First solar pump installed, providing 600 Haitian students clean water

April 17, 2013
The solar panels at St. Laurent. These panels power the solar pump.

The solar panels at St. Laurent. These panels power the solar pump.

We have found an affordable solar pump system that works with our chlorinators. This is a way for us to bring clean water to communities without access to electricity or gravity-fed pipe systems. It will cost $25,000 to install the next nine solar pumps and chlorinators, which will be in the Artibonite region.

In the coastal city of Gonaives there is a church and local school – St. Laurent – that was in need of clean, safe water. They had two problems: no water access and no way to treat water. School director, Father Rony, needed a way to pump the water to the school for 600 young students.  
Father Rony found and enlisted the help of a non-profit that installs solar pumps. The group is called Rain Catchers, headquartered in North Carolina and run by Rick and Janice Walker, a retired couple. They have been installing these solar pumps in Haiti and throughout South America and Africa for several years now.
After the installation by Rain Catchers, the school had access to water but still did not have a way to treat the water. Father Rony knew he needed to make sure the water was safe for the students to drink. Working with an American church, he began his search for the solution. In hopes of meeting someone that could help him, Father Rony decided to go to a water and sanitation meeting in Port-au-Prince.
I attended the same meeting and Father Rony overheard me talking about the chlorinators. He liked what he was hearing and approached me to talk about St. Laurent and its water needs. We talked about the new solar pump system at the school and his need for a water treatment system like the chlorinator.
He asked if it was possible to install a chlorinator at St. Laurent. I told him we would be happy to install a chlorinator because two great things would come of the installation: (1) The 600 students at St. Laurent would have clean water, and (2) we would know if Rain Catcher’s solar pump system could be used to bring clean water to Haitian communities without access to electricity. 
The following week we went with a chlorinator and water tank to St. Laurent. When we arrived at Father Rony’s school, we were fortunate enough to find the American and Haitian engineers of Rain Catchers working on the newly installed solar pump. While our team installed the chlorinator on the water tank I talked to the engineers and discovered that the system only costs $1,250! For context, the other solar pump systems that we had vetted cost between $5,000 and $25,000.
I couldn’t believe it, at that price, surely something must be wrong with the pump.
Soon after, our team finished installing our chlorinator. We all gathered around the chlorinator and pump to see if it worked. Father Rony turned on the pump – we heard the faint buzz of the pump below us… Mississippi…two Mississippi…we waited…until, yes! Water went swiftly through the chlorinator and into the tank. It worked! After our initial celebration we began testing the water to make sure that it was treated. Sure enough, it was. Now, the 600 students at St. Laurent have clean water, and we found a solar pump that will allow us to provide clean water to almost any community in Haiti.