Simple Water Extraction Techniques

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Canzee Pump news Summer 2007

This year I celebrate an anniversary because on July 7th 1977 I taught my last school lesson and embarked on a new career in water. I had taught biology for six years and expected to be a teacher for the rest of my working life but in the 1960’s my father had unexpectedly become involved in water projects. First, he pioneered a simple technique for drawing clean sea water from sandy beaches. He then found that the same idea could be used to filter water through the sandy beds of rivers, such as the seasonal rivers common in many parts of Africa.
He invited me to join him so I have now been messing about with water for thirty years.

 Copy (4) of Mzuzu  Sept 1 2006 Richard 065

I have visited Africa nearly 40 times and if you asked me to explain my speciality in just a few words I would say that my work focuses on improving hygienic access to shallow water supplies. This has included well jetting, spring protection, and low technology hand pumps.

Copy (2) of Mzuzu Sept 8 2006 Richard 020In recent years most of my time has centred on the Canzee Pump, originally invented by Owen Jones in New Zealand and then further tweaked by ourselves. The pump is performing exceptionally well, often running for two or three years with little or no attention. When it does need servicing, it is easy to fix, because, the valves just need rubber discs cut from old car inner tubes. In 2005, our collaborators in Madagascar, “BushProof”, won a $150,000 World Bank award to set up a Canzee Pump workshop, to survey the entire island, and to make a further 150 pumps for the local market. The workshop is now up and running and Canzee Pumps have been described to me as the pumps of choice in Madagascar.

Setting up a pump workshop requires a number of factors to come together at the same time and a lot of work and funding. I am delighted to say that we now have the green light to start another.

In 2006 I was in northern Malawi where there are thousands of shallow wells, but many of whose hand pumps have broken down. Working with the Irish charity Wells for Zoë, we are now planning another Canzee Pump workshop which will have four main aims.


  •  First, we will be making much needed reliable pumps.
  •  Secondly, the workshop will create employment.
  •  By making the pumps locally their cost will be much reduced.
  •  But, the best news of all is that the workshop will be also be used to train others to make the pumps and to set up their own workshops elsewhere.

The workshop will be an independent Wells for Zoë activity, but will share some of the excellent facilities of the St. John of God Centre in Mzuzu – part of one of the most highly respected organisations in the field of mental health. They have a first class teaching programme for their own staff and then, when possible offer vocational training to its clients as they recover from mental illness. Few organisations have impressed me as much and I am so pleased that we can work alongside them in Malawi.

A suitable plot of land has already been purchased, planning permission obtained and building work is due to start soon. We have started to fill a shipping container with the tools and materials to make the first six hundred pumps. Funding is now assured thanks to the generosity of many donors including schools, Lions, Rotary Clubs and Inner Wheel clubs, and individuals.

Other Projects?

In recent months I have probably send pumps to more different destinations than ever before. These have included 42 to Indonesia, 10 to Ghana, 16 to Madagascar, 16 to Chad for use close to the border with Sudan. I have sent self-jetting wellscreens and pumps to Medair for use in Sudan. This month I will be visiting Niger to demonstrate Canzee and Can-Lift Pumps, then will shortly go to Uganda to show how Rower Pumps can be used to draw from very shallow water sources.

The Future?

None of us can know what is round the corner, but having turned 60 a few months ago I am starting to think more seriously as to how the techniques I have acquired over the last thirty years can be passed on.

The pump workshop in Malawi is the single most important way in which we can ensure the pump making skills will continue. In many ways it will replicate the facilities I have here in Hartburn which I have evolved over the last few years – hopefully without the muddle I seem to live in constantly!

We are now documenting the entire pump making process, much of which involves the use of a large, old fashioned centre lathe. Thanks to eBay I have managed to acquire several identical lathes, at least two of which will go to Malawi. We are photographing, filming and recording all the key stages we have learned over the years together with the tricks the trade we learned subconsciously.

Thank you!

I must express my profound thanks and gratitude to all those who have loyally supported my water development activities over so many years. This includes financial support from many donors and personal and emotional support from family and friends. Without this support I would never have been able to continue my pump development work for as long as I have.

Wells for Zoë

For more information of this charity look at where you will find a mass of interesting information, not only relating to the pump workshop, but also to John and Mary Coyne’s vision of what can be done around Mzuzu.

Copy (5) of Mzuzu Sept 8 2006 Richard 021

Richard Cansdale

SWS Filtration Limited

Hartburn, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 4JB

Tel. 01670 772214 Fax 01670 772363 email


  • Great stuff Richard, I know you will keep up the good work as its in your nature to do so. Best wishes. Dan & Jenni

    By Anonymous, at 1:10 PM  

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