Water Heroes – Dr. Peter Morgan: 2013 Stockholm Water Prize Winner

There are a lot of good people in the world that are making great efforts to bring clean water and improved sanitation facilities to those who need it throughout the world, and their efforts are paying off.  Between 1990 and 2010 two billion people gained access to clean water and 1.8 billion people gained access to improved sanitation facilities according to the World Health Organization.  Even with these encouraging figures, there are still a lot of people in the world who still drink unsafe water and even more who do not have access to improved sanitation.

For the past 40 years Dr. Morgan has been working to bring both clean water and improved sanitation to rural communities around the world, helping millions of people along the way.  He was honored for his work this year when he won the 2013 Stockholm Water Prize in recognition of the simple, low-cost technologies he has developed.  Along with continuing to develop new ideas Dr. Morgan also currently serves as the director of Aquamor, a non-profit working in Zimbabwe, as well as advising a number of countries on rural water and sanitation programs.  In the past he has been President of the Zimbabwe Scientific Association and the editor of Zimbabwe Science News.

One thing that Dr. Morgan realized a long time ago is that for a technology to be successful and sustainable in rural communities it needs to be simple and low-cost.  He has made it a priority to come up with solutions that the people using them can build themselves.  That’s because if the people can build it themselves they can most likely maintain it themselves, which means that they will have clean water and hygienic place to use the bathroom for much longer than if they couldn’t.  Further, he also has developed education and training material to aid in the building, maintenance, and improvement of his inventions.

 

Two of Dr. Morgan’s most well-known inventions are the “B” type Bush Pump and the Blair Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) Latrine, both of which are now national standards for the government of Zimbabwe.  The Bush Pump is a lever action pump that uses components that have been available in Zimbabwe for decades to make a simple and reliable pump.  The Bush Pump’s standard depth that I can raise water from is 3-80 meters, but it can actually go down to 100 meters (however pumping from this depth is harder and puts extra strain on the parts).  Depending on which size diameter pump is used it can yield anywhere from 15-35 liters per minute.  The pump is designed so that the piston and seals can be extracted through the “open top cylinder” without having to lift the rising main which makes maintenance on the pump much easier.  Currently there are around 50,000 “B” type Bush Pumps installed in Zimbabwe, and even more spread out through the world.

The Blair Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) Latrine was invented in the 1970’s after Dr. Morgan realized that there was a need for improved latrines.  At the time latrines were smelly places where flies bred uncontrollably.  This left people not wanting to use them, and often choosing to relieve themselves in the bush instead.  Dr. Morgan saw this as a challenge and decided to do something about it.  Problem #1 – smell: The VIP latrine is set up with a screened ventilation pipe that pulls the smell out of the pit when wind blows over the top of it. The wind blowing over the vent pipe creates a vacuum and pulls the air from the pit up the ventilation pipe, and then pulls more fresh air into the pit.  This flow of air ensures that the part of the latrine that people use never gets smelly.  When the vent pipe heats up it also draws air out of the colder pit, aiding even more in the elimination of smells.  Problem #2 – flies: The fly problem is also taken care of by the vent pipe.  It has been found that flies go into a latrine because of the smell, and follow light to get out.  Because the smell is coming out of the top of the vent pipe that is where the flies gather, however, with a screen over the vent outlet the flies cannot get into the vent pipe and down into the latrine.  Further, because, with the door closed, the inside of the latrine is semi-dark any flies that make their way in will not think to go back out that way, and will instead see the light at the top of the vent pipe and head that way.  Once they reach the top they will get stuck in the screen, or get exhausted finally, and die.  Both problems solved!  However, Dr. Morgan also wanted to make these latrines last, so he put in the effort to make them extra durable.  There are VIP latrines that were built in 1976 that are still standing today!!!  In total, over 500,000 VIP latrines have been built in Zimbabwe and even more outside of the country.  That’s a lot of people that don’t have to go in the open anymore which means they’re safer, more comfortable when relieving themselves, and they’re not polluting their drinking water by going in the open.

This VIP latrine was built in 1976 (left) and is still in use in 2010 (right)

Other notable inventions to come from Dr. Morgan include the Upgraded Family Well, which is an improved well head that helps keep the water in the well clean as well as directing water that would be wasted away from the well head (potentially to use in irrigating crops).  Further, it also makes the collection of water easier with the installation of a windlass.  Finally, the Spiral Tube Waterwheel Pump is a combination water wheel and pump used in canals or small rivers that can pump water without the use of any power, valves, or pistons.  How it works is a little over my head, but you can read about it by clicking on the link in the resources below.

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Dr. Morgan is truly inspirational.  He has spent the better part of his life developing technology that can be used and built by rural communities to gain access to clean water and proper sanitation.  His technology has saved countless lives over the years, and have no doubt helped bring people out of the endless cycle of poverty that is so hard to get out of when you don’t have these necessities.  People like Dr. Morgan give me hope.  You always hear about companies building the latest technology that is supposed to bring clean water to the masses, or the newest latrine technology, but that’s not what people in rural communities need.  They need simple and low-cost technologies like the ones Dr. Morgan invents that they can build and maintain themselves.  Only with these tools can they really have a sustainable way to get clean water and improved sanitation for their entire life.  Below you’ll find an interview with Dr. Morgan, as well as a number of resources that can be used to build all of the products I’ve written about today, and more.  I’ll finish by saying thank you to Dr. Morgan for all of his great work, and thank you to you for reading.

Do you know someone doing exceptional work in the area of rural water and/or sanitation?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

 

Resources:

Teaching Ecological Sanitation in Schools – How to Make Simple Hand Washing Devices

The Mukombe “Tippy Tap”

“B” type Bush Pump (multiple resources) – Aquamor

“B” type Bush Pump (multiple resources) – RWSN

Blair Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) Latrine (multiple resources) – Aquamor

The Blair VIP Toilet

Upgraded Family Well (multiple resources) – Aquamor

A Story of a Water Wheel

Spiral Water Wheel Pump – How to Make

Sources:

UN Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Statistics

Dr Peter Morgan – Inventor in Sanitation – Receives the 2013 Stockholm Water Prize

World Water Week: Dr. Peter Morgan receives 2013 Stockholm Water Prize

Bush Pump – Zimbabwe Standard Specification

Blair Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) Latrine (multiple resources) – Aquamor 

Upgraded Family Well (multiple resources) – Aquamor

A Story of a Water Wheel

Water Heroes – Dr. Peter Morgan: 2013 Stockholm Water Prize Winner
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4 thoughts on “Water Heroes – Dr. Peter Morgan: 2013 Stockholm Water Prize Winner

  • November 1, 2013 at 4:32 am
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    Congratulations to Dr. Morgan!!! His work is excellent for our communities in Mozambique and I hope I can make implementing partners in my program looking into this and see how they can use these examples to apply in our conditions.

    Reply
    • November 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm
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      Hi Sonia,

      Thank you for the comment. What kind of program are you working with?

      Regards,
      Brian

      Reply
  • November 1, 2013 at 12:19 pm
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    basic existence requirements like food, power, water, sanitation & afforestation are logical at individual level itself.

    every individual should be independent in these dimensions.
    then, there will not be an equational imbalance.
    threshold frequency of this dimension is 70 : 30 ratio.

    unfortunately, we have crossed this threshold frequency with a very large gap where equational imbalance is predominant.
    centralized system has created & supporting this imbalance.

    we only have to revive & restore our original “natural equation of human existence” to revive & restore our responsibility through participation.
    vasan.

    Reply
  • November 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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    Nice article. I would also like to highlight the great commitment of Dr. Morgan to share knowledge and best practices with no borders. The VIP latrines plus hygiene promotion practices were widely promoted by WSP in LAC Andean Countries from the beginning the 90’s.

    Reply

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