Solar-powered water systems
Solar power can vastly improve the reach and quality of water services.
Globally, an estimated 785 million people do not have access to a basic drinking water service. This means they must rely on sources like rivers or lakes – prone to contamination – or travel more than 30 minutes to collect drinking water.
But solar-powered systems can vastly enhance the quality of water services, improving the health, development, safety and livelihoods of children and their families.
Solar-powered water systems can keep children healthy while reducing emissions from diesel systems. They can reduce the impact of declining water levels and extreme weather events by enabling pumping from deeper levels below the ground – even during droughts or when many shallow wells go dry. Most importantly, they can continue operating after storms, when other electrical systems are no longer operational.
Unlike traditional handpumps, solar-powered systems can be used for water storage and can supply water for multiple purposes, making water available to a larger population. This reduces walking and waiting times, and can make water readily accessible to schools, health-care facilities and entire communities.
For decades, UNICEF has worked on solar-powered water systems, bringing extensive experience in the siting, design, procurement, installation, operation and maintenance of solar systems.
In 2019, UNICEF installed more than 1,200 solar-powered water systems in over 40 countries across six regions, providing water to the most vulnerable children and their families in remote areas. In Nigeria, we installed 371 systems that helped provide water and power to 52 schools and 85 health-care facilities. We have also installed large-scale solar-powered systems in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, and continue to do so in emergency contexts where access to electricity and fuel can be unpredictable and challenging.
To help expand the use of solar-powered water systems, we also develop manuals and online courses to provide technical guidance to WASH practitioners.