RWSN Themes

Sustainable Groundwater Development for Rural Water Supplies

Groundwater is playing an ever important role for drinking water supplies, particularly in rural areas. In many countries, there has been a switch from using unprotected surface water to protected groundwater. Groundwater is fairly ubiquitous, but its conditions vary enormously and exploitation is often undertaken with limited understanding of hydrogeology and without sufficient evaluation of the resource, especially in developing counties. The days when pumps could be installed without considering the groundwater resource are over. Groundwater scarcity and pollution are becoming a major concern in some places. There are regions where groundwater quality is not fit for human consumption due to a high level of arsenic, fluoride, iron or nitrates and there is need for professionalism and vigilance to ensure that infrastructure is built to last, and that borehole provision is cost-effective. Basically, without proper drilling supervision, and quality pumps, universal access to a safe drinking water supply will never be met. RWSN’s Sustainable Groundwater Development theme sets out to ensure that goundwater resources are properly considered and sustainably used for developing drinking water supply sources.



Code of practice and associated guidelines (RWSN)

Code of Practice for Cost-Effective Boreholes
Siting of Drilled Water Wells - A Guide for Project Managers
Procurement and Contract Management of Drilled Well Construction - A Guide for Supervisors and Project Managers
Supervising Water Well Drilling A guide for supervisors
Costing and Pricing - A Guide for Water Well Drilling Enterprises
Sustainable Groundwater Development: use, protect and enhance
Code de bonnes pratiques pour la réalisation de forages
Implantation des forages - Guide à l’intention des chefs de projet
Passation de marchés et gestion des contrats de construction de forages - Guide à l’intention des superviseurs et chefs de projet
Supervision des forages d’eau potable Guide à l’intention des superviseurs
Analyse des coûts et détermination des prix Guide à l’intention des entreprises de forage d’eau
Développement de l’accès durable à l’eau souterraine: utilisation, protection, amélioration
Procurement & Gestão de Contratos de Construção de Furos de Água:  Um Guião para Fiscais e Gestores de Projectos
Fiscalização de Furos de Água: Um guião para Fiscais
Cálculo de Custos e Preço: Guião para Empresas de Furos de Água

Manual Drilling Toolkit (UNICEF/Practica/Enterprise Works/VITA)

Toolkit for the Profesionalization of Manual Drilling in Africa

Handpump Standards (RWSN)

International standards for the public domain handpumps

Learning materials

Webinar recordings (2015)



Manual Drilling – a global perspective of local realities

Le forage manuel - points de vue internationaux sur les réalités locales

Groundwater Resources and Supplies in Africa


Groundwater Governance


Effective procurement and contract management

Renforcer l'efficacité des processus de passation de marchés et de gestion des contrats

Drilling supervision is no longer in fashion – the funders save; the users pay

La supervision des forages est passée de mode - les bailleurs de fonds économisent; les usagers en paient le prix

Webinar recordings (2014)

E-discussion summaries

RWSN Publications

Drilling Professionalisation


Get Involved

Links & Resources


The Sustainable Groundwater Development theme has the longest history in RWSN, building on:

Related Resources

An Evaluation of the BluePump in Kenya and Gambia

This report presents the results of an evaluation of the Fairwater BluePump, an emerging rural water supply technology in sub-Saharan Africa. Claims about the BluePump’s durability and minimal maintenance requirements have provoked significant interest within the rural water sector. This evaluation set out to assess the suitability of the BluePump as a rural water supply technology, taking into account its operational performance, the experiences of water users, the views of local stakeholders, and the broader contextual factors that impinge upon its sustainability. | more information »

Professional Water Well Drilling

A UNICEF Guidance Note

This guidance note provides practical guidance for organisations and individuals that are trying to raise the professionalism of groundwater development in Africa. The guidance note is mainly concerned with rural and small towns’ water supplies but is mindful of the huge challenges faced by supplies in many growing African cities dealing with problems of groundwater quantity and quality.

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.21914.64964 | more information »

Quality Assurance of Unicef Drilling Programes for Boreholes in Malawi

Consultancy Services

This review was commissioned by UNICEF to snapshot the current effectiveness of procurement and field processes related to the drilling, the role of the district councils in these implementation processes and indeed the quality of the finished water point products. This with an objective of identifying weaknesses and remedying them in future programmes. | more information »

Developing Groundwater: A guide for rural water supply

In many rural areas, groundwater is the only feasible way of providing safe, reliable water supplies. However, developing groundwater is not always straightforward. To meet the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals, more attention needs to be paid to finding and developing groundwater in a sustainable, cost-effective and participatory manner. Developing Groundwater provides a user-friendly guide to this key topic, bringing together for the first time the wide range of techniques required to develop groundwater for community water supplies. This practical manual gives information on effective techniques for siting wells and boreholes, assessing the sustainability of sources, constructing and testing the yield of boreholes and wells, and monitoring groundwater quality. The authors set the technical aspects of rural water supply firmly in their socio-economic context, so that readers can take proper account of community concerns as well as purely engineering questions. Packed with helpful illustrations this book is indispensable for all rural water supply project staff in developing countries.

Alan MacDonald is a hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey. He has worked extensively in Africa, Asia and the Pacific in partnership with government departments, NGOs, research institutes and rural communities. Much of his work has focused on the practical issues of developing groundwater resources for rural water supply.

1) Go to
2) Each chapter is downloadable separately from the Table of Contents on this page. Click on “PDF ({file size} kb)” under each chapter heading.
3) The PDF of the chapter should appear in your browser, then download or save the PDF to your computer or device. | more information »

Assessing the Risk to Groundwater from On-Site Sanitation

Guidelines for

There has been encouraging progress with access to safe drinking water and sanitation in both rural and urban areas since the United Nations Water Decade of the 1980s. However, more than 1 billion people around the world still lack access to safe water supplies and more than 2.4 billion are without adequate sanitation. A substantial majority of these people live in Asia where the lack of sanitation provision is particularly acute. In Africa, over one third of the population still remains without access to safe water and sanitation, and many of these can only be served by groundwater. The need for renewed efforts to improve the situation is recognised in DFID's recently published water strategy paper - ''Addressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and More Productive Lives for Poor People''.

These guidelines are an important contribution to risk assessment and the avoidance of the contamination of groundwater supplies from on-site sanitation. They have been development as part of a project funded by DFID through the water component of the Infrastructure and Urban Development Division's Knowledge and Research Programme. | more information »

Procurement, Costing & Pricing and Contract Management of Borehole Construction - Zambia Short Course Report

Striving for Professionalism in Cost Effective Boreholes in Zambia

The Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) Zambia and the Water and Resources Management Authority (WARMA) weresupported by the cooperation of UNICEF and Skat Foundation to strengthen capacity in the country with respect to siting, drilling, supervision, procurement and contract management. The support included the delivery of a five-day short course to 38 participants in Zambia on drilling procurement, costing & pricing and contract management. This report presents the proceedings and outcomes of the course. | more information »

Groundwater Resources of Malawi

This report comprises a summary and interpretation of all available archive hydrogeological data from boreholes and wells up to December 1981. In addition, information has been obtained from the more recent work of the Groundwater Section, both in its general groundwater development programme and in the specific investigations into key aspects of the hydrogeology, primarily aquifer properties and water level fluctuations. | more information »

Manual for Integrated Projects for Rural Groundwater Supplies

This Manual has been prepared so that Malawian professional staff can effectively and economically provide domestic water supplies to the large number of Malawi rural villages that depend on groundwater. This Manual is distributed at the seminar so that other countries may benefit from significant advances in rural groundwater development which have taken place in Malawi over the past two years with the assistance of the United Kingdom Government and United Nations Development Programme. The Manual is based on work carried out by staff of the Department of Lands, Valuation and Water in co­ operation with staff of the UKODA and UNDTCD and the participation of Malawi's industrial sector. | more information »

Field Study Investigating the Potential of Water Quality

Testing to Predict Corrosion in Boreholes in Northern Uganda

Water sources are often abandoned by communities for two reasons: (1) the aesthetics of water quality that affects user acceptability and (2) the breakdown of pump parts that prohibits use of the borehole. Both can be related to the aggressiveness of water and both are important. Electroconductivity and pH and indices can indicate the potential of galvanic corrosion and electrochemical corrosion, respectively. Electrochemical corrosion contributes most to the high levels of iron from boreholes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy of pH strips in predicting groundwater pH and aggressiveness, compare the reliability of three different pH test strips to a Hanna pH probe, determine the origin of iron measured in boreholes, and make relevant recommendations. | more information »

Upgraded Family Wells in Zimbabwe (2012)

A study of Upgraded Family Well technology and training

Several years ago Zimbabwe embarked on a program of upgrading family owned wells. This program was fully endorsed by the GOZ and operated under the MOHCW. The program has been well documented in papers and other publications. This program was based on the fact that for many decades individual families had chosen to upgrade their own wells privately and outside the formal GOZ rural water supply and sanitation program. In the early 1980’s the number of family owned wells in Zimbabwe was estimated to be at least 100 000. Many of these were lined with bricks and had some form of head works. Many were fitted with windlasses – a legacy from the mining industry. The windlass made the bucket easier to lift and also retained the rope or chain in a hygienic position above ground. However the majority of family owned wells were poorly protected and open and were subject to contamination, especially during the rainy season and were also dangerous for children. | more information »