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School children collect clean water pumped by a solar array at the Kalungi Hosptal in Uganda. School children collect clean water pumped by a solar array at the Kalungi Hosptal in Uganda.

Power for Water

In Uganda, diarrheal diseases are responsible for 17% of deaths for children under 5 and account for 30,000 deaths per year in all age groups. In addition, families spend countless hours each day transporting water from source to point-of-use locations. In the conflict-affected regions in the North, the daily trek to get water increases the vulnerability of women to attack.

Recently, the USAID Energy Team partnered with the Coca-Cola Company, Geneva Global Foundation, Solar Lights for Africa, and Global Environmental and Technology Foundation (GETF) to implement an innovative program utilizing renewable energy to provide power to two hospitals in Uganda and clean water supply to the facilities and surrounding communities.

At the Kalungi Hospital, a 2.6 kW solar array was installed at a well site several kilometers away from the hospital. This array powers a direct submersible pump which pumps the water up a hill to a holding tank at the hospital. A pipeline runs back down the hill with spigots in several locations to provide clean water to the community. Purification of the water is completed in several stages. From the 12 m deep well a water passage was constructed which pre-filters water through two chambers. A UV water purification unit completes the purification process.

In addition to the public health benefits, the water system offers an opportunity to improve the sustainability of the solar systems. Solar systems in developing countries often fail, in part, because of difficulty obtaining maintenance funds required to keep systems operational. The lack of revenue stream in many developing country health facilities which provide services free of charge magnifies this challenge. Operating budgets are typically developed at the beginning of each year and funds are not available to cover the unexpected failure of solar system components.

Combining hospital electrification projects with a community clean water pumping system is an innovative way to address this problem. At the Kalungi Hospital, excess water sold to the surrounding community provides a small revenue stream that can contribute to the maintenance costs for both the electricity generating and water pumping solar systems.

Moreover, the head doctor at the hospital expects the solar-powered water system to significantly reduce incidences of dysentery and other ailments transmitted through unclean water; improve the cleanliness and hygiene at the health clinic by allowing doctors and nurses to wash their hands and clean equipment between exams; and improve treatment by allowing patients to safely hydrate while visiting the clinic.

The Powering Health Stories blog brings you current trends in the worlds of health, energy and development, as well as features on current work being undertaken by USAID.  If you have a story that you would like us to cover or one that you would like to contribute, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. !