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

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 »

Supply Chains for Rural Water Supply in Uganda

HTN Report

The objective of this study is to review the status of supply chains for spare parts with the goal to identify appropriate interventions that will improve availability of spare parts. Supply of equipment cannot be de-linked from supply of spare parts therefore the study looks into the supply of equipment as well. | more information »

Evaluation of Hand Augered Well Technologies’ Capacity to Improve Access to Water in Coastal Ngöbe Communities in Panama

MSc thesis submitted to University of South Florida 2014

In Panama, the indigenous Ngöbe people in the ÑöKribo coastal area are a group disproportionately affected by a lack of improved access to drinking water and challenges to the feasibility of piped gravity fed water systems that typically serve the rest of the country. An NGO aiming to ameliorate this situation introduced two improved groundwater supply technologies to the region: bailers and EMAS hand pumps. This study assesses the comparative performance of these systems while evaluating the respective performances of existing water sources, using the wide variety of quantitative and qualitative data obtained.

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

Elements of Sustainable Solar Water Pumping System Design

Synthesis and presentations from 2015 WEDC Conference Workshop

Technological advances over the past decade have made solar water pumping a viable option for potable water service delivery in rural settings. Solar pumping is an especially attractive alternative when poor groundwater quality or high population density and growth limit the applicability of boreholes fitted with handpumps. However, globally-accessible resources that specifically speak to the various technological, financial, social, environmental, institutional, and operational elements of sustainable solar pumping designs are limited. This workshop provides participants with an opportunity to explore various aspects of holistic design of solar pumping systems through guided group discussion. | more information »

Security systems for Hand Pumps in rural areas of Malawi

Description of technical solutions to protect Afridev hand pumps from robberies and vandalism developed by Inter Aide and its local partner BASEDA in Malawi. | more information »

Why wells should only be dug in a specific period of the year?

Understanding one of the main causes of wells’ drying in Sierra Leone, through an analysis of a water table movements.

A survey conducted by Inter Aide in 2010-2011 in 3 districts of Sierra Leone has highlighted that among 2028 hand-dug wells visited, 45% of them were not delivering water permanently all year long. | more information »

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

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” Pump and Blair Pump.
This manual describes the test drilling of a tube-well in Epworth, near Harare, Zimbabwe and the construction and fitting of a PVC casing and filter mechanism. It also describes the construction of a simple “Bailer-Bucket” pump and the head works at the head of the tube well. Of particular significance is the part played by the family itself by making the water raising device – a tubular bucket fitted with non-return valve and handle. The design of the “pump” is very simple and easily made within the home. The chances of continued operation and maintenance are this considerably improved. | more information »

UPGro Consortium Kick-off meeting presentations

London, 22 April 2015

The second phase of the 'Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor' (UPGro) was launched in London on 22 April 2015. These are the powerpoint presentations from the day. | more information »