When it comes to supporting life and health, few things are more important than water. That’s why a nonprofit known as Water for South Sudan uses such terms as “transformative” and “life-changing” to describe its programs.
The registered nongovernmental organization provides the people of South Sudan with access to clean, safe water, along with improved hygiene and sanitation practices. Central to this work is the drilling of water wells and rehabilitation of existing wells. Water for South Sudan has drilled nearly 600 new wells and rehabbed more than 300.
That represents a whole lot of lives positively impacted. Every well can provide safe water for 500 to 1,000 people, and clean water is essential for good health and prosperity. “Clean water improves everyone’s health, especially vulnerable people,” says Lynn Malooly, executive director of Water for South Sudan. “We install wells and we turn them over to the community. Markets, schools and clinics often follow.”
In many areas, other sources of water literally dry up during the times of the year when rain is scarce. “If we give people water, they can stay in their village year-round. To give them a source of clean water they can access year-round is lifesaving and life-changing,” she says.
The problem? Wells require functional pumps, and the organization was having frequent trouble with pump failure. That’s where Rose-Hulman Ventures entered the picture. “We came up with a project to test why the pumps break,” Malooly says.
“We were asked to examine this problem and improve the design or make other recommendations,” says Brian Dougherty, senior director at Rose-Hulman Ventures. The question of why well pumps were breaking was vital, but even more important was what could be done about it?
Water for South Sudan arranged for pumps to be shipped to Terre Haute for examination and testing. “They got pumps and they started running them continuously to see what would happen,” Malooly says. “They found out there were predictable parts that broke—and pretty amazingly, they were not too expensive.”
Rose-Hulman Ventures, she says, “proposed a solution to manufacture that we could then ship to South Sudan, so that a mechanic could put it on the pump before it is installed.” The ultimate aim is to greatly extend the time the well pump functions properly without failing.
The organization has decided to try out the solution, starting small to see how the solution performs. The plan, she says: Produce the parts required for the solution and install them on wells near the organization’s operational center, to allow monitoring.
The group is realistic about the fact that devices used all day every day are going to break down at some point. “All mechanical things need repair,” she says, “but this is going to push out the first need for repair, we hope greatly.”
Malooly is pleased with the assistance her group has received from Rose-Hulman Ventures. “We’re very impressed with Rose-Hulman Ventures, how they involve students and their attention to real-world problems,” she says. “It was a very happy connection.”