The main advantage of hand pumps is that they are one of the most economical and simple solutions for providing a collective supply of drinking water in rural areas and suburban environments. They also help to eliminate the risks of people, and children in particular, falling into open wells.
They also improve the conditions of hygiene under which water is drawn off, by eliminating the use of buckets of uncertain cleanliness, thereby limiting diseases associated with contaminated water.
The main disadvantage is the required maintenance, the significant physical exertion required for pumping and the potential difficulty of being supplied with spare parts which may not be easy to obtain. A pump requires regular maintenance which must be carried out if the pump is to be used on a sustainable basis. This maintenance may be provided for several models, which should be preferred by local populations. If not, maintenance and repair may have a relatively high cost that people should be fully aware of at the time the choice is made.
UNICEF thus recommends pumps benefiting from its VLOM (Village Level Operation and Management of maintenance) label, in other words, robust pumps that can be fully maintained locally, either by the community members themselves or by a technician that they can call out quickly, and which are also produced locally and selected, managed and maintained by the community. (Examples : Afridev, Tara, Bluepump and Vergnet pumps, etc.)
In addition, the spare parts that may be required are rarely manufactured in developing countries, especially in the case of metal or cast iron parts. This is the main advantage of PVC pumps the parts of which are less expensive and can often be made on site.
One of the main causes of a pump’s deterioration, aside from its frequent use, is the quality of the pumped water. Corrosive water can cause premature ageing of parts. The water then takes on a bitter taste and affects the colour of food cooked in it and clothing washed in it. The materials that withstand corrosion best are : plastic, stainless steel, wood, glass fibre. Another factor wear is sand or other abrasives in the pumped water.