We are excited to announce Global Partners’ first fully solar borehole project is complete! Today, all of the children at Luora primary and secondary schools and their families have access to a reliable source of clean water, and the students have stable new latrines with handwashing stations nearby.
Our team embraces the idea that necessity is the mother of invention, and they are constantly working to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of our projects, even when it means moving out of their comfort zone.
In October 2018, Festus Juma, Country Coordinator, and Joseph Ochieng, Technical Lead, hit their first dry borehole since joining GPFD four years ago. They were devastated, but they knew that drilling boreholes is never an exact science, and they set to work on a solution. With the health of 1,094 students and 9,665 community members on their minds, they continued their water mapping and stakeholders’ analyses. When water was finally discovered on land donated by a neighbor of the school, the borehole was far away from any existing power lines, and the Kenyan team had an idea (imagine solar-powered lightbulbs over their heads).
Before implementation, there were many conversations about the pros and cons associated with using solar in rural areas of western Kenya. We engaged U.S.- and East Africa-based program managers and engineers in the debate, weighing obvious pros like environmental sustainability and low operating costs with more indirect cons like the potential for maintenance issues if local engineers were not equipped to fix problems associated with the new technology. Ultimately, we connected with an acclaimed East African company called Davis & Shirtliff that had begun manufacturing solar products in Kenya and had all the means necessary to maintain the systems over time. Other project sustainability concerns were mitigated by the fact that our team provides full operating and maintenance trainings to newly established local Water Committees and follows up every six months for five years to ensure communities have access to good technical advice.
Global Partners looks forward to continuing to implement solar systems in the future as we continuously improve both community and environmental sustainability one project at a time.
Read on for more on Luora from our team in Kenya!
Site Details from Festus Juma, Country Coordinator, Kenya:
Luora Primary school is one of the oldest schools in the region, having been constructed in the early 1950’s by the colonial government. The school has been expanding to absorb the ever-increasing population and started the secondary school to enable pupils whose parents cannot afford schools in far off areas to acquire secondary school education near home.
Before GPFD arrived, both schools and the community relied on a stream and ponds that were available only during rains and dried up quickly. Community members would buy water during the dry season that was ferried by motor bikes for cooking and drinking needs. The school’s latrines were in a pathetic situation, since all were nearly filled up, with risky slabs made of wood and open spaces forming on the floors. During our assessment, the existing toilets were rated as ‘condemned’, as they posed extreme danger to the pupils. Because the local soils are prone to collapse, this school had resorted to digging shallow, impermanent pits that filled up after short periods of use, so the school’s compound was littered with abandoned pits.
Through the challenges we met during the Luora Borehole Project, one learns that achievements and success take patience, consistency and a vision. It is these three virtues that kept us going even after striking a dry well at 200M!
Technical Details from Joseph Ochieng, Technical Lead, Kenya:
The new Luora Water Supply System utilizes a borehole equipped with a submersible pump that is powered by solar. The system is designed to ensure potable water is available to the three stakeholders targeted, namely Luora Primary School (822 pupils), Luora Secondary School (272 pupils), and the surrounding community (9,665 villagers) who will tap from the potable drinking water source.
The water supply infrastructure consists of:
- Machine-drilled borehole at a depth of 105 meters, developed using steel casings of 6” diameter;
- Solar panels installed on a structure that is nine meters high;
- A solar submersible pump installed at 75m deep and protected by low-water-level sensors;
- Elevated steel tower that is six meters tall with one plastic tank with a 10,000 liter capacity;
- One community water point with two taps;
- Distribution pipelines laid from the tank to school water points that enable reticulation of the clean and potable water to both schools and targeted community members through gravity.
Notes on the technologies applied:
- The borehole was drilled using a rotary drilling machine and equipped using a submersible pump that is provided with sensors to indicate low water levels in the borehole to protect the pump from running dry.
- Power supply is via solar energy, of which 10 solar panels and a control system have been installed at the borehole site.
- A rising main line PPR pipe of 1 ¼ ‘’ diameter supplies water from the borehole to the elevated tank to enable gravity reticulation to the various water points.
- All water points are connected via water meters to ensure all the partners can account for their use in order to equitably divide costs for operations and maintenance among users.
- The overhead tank is provided to provide storage for off-peak periods, so it is essential that the tanks in school remain full first and replenished whenever pumping is undertaken
Notes on operations & maintenance:
- The Project Management Committee (PMC) is made up of representatives from the three stakeholders (two schools and the community) and is in charge of the operations, payment collection and management, and daily monitoring of the facility as well as communicating with technical support in case of problems with the system over time.
- The PMC goes through a training to learn the details of the GPFD Operations & Maintenance Manual, so they understand the budget associated with running a borehole system over time, how to thoroughly maintain the system, and who to contact when they encounter technical problems.