RWSN Themes

Sustainable Groundwater Development for Rural Water Supplies

Groundwater provides a significant proportion of rural dwellers in the developing countries with access to safe drinking water and will continue to do so in the future. 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. In some places, heavy water use for agriculture has led to over-abstraction and placed groundwater out of the reach of domestic users as water tables have fallen. There are also regions where groundwater quality is not fit for human consumption (e.g. due to a high level of arsenic, fluoride, iron or nitrates, or contamination from human impacts such as poor sanitation, oil spills or chemicals).

The objective of the Sustainable Groundwater Development theme is: Groundwater resources are properly considered and sustainably used for developing drinking water supply sources. The theme has three sub-topics:

  • Handpump Technology
  • Cost Effective Boreholes (includes machine drilling and manual drilling)
  • Cost Effective Water Resource Management

To find out more and to get involved join the Sustainable Groundwater Development community on dgroups, or one of the specialist groups:


Related Resources

Hand drilling a shallow tube-well and fitting a simple “Bailer-bucket” in Zimbabwe

The construction of the lighter duty, simple hand operated drilling rig has been described in another manual and was designed for drilling shallow tube wells in softer soil formations, which occur in some areas of Zimbabwe. Currently the drilling stems extend to a maximum of 12m. Staff members of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare are familiar with local shallow ground water conditions in Zimbabwe. A depth of 12m is suitable for the use of this simple rig in combination with simple water raising devices like the Bailer-bucket, Bucket Pump and Blair Pump. | more information »

Technical Guidelines for Construction and Maintenance of Hand Dug Wells

Sierra Leone

This document represents the official guidelines of the Government of Sierra Leone on the issue of the construction and maintenance of hand dug wells.

This publication is intended for water sector practitioners and managers who coordinate and oversee water supply service delivery. It is the outcome of a partnership between the Ministry of Water Resources, Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), and a number of implementing agencies working in the WASH sector in Sierra Leone.

If this publication can contribute to permanent and lasting water points in Sierra Leone, and better standards of construction, then it will have achieved its purpose. | more information »

RWSN Annual Report 2013

Enabling practitioners, professionals and ultimately water users to make informed decisions on how to improve and maintain access to safe water in rural areas.

The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) is a global network of professionals and practitioners. It works to raise standards of knowledge as well as technical and professional competence in rural water supplies and thus fulfil the vision of sustainable rural water services for all.

The year 2013 witnessed the dramatic growth in the number of members from 2,567 to over 5,125. Members are from 124 different countries. The network now also provides the opportunity for organisation membership, a mechanism that should strengthen RWSN and improve its vibrancy over the coming years.

Confidence in online exchange and sharing has grown, evidenced by extensive participation in e-discussions, whether formally structured, or as individuals respond to each other’s queries and comments. The sustainable Groundwater Development, Handpump Services and Mapping communities have been notably vibrant in 2013. | more information »

Tapping Treasure: Cost-Effective Boreholes in Sierra Leone - Project Report 4

March 2014

The eight-month cost-effective boreholes project funded by the Department of International Development through the WASH Facility of Sierra Leone ended in February 2014. The project completed on a high note, with a short course on drilling supervision which was attended by 21 stakeholders from Government and NGOs. The practical, hands on nature of the course was particularly appreciated by those who participated. For many who attended, it was their first time to actually witness borehole drilling in practice. Some participants had already been in the role of drilling supervisor before, but most of them had not been sure of how to undertake this job in a professional manner. The exposure was important not only for those who may actually undertake borehole drilling supervision in the future, but also for the senior staff who will be responsible for managing projects and supporting drilling supervisors in the future. | more information »

RWSN Handpump Survey 2013

Summary of Findings

Manual pumps have been used for centuries but this simple technology remains the mainstay of rural water supplies in many countries. The Handpump Technology Network (which later became RWSN) was set up in 1992 to promote collaboration and standardisation so that handpumps could provide more reliable and better quality rural water services.

This survey is aimed at practitioners in government, NGOs, private sector and development partners who are directly involved in rural water service implementation, or who are involved in the procurement of handpumps or spare parts (as either a buyer or seller). | more information »

Short Course: Drilling Supervision

Cost-Effective Boreholes

A five-day course for engineers and WASH professionals in Sierra Leone.
The objectives of the course are to:
- understand:
- the importance of effective drilling supervision
- the nature of groundwater occurrence
- the steps and actions required in full time supervision
- the steps and actions required in part time or milestone supervision

- be able to quality assure and certify drilling records
- be able to undertake borehole construction supervision! | more information »

Procurement & Gestão de Contratos de Construção de Furos de Água

Um Guião para Fiscais e Gestores de Projectos

A alta taxa de furos de água inoperacionais em muitas partes do mun-do é atribuído, em parte, à falta de profissionalismo no sector de perfu-ração. A fim de aumentar o acesso a um abastecimento de água segu-ro e sustentável, empreiteiras de perfuração competentes e experientes devem ser contratados. Da mesma forma, o equipamento adequado é necessária e consultores experientes são necessários para supervisionar a construção. | more information »

Fiscalização de Furos de Água

Um guião para Fiscais

Boa fiscalização da execução de furos de água é essencial para a provisão de furos de água de longa duração. Estes apontamentos (guia) servem para ajudar aos geólogos e engenheiros encarrega-dos da fiscalização da construção de furos, bem como aos gestores de projectos. Estes podem ser usados para preparar-se uma for-mação, e também como um manual. | more information »

The Zimbabwe Bucket Pump

An update

The “Bucket Pump” is a water lifting device which uses a tubular bucket to raise water from a tubular well – known as a tube well. These wells, usually drilled with a hand auger. They work best in shallow aquifers, where the soil is soft and easy to penetrate. Where conditions are suitable a well can be hand drilled in a few hours, cased with a PVC pipe, which is surrounded by a gravel pack. The pipe ascends through a concrete head-works consisting of an apron and water run-off. The pipe is closed off at the top lid. The tubular buckets were fitted with a non-return valve at the base. At first the tube-buckets were raised on a rope directly by hand. Later models used a windlass system to raise the bucket. Initially these windlass adapted bucket pumps were hand made using treated gum poles as windlass supports. Later the concept was commercialised, which shadowed the earlier work and made the device more expensive. | more information »

The Blair Pump

An update

The Blair Pump is a simple direct action shallow well hand pump. It was first designed in 1976 and developed further at the Blair Research Laboratory in Harare, (formerly Salisbury). The earlier models were heavy duty using 90mm PVC pipe as a cylinder. The maximum lift of these earlier models was 6m. Later in the early 1980’s a lighter duty model was designed at the laboratory for family use. Like the earlier model it was built with “off the shelf” fittings, which could put together by an artisan or in the home. This later model used 40mm PVC as a cylinder. The maximum pipe length for these later models was 12m. A description of its construction was introduced in to the school curriculum at the time. A mass produced version was also manufactured in Zimbabwe in the early 1980’s, using 50mm PVC pipe as a cylinder. These various models were described in detail in Rural Water Supplies and Sanitation. | more information »