Email from Erin (Engineers without Borders)

Hi Lara,

Solar panels and pumps are certainly available in Tanzania. It helps to buy local so someone in Tanzania knows how to maintain the equipment properly. I would love to recommend our pump supplier, but we’ve been having some troubles with them. If you do opt to bring in materials, make sure that there is at least a vendor for similar products in Tanzania. I think that Davis Shirtcliff (spelling may be wrong) in Dar stocks these pumps, but you can confirm. The first quote looked like it was from a vendor in country, maybe?

Even if you buy the pump elsewhere, you might consider getting the panels in country. They are bulky, and solar panels are almost a commodity item these days.

I’ve never brought anything large through customs, but this could also be a challenge. It also has the potential for causing delays (what if they don’t let it through or ask for a large bribe – you could end up stuck in Dar, trying to negotiate, when you probably don’t have an infinite amount of time for the trip.

The quote is for a system that sounds like it is fine. Grundfos is a reputable manufacturer, and their SQFlex line is specific for this type of application. The only error on the first quote that I saw was that they seemed to think you could get 60,000 liters/day from a 2,000 liter/hour pump. Unless the sun is shining for 30 hours each day, that’s obviously not going to work (the other engineer noted this below as well.) What are the units on the price for the first quote? Shillings? The price for the pump seems reasonable if it is.

How is the system going to be set up. You said there would be a tank. Is this a ground-level tank? Is it near the well? I just want to make sure you’ve got enough pressure coming out of the well to not only get water out but also to put the water into the tank. From the tank, does it go to a tapstand? More than one?

One other question is how you are going to turn off and on the pump. Both quotes included provisions for some controls, but I wasn’t sure what you were planning. Selecting an option is probably somewhat dependent on where the tank is in relation to the well.

I don’t do too many small submersible pump installation here. For my job, it’s a lot more 200 Horsepower stuff. They are right that the installation should be pretty straight forward. It really needs to be, or the community will not be able to do maintenance. Make sure they give you manuals (even better if they are in Kiswahili) so the community can do basic maintenance. They “fundis” who are going to take care of the equipment should also be present as much as possible when you put the equipment in, adjust the solar panels, etc.

I loved watching your videos about Vietnam. You took some lovely photos and it is helpful putting more of a face to this person I’ve been exchanging e-mail with for so long. I don’t have anything similar for our trip last April to Turkey. 🙁 I haven’t been up to BC since I was a kid, but someday it would be nice to have a face to face meeting.