi from Choma to Macha. He arrived home at 02.00 hours.

Friday morning the cleaned, new pump with the well tuned generator was pumping from a higher position and water filled the tank at Maanzi Office (Maanzi = Water). After 15 minutes the bore hole already ran dry and the pump had to be switched off.

Again the whole assembly came out yesterday. With the pump lower it worked well for 10 minutes, after which water stopped flowing again.

Now in crisis - as users were out of water again during days of all most 40 degrees - relatio assured 10 persons to work on the bore hole site this Sunday morning. Disaster really struck when the nylon pulling rope - reaching the surface while attached to the pump - broke! The sisable rope was possibly weakened by a year hanging under water in the bore hole. Now the pump with about 20 meters of 40 mm diameter poly-pipe, full with water, was hanging on a three-core electricity cable only. At this time I was requested to be at the scene.

I saw a hugely strained electricity cable holding a load of tens of kilograms, with the poly pipe about 10 meters in the bore hole. The risks were huge: loosing the bore hole pump and the bore hole itself, as the assembly would clog up the usable range of the borehole.

Well, there were no alternatives. Thus we started pulling the three-core electricity cable. At least five men carefully pulled the heavy load. When the pipe came in sight the wire started to slip, and it felt near that the whole would disappear into the deep bore hole. We blocked the cable and reviewed the options. There were none, so the corporate decision was to keep pulling. Apparently 'down there' something got some grip, and higher the pump came, and then the electricity cable felt to slip again.

Against all logic, we kept pulling and miraculously the poly-pipe now appeared from the bore hole. When it was half way out, we noticed the electricity wire had come completely loose from the pump and was entangled a bunch of 2,5 mm2 earth wire. Further pulling that bundle out we noticed that the bundle also had entangled with the remaining nylon rope. In the end only the rope pulled the load.

Although there are still many obstacles to overcome before we have water running again - eg where and when to get new nylon rope and a role of class 6 40 mm poly-pipe - at the time this morning that all was over, it took over 15 minutes for the adrenaline in my body to settle to normal levels. Elation of the miracle of saving the bore hole lingered much longer.