Handpumps Joined at the Hip: Two-for-one or Double Trouble?

Water point data is available from the Gambia for the first time ever with the addition of 161 records. This data was collected as part of a handpump evaluation study that was recently carried out by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (University of Technology Sydney) in partnership with Oxfam.

Below is a guest post analysing this unique data from Tim Foster, researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney and member of the WPDx working group.

An interesting quirk of the rural water supply landscape in the Gambia is the preponderance of handpump ‘twins’.  Throughout the country it is a common sight to see two handpumps installed on the same wide-diameter well.

The original rationale for this approach is unclear, but it seems to have emerged during a large-scale German-funded programme implemented throughout the 1980s and 90s. Two possible explanations come to mind. First, programme planners wished to build-in redundancy, such that when one handpump breaks down, there is a back-up that can be used until repairs are carried out. Second, two handpumps might help alleviate queuing by essentially doubling the discharge capacity of the waterpoint, without the need to construct a second well.

The prevalence of twin handpumps posed some unexpected data collection and analytical questions.  Should a well fitted with two handpumps be considered as one waterpoint or two?  And if it is considered one waterpoint, what is the overall functionality status if one handpump is producing water, and the other is not?  (For the purposes of the WPDx submission, we opted to define each handpump as a single waterpoint). The situation also presents challenges for statistical analysis. Independence of observations is a bedrock assumption for some analytical techniques – but clearly the fate of two handpumps situated on the same well cannot be said to be independent of each other.

That said, the operational performance of the twin waterpoints provides useful insights into the decisions and priorities of water users when it comes to waterpoint operation and maintenance. When analysing handpump functionality, a Mark II pump was twice as likely to be working when it was a single pump installation than if it was part of a pair. Even when defining twin handpumps as one waterpoint, the functionality rate was higher for single installations (68% vs 54%). Notably, only 15% of twin waterpoints had both Mark II handpumps working.

These findings are perhaps unsurprising. The presence of alternative sources is commonly identified as a reason why waterpoints fall into a state of disrepair. In the case of conjoined handpumps, the alternatives are effectively two feet away from each other. Furthermore, while installing two handpumps on one well might be cheaper than constructing two separate wells, this trades off the ability to distribute waterpoints in a way that minimises water collection times, another factor that plays an important role in whether or not people are willing to pay for the upkeep of their water supply.

While these findings are interesting, this was not the core focus of the work. Definitive conclusions require more thorough investigation, especially as single waterpoints tended to be more recent installations, so this is not a perfect comparison. The sample sizes involved were also relatively modest. Nonetheless, the preliminary data would suggest that installing two handpumps on one well will not necessarily achieve either objective of building-in redundancy or doubling the output in the long term.

New Partnership Established as a Result of WPDx

While researchers, governments, and NGOs around the world are using WPDx for a wide range of uses, we recently heard of an interesting new use – looking at what partners are working in a given area to explore opportunities for collaboration. 

Through the WPDx platform, Initiative: Eau wase able to see other organizations completing water point data collection and mapping.  In particular, they were able to connect with Rasmata ONLUS and H2OpenMap, an association based in Italy working in Western Burkina Faso. Through this connection facilitated by WPDx, they were able to discuss potential ways by which to collaborate so as to ensure maximal use of resources and to initiate enhanced data sharing across the nation.  

This type of collaboration is a terrific example of the many ways that the vast range of data in WPDx can be used. If you are interested in exploring which other organizations are sharing data in the countries you work in, click the link here.

Nearly 500 Records Added by VERGNET HYDRO and AQUASYS

Nearly 500 new water point records have been added to WPDx by Vergnet Hydro, representing one of the largest sets of data shared by a private company to date. The data comes from the company’s work in Burkina Faso, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This new data from the DRC provides the first data available on WPDx from the country and increases the reach of WPDx to 26 nations.

VERGNET HYDRO is a French private company dedicated providing water access to rural communities in developing countries. To date, the company has provided more than 100,000 hand pumps, mainly in sub-Saharan African countries, reaching as many as 40 to 50 million people. Beyond simply providing water pumps, the company has established a network of brand partners, spare parts dealers and repairmen in each country to ensure after-sales service of its products.

To improve further improve maintenance and ensure sustainability, VERGNET HYDRO has developed national web observatories with its IT partner Aquasys. These observatories provide real time and transparent updates on the status of equipment, and these updates can be provided directly by users in the field.

VERGNET HYDRO’s participation in WPDx has been implemented by AQUASYS, a private French IT company working on water databases. Given the company’s work on standardizing data for exchange, they were able to create a custom web tool for VERGENT HYDRO that automatically prepares the data for seamless integration with WPDx.

Given this capability and the real-time updates from VERGNET HYDRO’s systems, this data will be updated three times per year, providing an unprecedented understanding of water point functionality.

Click here to explore the new data!

New Partnership Launched with the Indigo Trust

The Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) is pleased to announce the launch of a new partnership with the Indigo Trust, a leading funder of technology-driven solutions that bring about social change in Africa. This new partnership will advance the objectives of transparency and accountability shared by WPDx and the Indigo Trust.

The generous contribution of GBP £10,000 from the Indigo Trust will support a dedicated focus on increasing the availability of African water point data. To achieve this, WPDx will be working directly with governments and NGOs across Africa, with plans to engage regional groups such as the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW). By focusing on increasing the availability of data in Africa, unprecedented information will be available for decision makers, development partners, researchers, and others. Ultimately, this will provide the actionable information needed by these stakeholders to fundamentally improve the way that water services are delivered and sustained across the African continent.

Given the Indigo Trust’s extensive portfolio in sectors beyond WASH, their support of this initiative will go beyond funding. WPDx and the Indigo Trust are actively exploring opportunities to integrate experience and findings from other sectors into WPDx, as well as to share the learnings from the WASH sector more broadly.

If you would like to be a part of this effort, have African water point data to contribute, or know of datasets that could be considered for sharing, please contact us at info@waterpointdata.org. We look forward to working together to continue improving the availability of water point data in Africa and beyond.

Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: the Economics of Pump Functionality in Tanzania

Note: This is a repost of a blog that originally appeared on IRC’s blog written by Rossa O’Keeffe-O’Donovan, Economics PhD Candidate at University of Pennsylvania. This research is still in progress, and Rossa is seeking survey responses to complement his quantitative work, and help understand and interpret results. If you have knowledge of how decisions are made in the installation and/or maintenance of hand pumps, please take this 8 minute survey here: bit.ly/PumpSurvey

Economics and rural water supply
My first job after graduating was conducting Monitoring and Evaluation for a medium-sized international water NGO in Malawi, where I saw first hand the large number of non-functional hand pumps. I started thinking about the economic factors affecting pump functionality, and how I might use economic tools to better understand breakdown.

Where did the data come from?
I started out with a statistical exercise, looking at which community or pump characteristics predict whether a pump is functional or not. Step one was finding data to analyze – Joseph Pearce (then at WaterAid, now at IRC), was very helpful in this regard, as was Brian Banks at GETF, and the Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) has been incredibly useful in helping to locate data as I have updated and expanded the research.

Although I was most familiar with the Malawian context, I started using Tanzanian data, as it had good detail on pump and community characteristics. The data can be seen in the map below, where different colors represent different types of water source. My analysis focuses on 10,747 hand pumps in the data, 63% of which were recorded as functional (producing water) at the time of data collection.

Predictors of pump functionality
The results of this statistical exercise build on the excellent research by Tim Foster which uses data from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda, a great summary of which can be found here. A selection of these results are summarized in the table below, where (S) denotes a finding that is similar to that in Foster (2013), and (D) denotes a finding that is somewhat different. (Note that if a variable is a significant predictor of pump functionality, this does not imply that there is a causal relationship!)

Do neighbors’ pumps matter?
I also conducted some spatial analysis: I looked at whether the number, type and technology of nearby water sources help predict whether a pump will be functional or not. I found some interesting results:

  1. A pump of a specific technology (e.g. India Mark II) is more likely to work if there are more pumps of the same technology nearby

  2. A pump is less likely to work if there are more pumps of a different technology nearby

  3. The number of non-pump water sources does not predict pump functionality.

There are a number of potential explanations for these spatial correlations in pump functionality, and I explore each of these in detail in my research.

I think the most convincing explanation for result (1) is that there are positive spillovers in the maintenance of very similar water sources – i.e. it is easier to maintain a pump if there are many similar pumps nearby. These spillovers might be a result of: increased availability of spare parts and pump mechanics familiar with the technology, explicit cost sharing in maintenance of similar pumps, the development of skills, or sharing of information between communities.

Results (2) and (3) give some (weaker) evidence for free riding, which occurs if a community is less willing to pay for their pump’s maintenance when there are other working water sources nearby, because if their pump breaks down there is an alternative source available.

Using an economic model to explain functionality
Positive spillovers and free riding effects are opposing forces: having other pumps nearby can increase both, and we only observe the ‘net effect’ in the data. I developed an economic ‘network’ model to disentangle the two effects, measure their magnitude, and test the extent to which they depend on different community and pump characteristics. For example, my initial results suggest that the strength of positive spillovers depends on the distance between pumps, and whether they are of the same technology; free riding seems to depend more on whether an alternative pump charges user fees than the distance a community has to travel to use it.

What would happen if we standardized pump technology?
Estimating this model also allows me to perform ‘counterfactual analysis’ – i.e. estimate how outcomes would change if we changed some of the model inputs. Focusing on a subset of 4116 pumps with the richest data, I estimate that if pump technology was standardized to fully exploit positive spillovers in their maintenance, the functionality rate would increase from 67% to 74%. I caution against interpreting this preliminary finding as a policy prescription, as there may be benefits to having different technologies: for example, perhaps some technologies are easier to install in different terrains, or are resistant to different types of physical shocks. However, I think this research gives a good estimate of the cost of fragmentation of pump technologies.

Future work: health, education, dependency and other countries
I am currently using the model to estimate the effect of non-functionality of pumps on health and education outcomes, using Tanzanian census data. In future work I hope to explore the dynamics of pump maintenance decisions. If communities respond to new installations, and form expectations about when a new pump will be installed in the future, this might induce ‘dependency’, with communities preferring to wait for a new pump to be installed rather than repairing their older pump. A dynamic analysis will allow me to explore such effects. I’m also hoping to apply my framework to data from other countries.

Your input is very valuable!

This is ongoing work, and I am still refining my model so my estimates are subject to change – you can find the latest draft of my paper at my website. I am also working to better understand my results, which is where drawing on the knowledge and experience of a wide variety of stakeholders is incredibly valuable. If you have experience in the sector, please take my survey and share it with others who might have useful insights! And please get in touch if you have any comments, suggestions or feedback on this research – hearing from practitioners is extremely valuable, and I hope that this research can be useful for decision-making in the sector!

First Data Shared in Burkina Faso

Over 100 water point records have been shared in Burkina Faso, making data available in that country through WPDx for the first time. The data comes from H2OpenMap, an innovative data sharing initiative supported by Rasmata Onlus.

More information about H2OpenMap is available at http://www.h2openmap.org, and the new data can be accessed through WPDx here.

The addition of Burkina Faso brings the total number of countries with WPDx data to 25.

Almost 4,000 New Records Added in Liberia

Almost 4,000 records have been added in Liberia, providing new insights to the water point landscape in this country. The new data builds on roughly 10,000 records collected during an earlier water point survey. These updates include water points in communities and schools across the country. 

The 2011 Waterpoint Mapping project was carried out using smartphone-based survey software Akvo FLOW. Akvo FLOW is a software tool that collects, manages, analyses and displays geographically referenced monitoring and evaluation data using mobile phones. It lets users create simple or complex surveys on any topic. Since 2013, the system has been used to update the water point information and the newly added data is a result of those updates.

You can access the new data here!

Over 800 new records added in Uganda

WPDx users can now learn about water points in Uganda with unprecidented detail. Over new 800 water point records were added to the Water Point Data Exchange by Text to Change Mobile (TTC) this week. These water points were collected through a project that used mobile technology to bring clean water to communities in Uganda. Through this project and in partnership with Akvo, TTC’s Vusion platform was used to create a feedback system between water users, hand pump mechanics and the District Water Office to ensure water source functionality and the constant provision of clean water to communities. Additional information about this innovative project is available here.

By sharing the data this week, the impact of this program is now amplified and others can continue learning from the information collected. This data has now been harmonized with data from seven other organizations, providing the clearest picture ever of water points in Uganda. 

You can view this new data through the data playground. Click here to check it out!

What’s new on the Water Point Data Exchange website

During the last three months, I’ve had the pleasure to work with our team on the Water Point Data Exchange website. We are now introducing many new exciting features to make the sharing and using water point data easier than ever. In the last seven months, visitors have downloaded the complete water point data set twenty times per month or nearly once per work day. 

The data was downloaded for many purposes, including planninng, training, and research from a variety of organisations and continents.

Now the new website features make it even easier to use water point data. We appreciate any feedback (see below) you might have on how to make the site even better. 

The Data Playground

One major addition is the Data Playground, which you can use to visualize water points on maps, charts and save them to your own account.

In the Data Playground, the Data Lens provides a global overview of the data and with a click you can filter and compare the global results to the results per country or per organisation.

You can also explore the data as a spreadsheet and filter and group information, for example to count the number of water points with flowing water in a particular country. These straightforward functions allow you to create and share charts, graphs and maps.

You can also download the raw data and then use it in a spreadsheet program such as MS Excel or OpenOffice Calc. Software developers can also use the advanced API functions to ensure that the latest water point data is also available in your other websites and apps.


If you want to follow new water point data uploads on a granular level, you can sign up for notifications. Notifications will send you emails when you select countries and organisations to follow. By using notifications, you will also receive a link to the the individual water point data set.

Uploading data

Organisations, users and apps with water point data to share with a wider audience, can use our website to upload and share the datasets. These datasets will be available in the Data Playground and any linked third party websites and apps that use WPDx data.

To upload data, you can follow our instruction on how to prepare your data in the menu under “The Standard”. When it is uploaded, it will be reviewed by the WPDx administrator and if there are any issues, we’ll help you resolve them before the data is published. Within 24 hours after publication, the data should be available in the Data Playground.

The website has a unique water point identification function to reduce duplicate water points and identify updates about  the same water point.

Akvo and mWater are part of the Water Point Data Exchange Working Group and are helping us think about how to make it easier for the users of tools to publish to WPDx and visualize these data sources together and they have taken a number of steps to enable users to think about the standard while they are designing their data collection formats.


Please let us know what you think about the new website by either leaving a comment on this blog and help us spread the word in social media. If you have a feature request or an issue to report, help us address the issue by kindly filling out the website issue form


I would like to extend a special thanks to the Water Point Data Exchange team that have helped to put the website and content together. This includes Brian Banks from GWC who help inspire and drive WPDx from the beginning, Tori Phillips from GWC, Eric Johnson and his team at El Studio, and Valerie Shephard and Monika Shepard and the team at Socrata.