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Message from Village Earth: After sufficient food, a good clean water supply and adequate sanitation system are considered to be the most important factors in ensuring good health in a community. Improved water supply and sanitation systems were major elements of the public health measures that drastically cut death rates and improved health levels in the industrialized countries. Though it is not generally appreciated, these measures have been considerably more important than curative medicine in contributing to good health, long life expectancy and low infant mortality. Infant diarrhea, the largest killer in developing countries, is closely related to poor water quality.

Due to their great potential benefits, village water supply systems have been favorite development projects of government and international agencies for several decades. They make a revealing topic of study for appropriate technology advocates, as they represent one task for which small-scale technology has been widely promoted. A basic conclusion: a water supply or sanitation project that is imposed on a community, without community involvement in determining the need for and nature of the system, or without an effort to train some community members to do maintenance and repair, is very likely to fail.

Technologies[edit | edit source]


  • Stone hammer well drilling
  • Rota sludge well drilling
  • Bamboo screens
  • Fog water collection
  • Surface water - Tyrolean weir
  • Rainwater harvesting

Pumping and transportation


  • Storage tanks for rooftop harvesting
  • Wire-cement tank
  • Plastic-lined tank
  • Underground tank
  • Brick cement tank


Use of Water

  • Lay flat hose
  • Spray head
  • Pepsi drip
  • Nica drip
  • Spate irrigation
  • Pond farming
  • Finger pond

Practical Points for Participants[edit | edit source]

When designing a water and sanitation scheme, it is important to ensure that the benefits from the improvements outweigh the costs. This is compounded by the fact that all water improvements are incremental; since water is essential to life, everyone already has some access to water. Given the capital intensity of water improvement projects, it may prove difficult to show that the benefits associated with the project outweigh its costs. The key to success lies in creating services and payment mechanisms which overcome this cost-benefit analysis. (Whittington, 2008)

Water demands are inelastic and when there is extreme water scarcity, water can experience large price spikes. During Angola's civil war, water has at times cost more than gasoline. This inelasticity can also lead to price gouging from profit maximizing corporations who have regional monopolies on water. (Whittington, 2008)

Perhaps partially due to the perceived changes brought by power (there wasn't previously any and now there is) over those of piped water (always an incremental improvement) individual households in developing countries tend to prefer access to electricity over water. (Whittington, 2008)

In any developing country, the costs of installing a public water system will be somewhat fixed in that material and labor rates are fairly commoditized. Therefore it should be possible to identify communities capable of installing water systems based on their average household income, how much per household water access costs, and what percentage of household income is available for investment in water. An alternate method of identifying communities is to observe which of the poorest communities have made water system improvements. The incrementally poorer communities will likely be considering such improvements.

Water and sanitation services increase rapidly as a percentage of the population when the median household income is between 0 and 300 USD per month after which the increase is much slower. (Komives, 2003)

Estimated cost components for improved water and sanitation services at a 6% discount rate (UNDP, 2006)
Cost component
US$ per m3
 % of total
Opportunity cost of raw water supply .05 3
Storage and transmission to treatment plant .10 5
Treatment to drinking water standards .10 5
Distribution of water to households (including house connections) .60 30
Collection of wastewater from home and conveyance to wastewater treatment plant .80 40
Wastewater treatment .30 15
Damages associated with discharge of treated wastewater .05 3
Total 2 100

These numbers represent an average scenario. In arid regions of the Western United States, actual costs can be triple this and if costs are kept as low as possible, costs can be half of this.

Education Options[edit | edit source]

MIT Open Course Ware Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Planning in Developing Countries online course

A degree in Environmental Engineering from your local university is an excellent way to begin a career working with water and sanitation in developing countries

Upcoming Conferences[edit | edit source]

First International WaTER Conference October 26 - 27, 2009 University of Oklahoma

Guides[edit | edit source]

Water source selection - Guide to choosing a water source to develop

Water Quality Field Testing - Guide presenting options for water testing

Water Treatment Options - Guide to treating water sources

External links[edit | edit source]

Oxfam is well regarded in it's capacity for emergency water and sanitation work. Their manuals can be found here.

The Humanitarian Practice Network releases a number of "Good Practice Reviews" here is there guide to water and sanitation in emergencies.

The WELL website is a focal point for providing access to information about water, sanitation and environmental health and related issues in developing and transitional countries find their astonishing quantity of technical information here.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Whittington, Dale, Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Challenge Paper, Sanitation and Water, April 29, 2008
  • Komives, K., Whittington, D., and Wu, X. (2003). Infrastructure coverage and the poor: A global perspective. In P. Brook and T. Irwin (Eds.), Infrastructure for poor people: Public policy for private provision (pp. 77–124). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank Public–Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility.
  • UNDP (2006). Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. New York: United Nations Development Programme.


This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.



Pages in category "Water and sanitation for developing countries"

The following 37 pages are in this category, out of 37 total.

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