Horse and wind powered pumps

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Wind powered rope pump in Nicaragua used for irrigation of 1 ha of fruit trees and vegetables. Photo: Netherlands Water Partnership.

Renewable energy sources such as animal power and wind power can be used to extract water from wells.

Wind powered pumps

In several countries, low-cost windmills are used to power piston pumps. Examples include the Miramar mills in Peru, the Poldaw mills in Africa and Baptist mills in Bolivia.

In Nicaragua, windmills are combined with a rope pump. The wind rope pump has features of a modern wind pump of Dutch design (CWD 2000) and there are 300 units installed in Nicaragua, produced locally and maintained by the users. They are used for cattle watering, domestic water supply and irrigation. A recent survey indicates that the investment in a wind rope pump for irrigation can be recovered within 2-3 years.

Suitable conditions

Advantages Disadvantages
- Uses renewable energy sources.

- Can be combined with a permanent magnet generator.

- Sometimes the wind does not blow

Construction, operations and maintenance


  • Horse rope pump: 120 litres/min (10 m head).
  • Wind rope pump: 60 litres/min (10 m head).

Rural electricity

As an option, wind rope pumps can be combined with a permanent magnet generator to charge batteries for a few light bulbs and a television. There are also small wind generators based on the design of the wind rope pump.


(AMEC, Nicaragua)

  • Horse rope pump: US$ 350.
  • Wind rope pump: US$ 450 - 800.

Manuals, videos, and links

This 50 minute movie shows how to make a windmill which powers an EMAS pump. Mobile School for Water and Sanitation.
Windmill and rope pump repairing in India - This windmill is connected to a rope pump and produces water for a farm. It stops automatically when the wind becomes dangerously strong. Both windmill and pump are produced by local entrepreneurs with local available materials in India. Maintenance activities are shown.
Windmill powered rope pump in Nicaragua. S.J. Batchelor, 1999. An innovative low-cost windmill used in Nicaragua for small-scale irrigation, cattle watering and domestic use. The windmill drives a rope pump, similar to the hand rope pump (70.000 installed in Nicaragua). Based on a Dutch design developed by CWD consultancy. 400 windmill pumps have been installed and produced by AMEC in Managua.