Interview: The LifePump, tackling the water crisis, and not cutting corners

“We’ve sent man to the moon. We can make a (water) pump that lasts longer than 6 months.”

We absolutely agree. There has to be a better way to get clean water to people that need it. 

I think we all understand that you can’t just turn on the faucet for water in every part of the world – some communities have to use wells and water pumps. And sometimes when you dig for water, it seems like it’s not there. Turns out, the water is there, the problem is just engineering a pump that can reach it. 

Columbus-based engineer Greg Bixler, Ph.D., P.E., decided to tackle this challenge after a short-term trip to Central Asia in 2006 changed everything for him. He saw true poverty, “up close and personal,” and began searching for a way to use engineering to alleviate the suffering that had suddenly shifted his worldview.

“It’s hard to go back to your 9 to 5 after that.”

But Greg returned back to Columbus, Ohio and after sharing his stories from the trip, his engineering office brainstormed a solution together. The beginning ideas for what is now Design Outreach were born over brown bag lunches and a common drive to do good. 

“There’s no water here.”

It’s a phrase, Greg says, that is heard too often in many developing countries after unsuccessful attempts to drill for installation of a hand pump.

“In many villages, the water table is too deep for traditional hand pumps. Even if water is accessible, the pumps are often unreliable, sometimes needing repairs after only a few months of use.”  – doutreach.org

Solution? The LifePump.

The LifePump is the engineered technology of Design Outreach, a Columbus non-profit providing advanced solutions to address the water crisis and global poverty. LifePump is a water pump that reaches depths further than standard pumps and, most importantly, it lasts YEARS instead of months.  

The LifePump is a major game-changer:

  • It reaches further depths (100m!), that standard hand pumps may not be able to reach.
  • Advanced engineering = less maintenance.
    • Many LifePumps have been running for YEARS with no down time.
  • Community development results from having clean, accessible water, 100% of the time.
    • Upon their return trips to villages, the Design Outreach team seen the communities now able to develop gardens, buildings, latrines, and schools. 
    • Clean water saves lives, the LifePump has improved the health of entire communities.

“I just want you to know how much of a difference you’re making in this community.”

Greg will never forget hearing these words from a village elder who benefitted from the innovation and how it improved his community’s world. The Design Outreach team and 100’s of committed volunteer champions of their mission are there for a reason, and it’s much bigger than themselves.

This is *actually* changing the world.

“If you had the opportunity to speak to the people that use POINT’s app, read our blog or follow us, what would you want them to know?”

I asked Greg this question in the hopes that we’d all be able to learn from someone who started out like us – with a heart for humanity but no clue where to start – but was able to turn their skills into life-changing solutions. His reply has been stuck in my mind ever since:

“Something is not better than nothing – to do it with excellence is important.

Don’t cut corners. Design Outreach hasn’t, and what they have developed proves that it matters.

How can I help?

Design Outreach has many opportunities to help. Here are some options:

  • Donate your expertise
    • Are you skilled in graphic design, engineering, social media marketing, or fundraising? The most helpful thing to do is to say “These are my skills. What do you need help with?” Even if you’re not an expert, if you’re willing to learn it, that’s just as powerful.
  • Rally behind a project
    • Sponsor a village or donate to a campaign for the productions of a pump(s) to be installed in a partner country. Or email at organizations who install water pumps, like World Vision wash@wvi.org and and encourage them to keep installing lasting pumps – like the LifePump. 
  • Manual labor
    • Want to get your hands on the LifePump? D.O. welcomes volunteers to their production facility to clean and prepare the pump components for shipment. Visit www.doutreach.org to learn more.

For more information about the incredible story and impact of Design Outreach, please visit www.doutreach.org.


No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.