Improving Irrigation in Remote Areas: Multi-objective Optimization of a Treadle Pump

Santaeufemia, P.S. , Johnson, N.G. , McComb, C. , and Shimada, K.

2014, ASME IDETC - Design Automation Conference

Water-lifting technologies in rural areas of the developing world have enormous potential to stimulate agricultural and economic growth. The treadle pump, a human-powered low-cost pump designed for irrigation in developing countries, can help farmers maximize financial return on small plots of land by ending their dependency on rain-fed irrigation systems. The treadle pump uses a suction piston to draw groundwater to the surface by way of a foot-powered treadle attached to each suction piston. Current treadle pump designs lift water from depths up to 7 meters at a flow-rate of 1–5 liters per second. This work seeks to optimize the design of the Dekhi style treadle pump, which has gained significant popularity due to its simplicity. A mathematical model of the working fluid and treadle pump structure has been developed in this study. Deterministic optimization methods are then employed to maximize the flow rate of the groundwater pumped, maximize the lift height, and minimize the volume of material used for manufacturing. Design variables for the optimization included the dimensions of the pump, well depth, and speed of various parts of the system. The solutions are subject to constraints on the geometry of the system, the bending stress in the treadles, and ergonomic factors. Findings indicate that significant technical improvements can be made on the standard Dekhi design, such as increasing the size of the pump cylinders and hose, while maintaining a standard total treadle length. These improvements could allow the Dekhi pump to be implemented in new regions and benefit additional rural farmers in the developing world.