SOMAP team exposure visit to SNV Zambia Iron Removal Project sites


One of the innovations SNV Zambia implemented under its WASH programme in 2013 was the design and installation of a new and alternative technology for iron removal named High-Rate Iron Removal Plant (HR-IRP) in Mpika, Kasama and Chinsali districts.

This innovative technology restores the use of boreholes that have been abandoned due to the presence of undesirable amounts of harmful elements, such as iron, by reducing and maintaining the concentration of such elements at an acceptable range. The HR-IRP has many other benefits: it has a longer operational life span than conventional Iron Removing Plants (IRPs) which are blocked more frequently, it is affordable to construct and it is more user-friendly. As a result of this intervention, 32,312 people (16,394 women, 15,918 men) had access to clean and safe water in 2013.

Last week, from 10th–12th pf April 2014, SNV Zambia conducted an exposure visit with representatives from the Sustainable Operation and Maintenance Project for Rural Water Supply (SOMAP) project under the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) in Zambia which is being supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).The SOMAP project currently utilizes conventional Iron Removal Plants (IRPs), but the technology is proving to be costly and not user-friendly, which is compromising the sustainability of the project. SOMAP is interested in SNV’s HR-IRP technology which was designed by Knox Chilumbu, a partner local capacity builder and lead consultant from Knotin Environmental Services. Along with the SNV WASH team and Mr. Chilumbu, the SOMAP representatives visited ten (10) sites in Mpika, Kasama and Chinsali districts where the technology was installed to observe the plant at work and get feedback from users. The SNV WASH team was also interested in obtaining feedback from the users and Community and School WASH committees who are in charge of the operation and maintenance of the plant so that they could improve the design of the plant and plan any additional training sessions needed.

The visit was successful because all users were unanimous in the view that the plant was a needed improvement in their communities. As one user in Kabosha Village said, “It was really bad, the water tasted bad so we couldn’t drink it and the iron would stain our clothes when we used it for washing. We had to return to our traditional wells. But now, it’s better. We can drink and wash, and not worry about that anymore.” However, minor complaints included leakages in the pipes and challenges regarding ‘backwashing’ the plant which helps removes iron build-up in the tanks. These observations have been taken into account and will be improved in the next design of HR-IRPs and the affected plants will be fixed accordingly. However, some communities and schools were able to adopt and adapt the technology to their own needs by fixing the leaks themselves and adding a tap at the end of the plant to conserve water.

Overall, the SOMAP team was impressed with the affordable, efficient, and user-friendly HR-IRP and, with a few improvements in the design, may wish to partner with SNV for this innovative project that aims to make existing contaminated boreholes functional again.