Pune, India 15:00 IST
“No need to meet me at the corner,” I tell my colleague over the phone as my rickshaw enters traffic. I’ve been to our test plot a few times before and think I can retrace my footsteps: second gas station on the right, over the little bridge, right at the school and around the corner. It’s 3pm and having worked on my laptop all day, I’m excited to hear that a water tanker will come fill our tank so that we can do some testing at our drip irrigation demo plot nearby our office.
Only one wrong turn later, I walk up to the warehouse to meet a field assistant, Rupesh. Despite a significant language barrier, Rupesh and I mime our ways through an afternoon of expanding our demo plot.
The task is to determine the area that we can irrigate using a gravity-powered system. We know what has worked for us in the past, and we’ve read the reports, but we want to test the specific configuration that we will use in an installation in a few weeks in a remote part of the country.
Rupesh and I start with a trip to the plumbing store to get the fittings we need to connect the water tank with the ball valve, filter and sub-main water line.
Sarah in search of the right fittings
After measuring out the plot dimensions for testing, we put together the sub-main line, drill holes in the PVC pipe, insert grommets, fit the takeoffs in the holes, and attach the laterals. Then comes the challenge of making the tank connection. We’ve used a stack of shipping pallets to create a stand 1m high for the water tank. With some huffing and puffing, we manage to lift a nearly empty (but cumbersome) water tank up onto the stand. The city’s water supply is turned off but our water tanker arrives and fills the tank for about 1 rupee/ liter.
Rupesh manning the water tank at Driptech's test plot in Pune, India
Since we need to be able to adjust the filter and plot configuration for future tests, we don’t glue the fittings together. Because PVC pipe is made to approximate dimensions to keep the cost low, our fittings wiggle a bit before the system is completed. As the delivery tanker fills our water tank, this wiggly connection suddenly flies off. Rupesh presses his palm against the outlet to save our precious water and I grab the pipe to reconnect. “1, 2, 3” He releases his palm, we are sprayed with water again, and I quickly jam the pipe back in place. In the middle of a 38 degrees C afternoon, getting a little wet is actually quite refreshing!
We run the system, note the results and make a list of what we need for tomorrow’s test. After securing the removable portions of the demo plot inside the locked warehouse, I follow Rupesh along the top of a high wall of an unused sewer system as a shortcut to where he parked his scooter. We hop on the scooter and head to the plumbing store again to place an order for different pipes and fittings. It’s 7pm and the shopkeeper at the plumbing store wants to close up. We make a plan to meet back at the store the next morning to try to beat the heat.