Since my last post in late November, we have made large strides in our implementation of a ram pump to provide drinking water to the Palmera Xolhuitz cooperative. Ram pumps deliver water using no electricity or other fuel and need little to no maintenance.
A schematic of a basic ram pump system from Appropedia
An overview of ram pump technology can be found here: http://www.appropedia.org/Hydraulic_ram_pumps. In a nutshell, a ram pump uses the kinetic energy in the downhill flow of water to move a small amount of it uphill.
We started the water project in mid January. During our first visit we delivered all of the pipes, cement and tools. Over a 2 day stretch, the community provided us with skilled labor and constructed the small dam, which diverts water from the stream to the PVC water pipeline.
They also helped us lay PVC pipe over an 80 meter run, from the dam to the 55 gallon drive tank. The drive tank ensures a constant volume of water and pressure for the ram pump.
One of Palmera Xolhuitz’ residents who helped dig a 80 meter channel on a hillside.
55 gallon drive tank
We returned the following week to lay the galvanized pipe drive line, which moves water from the drive tank to the ram pump.
Onto the next phase: construction of the concrete base around the pump. Ram pumps vibrate. To prevent this vibration from causing breakages, the pump needs to be fixed securely to the area where they operate. Once the community had completed the base as well as anti-erosion measures, we returned to install the pump and commission it.
Don Chepe ponders the ram pump, aka Juan Martillo
With little coaxing, the pump fired up immediately and started moving substantial volumes of water. With 8 meters of drive head behind it, we were pumping around 15 liters/minute to well over 40 meters up on the hillside. Over a 24 hour period this will be over 20,000 liters of water serving roughly 20 homes within the community.
I immediately noticed ways to improve our design and will continue refining the installation until my departure in mid-March. The site and install will continue to serve as the AIDG test pump as we determine the optimal configuration for valves and observe the pump over a longer period of use. I am sure the next volunteer will be as enamored by the people and landscape of this wonderful community as I was!