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

Développement de l’accès durable à l’eau souterraine: utilisation, protection, amélioration

Publication 2014-3

La présente publication du Réseau pour l’approvisionnement en eau en milieu rural (RWSN) souhaite mieux faire comprendre l’importance cruciale que revêtent les eaux souterraines et souligner les risques qui pèsent sur leur pérennité. Elle s’adresse aux responsables politiques, aux décideurs, aux partenaires gouvernementaux et au grand public. Elle prône une utilisation responsable des eaux souterraines et met en garde contre les abus. Elle encourage les usagers à protéger et à améliorer ces ressources précieuses afin de servir les intérêts à long terme des communautés les plus vulnérables ayant principalement recours aux pompes manuelles. | more information »

Principles for Borehole Construction and Rehabilitation in Sierra Leone

This document represents the official guidelines of the Government of Sierra Leone on the issue of the construction and rehabilitation of boreholes.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. | more information »

An Assessment of the EMAS Pump and its Potential for Use in Household Water Systems in Uganda

University of South Florida MSc Thesis

Rural improved water supply coverage in Uganda has stagnated around 64% for a number of years and at this point more than 10 million rural people do not have access to an improved drinking water source. It has been recognized that progress toward improved water supply coverage and increased service levels may be gained through Government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) support of private investment in household and shared water supplies, commonly known as Self-supply.
There are indications that low-cost wells and underground rainwater tanks are applicable in many parts of Uganda and could be paired with an EMAS Pump to achieve significant affordability for Self-supply household water systems. Recommendations are provided in terms of the feasibility of introducing the EMAS Pump as a part of Self-supply strategies in Uganda. | more information »

UPGro abstracts from 41st IAH Congress, Sep 2014

The abstracts below were submitted and presented at the 41st Congress of the International Association of Hydrogeologists in Marrakech (15-19 Sep). They draw on work funded through the UPGro programme.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. | more information »

Improving access to safe drinking water: Prospection for low-fluoride sources

Brief report presenting main findings - Addis Ababa, August 2014

This report presents the key findings from the UPGro catalyst project: "Improving access to safe drinking water_prospection for low-fluoride sources Groundwater". It covers the background of natural fluoride levels in groundwater in the Ethiopian Central Rift Valley and looks at some defluoridation interventions, including the use of bone char. The costs, benefits and main findings and lessons are presented.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. | more information »

Manually Drilled Boreholes: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond

The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) is continuing its work on cost-effective boreholes under its theme of Sustainable Groundwater Development. The network is supporting stakeholders to improve borehole drilling policies and practices. As part of this effort, UNICEF and Skat Foundation are collaborating on manual drilling in Africa. The 2012 to 2014 collaboration documented and facilitated exchange on the introduction and professionalization of manual drilling in more than 20 countries.

This report is about the role played by manually drilled boreholes in meeting water needs in Lagos city, Lagos State and more widely in Nigeria. By examining Nigeria, the report draws out key lessons for those who are promoting, or trying to regulate manual drilling in other countries. It is hoped that this report, and the accompanying photo/video documentary and blogs will trigger action to better support manual drilling efforts in Lagos, in Nigeria and in other countries. | more information »

Code of Practice for Water Well Construction


This Nigerian Code of Practice for Well Construction was elaborated by the Technical Committee for Water Well Construction.
Groundwater development is one of the sources of the Federal and State Governments Water Supply Intervention Programmes under which government embarked on construction of open wells and boreholes in order to increase access to portable water to Nigerians. However, water well construction is still characterized by cases of “failed hole”, poor quality service, and unprofessional conduct of drillers and lack of established code to regulate the practice of water well drilling in Nigeria. These are serious concern to government, donor agencies and sector stakeholders who see them as militating factors towards attainment of water supply project objectives in particular and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in general. This Code of Practice was therefore elaborated to provide the framework for water well construction in Nigeria.
In the elaboration of this Code of Practice, reference made to Nigerian Industrial standards and National standards of other countries are acknowledged. | more information »

Handpumps: where now?

A synthesis of online discussions (2012-2014)

In 2012, RWSN established as its online electronic platform for membership and discussion. The groundwater and handpump groups have been among the most active communities. The number and depth of contributions has been rich, and several members have asked for a synthesis of the discussions. They main topics that emerged were:
1. Water Quality - particularly iron and pump corrosion
2. Procurement, Quality Control and Installation
3. Sustaining handpumps - what is the average lifespan of a handpump?
4. Handpump component failures and the need to redesign public domain designs
5. The politics of new pump designs: the Squirrel Cage Pump

Join the debate at on dgroups, using the links below. | more information »

UNICEF Hand Pump R&D Project in Ranga Reddy District Andhra Pradesh

Concluding Report

This Project represents the next generation of systematic development of hand pump components with modern materials under UNICEF’s sponsorship, both intellectually and financially. This Project also establishes the relevance of Ranga Reddy Test Area for hand pumps, where field testing of hand pumps under deep static water table conditions has been undertaken for many years. Hence, the results of this project’s field trials supercede similar work done in the past on similar materials and under similar or more favourable physical conditions.

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-RWSN publication and endorsement by RWSN or any of its member organisations should not be inferred. | more information »

Water quality testing to establish whether high iron originates from corrosion of pump components or the aquifer

Method Sheet

The Problem:
(1) Production of a red/brown coloured discharge first thing in the morning. This is caused by the discharge of corrosion products that have accumulated in the well during the night when there was no pumping. In most cases, the discharge clears up as the solid corrosion products are removed from the well.

(2) Discolouration of water which was clear when pumped, but develops a red/brown discolouration after a few minutes to hours. This is the result of the oxidation of ferrous iron (Fe2+) to ferric iron (Fe3+), which causes the precipitation of iron hydroxides and oxides. This could be caused by either naturally high ferrous iron in the aquifer, or the addition of iron to the well water from corrosion of handpump components. | more information »