Ati water pump project is HUGE success!

Ati men fill tub with water from the new pump installed by Earth Vagabonds and overseas donors in Malay, Aklan, Philippines.

Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Ellen

MALAY, AKLAN, Philippines — Our Ati water pump project makes life a little easier for the indigenous tribe.

Finally. The water flows. Drink freely, my Ati friends!

It’s great to be back. I’ve taken quite a lengthy break from posting to our blog. But I have returned. With good news and a big smile.

Water pump for our indigenous Ati friends

The long and short of it: the water pump system that I’ve been working on for more than six months is complete – and working well. The joyful photos below were taken last week as the first faucet started working.

Left, Ati gather around new water spigot; right, children fill jugs and dance with joy.

The Ati tribe members who live in the jungle hills near us in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines, no longer have to walk up and down long, steep, slippery footpaths carrying heavy jugs of drinking water from a spring.

Instead, the small community now has four public faucets spread around their hilltop village; getting water is a simple matter of stepping just a few meters from home – turning a spigot – filling a container.

It’s been a protracted effort – but worth it. Seeing Ati kids and families enjoying the convenience of piped drinking water is immensely satisfying. I’m pumped!

Theo, the author, gives a thumbs up by Ati people filling water jugs with the new pump system.

The problem

When I last wrote about this topic I was struggling with the engineering; how exactly to design a system to pump water hundreds of feet from the fresh water spring at the bottom of a steep ravine up to a holding tank for distribution.

The graphic below summarizes the situation:

Graphic shows 420 feet of pipe needed from spring to tank for the Ati water project.

It was late October of 2020 when I really started trying to figure it all out. That’s when electricity was finally available in the Ati village. Obviously, an electric pump can only be possible where there is electric service.

But I’m not a hydraulic engineer. I know nothing about rural water systems, pumps, or hydrodynamics. And I can barely communicate with most of the Ati who hardly speak English. Still, I was determined to create an inexpensive, efficient, durable water system to make life easier for the economically disadvantaged Ati.

The process

Over the last few months, I acquired from area hardware supply stores the numerous pieces and parts that would be necessary: a big plastic 1000 liter tank, over 400 feet of heavy duty electric cable and equal length of high strength poly-plastic tubing, all the needed valves, couplings, connectors, faucets, and pvc distribution piping. And of course, the pump.

The pump: finally delivered via DHL courier to our temporary Philippine home after a month-long shipping journey from the manufacturer near Chicago, Illinois. The following photo shows me accepting (and checking) the package. Total pump price: about $285 including shipping.

Water pump delivery.

After extensive study, consideration, and consultation, I decided to use a submersible, ‘deep well’ style pump. The unit is typically used down in a drilled, 4-inch, bore hole. Such pumps can send water upwards for hundreds of feet. Our situation would require adapting the deep well pump to an above-ground, holding tank.

In addition to the Ati work crew who put up with me (Charlie, Jové, Michael), I owe huge thanks and debts of gratitude to some specific individuals who helped with the pump selection and installation.

First, thanks to hydraulic engineer Mark Loria, Ph.D., at Case Western Reserve University back in Cleveland, Ohio. Mark and his colleagues responded to my request for technical assistance and were kind enough to review the fluid dynamics – the math – required to assure my design would work.

Second, my great local friend and favorite rice farmer, Juli Calvario. As always, Juli was eager to volunteer his time and jack-of-all-trades skills to prepare, install, and troubleshoot the system.

Left, Theo; center, King; right, Juli.

Third, during the course of my efforts, I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of a local water expert, Erick ‘King’ Saludo. King is valued employee of the local Malay public water department, a super guy, and a wealth of water knowledge and experience.

In his free time, King graciously fabricated the customized flow inducer sleeve that allows for using the deep-well pump in our above-ground water collection tank.

Left, the pump; right, the pump inside the PVC flow inducer.

Left, the power company on scene for the Ati water pump project; right, the pump positioned in the water tank.

The installation

Of course, King and Juli were there when we placed the pump fabrication (nicknamed Frankenstein) into the huge plastic storage tank that collects water from the natural spring. Within minutes of attaching the electric wiring, the three-quarter horsepower pump was peacefully humming away — easily sending water at close to 30 liters per minute up to a previously built, concrete holding tank at the high point above the Ati village.

It takes about 25 minutes to pump approximately 700 liters of water up to the top tank. We have installed a float switch inside the bottom collection tank that automatically shuts off the pump when the water level gets down near the intake level. The tank then takes about an hour to refill using the natural flow of the spring.

Each pumping cycle (about enough for one whole day of Ati use) uses one-half kilowatt hour of electric power, costing approximately 6 Philippine pesos or 12 US cents. The Ati themselves will have to work out a community payment system for the monthly bill – expected to be around $5 if they limit usage to drinking and cooking only. If they decide to allow bathing and clothes washing with the pumped water, they could easily double or triple the monthly bill.

Ati workers add distribution pipe to the upper holding tank, control panel and electric meter also pictured.

Left, connectors on the water pipe; right, a spigot for the Ati project.

The final part of the system is the distribution lines leading from the upper concrete tank to the public spigots. We branched the main outflow line into three individual service lines to serve four separate faucets. Each line can be closed off via a valve – without impacting the others – should there be a leak or problem. Upon startup, there were several small leaks and connection issues which have been resolved in the past few days.

With minimal usage, diligent monitoring, and minor maintenance the pump and distribution system should last for years – maybe decades.

Ati water pump brings joy

As of now, the Ati are thrilled to be able to easily retrieve fresh drinking water – without planning, hiking, and hauling. Plus, as part of the upgrade, we created a ‘walk-in, stand-up’ shower at the old gravity fed, water filling area; much different than bathing in a creek or with a bucket.

Lastly, let me tell you, I am ecstatic at the successful outcome. This was a long-term, ongoing effort that was out of my ‘comfort zone’. To see it finally come to fruition is unbelievably fulfilling.

Theo smiles and points to a working spigot in the successful Ati water pump project.

In closing, a special thank you to all who helped make it possible – including numerous overseas contributors who have given generously to our various Ati efforts (chicken house, electric service, Christmas gifts, how to contribute). The last of the donated monies were used at the beginning of the water system project.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer (and water!).

Life is now!

Thanks for reading, “Ati water pump project is HUGE success!”

Related posts:

9 thoughts on “Ati water pump project is HUGE success!”

  1. Wow! What an accomplishment! And what a boon to the village! Glad to hear about your feeling of fulfillment, Ted–you’ve earned it!

  2. Congratulations on finishing the water pump project. I’ve followed this progress as well as the Chicken House. What a blessing you have been to the Ati Tribe!!!

  3. Tedly, I am so proud of you for this fantastic accomplishment! You are truly one of the most caring people I know! God Bless you…& the Ati people! Sending you Love & Hugs! xo

  4. Congratulations on your involvement with the Ati people and village and on finishing this most eambitious project…I am proud to say in have shared a beer with you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top