The Rope Pump

The Rope Pump

The principle of the rope pump was known 2000 years ago in China. Thanks to efforts of a number of development workers like Rijnders Tijen, Henk Alberts and Henk Holtslag, the rope pump became famous again in the 80s. The new version of the rope pump is build up of modern materials such as tires, synthetic rope, and PVC. There is an increasingly interest in rope pumps just because the system is cheap and easy to construct locally.

In Nicaragua, where the rope pump was introduced in the 80s, the pump is now national standard for rural water supply. The rope pump is being constructed in Nicaragua by over twenty local workshops and there are about 80,000 installed pumps in the country. Worldwide there are about 3 million users of the rope pump.

The functioning of the rope pump is very easy: a PVC tube is stuck into a well, the upper end of the tube is at ground level. Through this tube a rope with pistons (that fit into the tube) is dragged by a wheel made of tire pulls. The rope runs over this wheel which can be rotated by a crank (or engine, windmill, bicycle, etc.). If the rope runs through the pipe, the pistons push up water to the surface. The water comes outside via a drain at the top.

Because of the rotating and continuous movements water can be pumped up with little effort. An adult can pump up about 25 liters per minute from 12 meters depth. At a shallower depth this can be 60 liters per minute. If a rope pump is driven by one person, the maximum depth of the water is about 35 meters, but tests show that a depth of 80 meters can be reached when the rope pump is driven by a motor.

With a price of about $ 40 to $ 80 a rope pump is about 5 to 10 times cheaper than a comparable piston pump. This makes it attractive especially for family use. The rope pump proved to be reliable too. Because the functioning is simple, users maintain and repair the rope pump themselves. For repair you can use locally available materials, including rope, PVC pipe and rubber for the pistons.

Another advantage of the rope pump is its hygiene. In developing countries many people use a bucket on a rope to collect water from open wells. Such an open well attracts insects and dust can enter freely. An open well is often a source of worm infections and diarrhea. When the well is closed by a concrete lid with a rope pump on it the risk of infection decrease considerably.

For making pistons,

Check out FAQ about rope pumps on our publication page.