Grundfos Foundation Brings Water to Spiti Valley with Its SQFlex Pumps Installation

“In these remote areas, the drinking water source is normally at a significant distance from where people live. Bringing water closer to homes helps the population reduce time and energy spent collecting water in the winter months, especially when the temperatures fall to minus 30o C”, explains Ashutosh Bhat, Project Manager, Sunlit Future

May 27, 2020. By News Bureau

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In a joint effort to reach out to last-mile communities in Spiti Valley in the Himalayas, the Grundfos Foundation and Sunlit Future helped bring access to safe water to four communities that had been abandoned by the local government.

Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in the north-eastern part of the Indian state, Himachal Pradesh, home to unique landscapes, an ancient geological heritage, diverse flora and fauna, and a rich thriving Buddhist culture. But Spiti is also a high-altitude, cold desert region with average habitable attitudes of 4,000 meters. The 6-month long cold winter leaves the just over 10,000 inhabitants with an extremely short working season in which to earn the year’s livelihood.

“In these remote areas, the drinking water source is normally at a significant distance from where people live. Bringing water closer to homes helps the population reduce time and energy spent collecting water in the winter months, especially when the temperatures fall to minus 30o C”, explains Ashutosh Bhat, Project Manager, Sunlit Future.

The time saved can be invested in health improvement, child care, and livelihood activities generating income for the household.

A tricky environment

Together with the local NGO, Ecosphere, Sunlit Future implemented four solar-driven drinking water supply systems for around 1250 people in four communities in 2018 and 2019. The change was very welcome, given that several water projects in the area were abandoned due to the complexity of the task. The cold and harsh winters in the area make it difficult to transport and store water.

The sources never freeze because the water doesn’t stand still so we can easily leave an SQFlex pump in the water. But the pipes leading the water up to the village need to be drained before sunset to prevent frost damage, and the water reservoirs in the community are placed inside a greenhouse sort of structure which prevents the water in the tanks from freezing,” says Ashutosh Bhatt.

SQFlex: An ideal solution for this remote location

Grundfos’ SQFlex family is an environmentally-friendly water supply solution. SQFlex pumps are fitted with a permanent magnet motor which enables the efficient use of energy from nature. The pump system offers the perfect water supply solution in remote areas where water is scarce and the power supply is non-existent or unreliable.

The SQFlex solar panels adapt to the characteristic weather profile of any given area. A battery backup system can store the extra energy generated and take over when the energy from nature is not available.

SQFlex is more than just a pump – it's a complete intelligent system. Thanks to its built-in electronics, the pump is compatible with both DC and AC power supply without requiring an external inverter.

Monitoring and next steps

The functionality of the systems will be monitored during the winter 2019-20 to collect learnings for future systems and knowledge sharing with public authorities and NGOs.

“We want to document whether the four systems work before we expand our activities in the area. For instance, we don’t know how much traffic in and out of the greenhouse there will be, and how it affects the temperature,” says Nils Thorup, Programme Manager for Water, Grundfos Foundation.

Solar technology is a great tool, but adapting the distribution systems to these harsh environments demand attention to the entire system design, not least the piping.

“We are currently looking into how we can use solar technology to lift water from a source that lies 250 meters below and at 800 meters walking distance from the village. But draining 800 meters piping takes a while, so we are looking into how we can solve that problem,” says Nils Thorup.

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