UPGro Impact: Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda issues new directive and guidance on handpump materials, and suppliers respond [D2]


The SDGs aim for universal access to safely managed water services – a hugely ambitious target for many African countries. In 2015, only 25% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) had access to safely managed water services, and the majority (34%) remain reliant on basic services [1].

In SSA, basic services (typically community groundwater supplies) are likely to remain the main source of improved water supplies for decades to come. Developing an improved understanding of the functionality of these supplies remains, therefore, a priority.

Handpump failure across Sub-Saharan Africa is well documented and anecdotally, through the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN), it has been known for decades that corrosion is a widespread problem [3]. However, policy action has hampered by lack of rigorous evidence to substantiate the claims of practitioners.

In Uganda, the most commonly used standard handpump (an India Mark II variant called the U2) is largely made from galvanised iron, which is prone to corrosion in aggressive groundwater found in many parts of the country.

UPGro activities and impact

UPGro Hidden Crisis research conducted in Uganda in 2014-15 revealed the high rate of pump corrosion to the poorly galvanised iron pipes used for boreholes installation.

The consortium phase of Hidden Crisis has enabled WaterAid to deliver this message to the key stakeholders that can effect change to reduce the problem of corrosion.

Presentations of research results in national working groups and coordination meetings at the district levels with the Ministry of Water and Environment, has succeeded in gathering sufficient momentum behind the issue of pump corrosion and use of inappropriate materials for boreholes installation.

As a direct result of this work the Government of Uganda has passed national directives: against the use of easily corroded materials (Galvanised iron pipes) for boreholes installation and the use of more robust materials (Stainless steel and UPVC); and to change the way that drilling contracts are let from lump sum contracts to a bill of quantities to help monitor costs in the industry with the aim of improving quality.

Hidden Crisis findings informed new MWE guidance for high quality boreholes drilling and pump installation generally and includes specific guidance on corrosion-resistant materials [5 – pages 19/20].

WaterAid staff have reported that the major suppliers in Kampala have largely replaced their Galvanised Iron (GI) stocks with stainless steel.

References and Links
  1. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme
  2. Foster T., S G. Furey, B. Banks. (2018). “Non-functional handpump water supplies in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia-Pacific: How big is the problem?” Int. J.l of Water Res. Studies
  3. Furey S. G. (2019) Handpumps: where now? A synthesis of online discussions (2012-2014) -##2019 UPDATE## , Skat Foundation, RWSN, St Gallen, Switzerland
  4. Ministry of Water & Environment (2016) “Re: USE OF GALVANISED IRON (GI) PIPES FOR RURAL WATER SUPPLY INSTALLATION“, Open Letter, 31 November 2016
  5. Ministry of Water & Environment (2019) Technical Specification Drilling, Test pumping , Pump Installation and Associated Works, MWE/CONS/16-17/00024/1
  6. Owor, et al (2019) Physical factors contributing to rural water supply functionality performance in Uganda. 
  8. Ministry of Water & Environment (2016) THE 8th JOINT GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA – DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS SECTOR REVIEW 2014 AGREED MINUTES, pages 11/12 Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda 2014 Sector Performance Report (accessed in 2016 but pre-2015 SPRs have been removed from the MWE website)


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