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Solutions put forward to improve water pumps in Africa

05 July 2024

A volunteer team from Urenco has developed solutions to improve the accessibility of water in Malawi, focusing on the design of pumps. 

People in the African country often struggle to access clean water, and there are ongoing issues with the existing water pumps that make them unreliable and prone to breakage. 

As part of our social impact partnership with water charity, Pump Aid, which operates in Malawi, we were tasked to come up with ways to improve the sustainability of the pumps. 

Urenco’s Pump Aid Challenge team of engineers, mechanics and technicians drawn from across our European sites dedicated time across a six month period to come up with a number of improvements which have since been presented to Pump Aid. 

Urenco will also pass on detailed instructions, drawings and standards to Pump Aid so solutions can be further trialled and implemented in Malawi.     

Control & Instrumentation Engineer for Urenco, Ryan Gardner, said: 

“This is such an amazing project to have been a part of and watching the proposed solutions come together is testament to the team’s talent, commitment and enthusiasm. 

“It’s been a real privilege and an eye-opener to talk directly to the engineers in Malawi to get feedback on our ideas as they developed, as well as hearing from Pump Aid.”

Chief Executive of Pump Aid, Duncan Marsh, said: 

“Working with the team and watching this project unfold has been both exciting and encouraging. Urenco colleagues quickly got to grips with the conditions we face such as limited supply of parts and found ways to apply their skills to the challenges we have with the different pumps. 

“I have particularly enjoyed observing the camaraderie and mutual respect during the live-links we’ve run with our workshop and engineers in Malawi via videocall and we are optimistic for a good outcome and sustainable improvements when the solutions are applied.”

The Urenco team had got together at working sessions and produced prototypes for a household and an irrigation pump respectively at our UK site in Capenhurst, Cheshire. They had tested the prototypes in the conditions in which they would have to operate as closely as they could.   

The household pump was improved with a new frame, rope guide and braking system design, while a new portable design was introduced to the irrigation pump, enabling farmers to transport it between locations. A separate solution consisted of a solar powered irrigation pump to take into account areas in Malawi with no power, but utilising the plentiful resource it does have. 

Further solutions worked on included remote sensors to gather water data and alert the local contact when a pump was no longer working or maintenance was needed. Safety improvements were also built in to existing processes and potential ways of working.   

As a result of Urenco’s partnership with Pump Aid, more local people have been trained in Malawi as water entrepreneurs to maintain, fit and supply water pumps, creating jobs and ensuring there is a sustainable way to access water. 

The partnership aligns with Urenco’s sustainability strategy, our corporate values and several UN sustainable development goals, most notably Clean water and sanitation.


About Urenco

Urenco is an international supplier of enrichment services and fuel cycle products with sustainability at the core of its business. Operating in a pivotal area of the nuclear fuel supply chain for 50 years, Urenco facilitates zero carbon electricity generation for consumers around the world.

With its head office near London, UK, Urenco’s global presence ensures diversity and security of supply for customers through enrichment facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. Using centrifuge technology designed and developed by Urenco, and through the expertise of our people, the Urenco Group provides safe, cost effective and reliable services; operating within a framework of high environmental, social and governance standards, complementing international safeguards.

Urenco is committed to continued investment in the responsible management of nuclear materials; innovation activities with clear sustainability benefits, such as nuclear medicine, industrial efficiency and research; and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers.


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