The paper describes an assessment of a large spring-fed piped water supply scheme in Ethiopia. Constructed in the mid-1990s, the scheme has recently reported yield problems. These problems threaten the sustainability of the scheme and the success that it has achieved in supplying over 70,000 people. The assessment indicated possible reasons for this, both in terms of the natural resource and the management of the water system. The very limited data that were available with regard to the operation and functioning of the system made it difficult to draw clear conclusions and underlined the need for data collection processes to be designed into the operation and management of water supply projects.
Why is a proven, simple technology which offers major economic advantages apparently finding some difficulty in gaining a foothold in Africa? Could it be too cheap for donors and too expensive for users? If the answers were simple, we would either have mushrooming production or complete abandonment. It may just be that as a 'new kid on the block', requiring new ways of thinking and new policies, the transfer process will take longer than expected. This paper explores some of the undoubted advantages which have convinced so many that its adoption has major benefits which should not be ignored. However it also examines some of the weaknesses and uncertainties which may be hindering acceptance of the pump by donors, governments and end-users. Addressing these weaknesses is essential if the pump is to fulfil any real potential to contribute to MDG (Millennium Development Goal) targets for water, health and poverty alleviation.