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More than Drilling: 5 Types of Appropriate Water Technology

Clean, safe water is vital to thrive and live as God intends. But, a drilled well isn’t always the most appropriate technology for a given situation. Sometimes, it isn’t even technically possible.

One size doesn’t fit all. Lifewater’s approach to safe water access reflects the realities of the places we work: regions with unique natural environments, cultural priorities, and technical challenges.

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“The objective is to provide safe drinking water, but there’s a huge variety in the types of situations that we work with,” Lifewater WASH Engineer Jon Viducich said. “It’s important to have flexibility so we can find what’s appropriate for each location.”

Below are the five types of water technologies used by Lifewater in Africa and Asia.

Five Types of Appropriate Technology

Hand-dug Well

When water is available at a shallow depth below the land surface and roads aren’t accessible or don’t exist, skilled technicians can dig a well (less than 100 feet deep) that is lined, capped, and equipped with a hand pump.

From the surface, the hand-dug well looks just like a drilled well, but underneath is very different. This is a primitive form of water access that has been used for generations.

appropriate technology
Two young children fill their jerry can with water from the village’s hand-dug well.

Drilled Well

When water is located deep below the land surface (more than 100 feet) and access roads are available, we mobilize a drill rig. Drilled wells are also lined, capped, and equipped with a hand pump. Drilling depth typically range from 100 to 400 feet, depending on the location.

appropriate technology
A child celebrates the clean water coming from the village’s new drilled well.

Protected Spring

Naturally flowing spring water can be captured and directed to a tap or piped system, protecting it from contamination. This is a very low-tech solution that can last a long time when constructed properly.

appropriate technology
A young Ethiopian girl collects water from her community’s capped spring.

Rainwater Harvesting

A rainwater harvesting tank is a system in which one or more tanks store rainwater collected from a roof. It’s a common solution at schools with large buildings and surface area to capture the rain. This needs to be flushed and chlorinated to provide safe water for schools.

appropriate technology
A Ugandan girl gathers water from her school’s new rainwater harvesting tank.

Rehabilitated Wells

Before developing any new water sources in a region, Lifewater first works with communities to rehabilitate existing sources. Repairing an existing source is often much more cost effective than constructing a new one, and when done properly and professionally, can serve a community well. By fixing water points that have fallen into disrepair, we can help multiply the impact in hard-to-reach communities.

A Cambodian boy drinks from his village’s rehabilitated well.

Determining the Appropriate Technology

After rehabilitating any existing wells in the district, Lifewater works with individual communities in need of safe water to measure things like population, distance traveled, and queuing time to make sure everyone in the village is served.

“The situation in each village is unique. We work to identify the best natural water resources available within a community to determine what is most appropriate and desired,” Dr. Pamela Crane-Hoover, Lifewater’s Chief of WASH Engineering, said. “For example, in some of the areas we serve, there are natural springs, and the communities prefer these over wells, and so we work to protect the springs to provide safe drinking water. By using appropriate technology, we are able to meet community needs as well as promote sustainability.”

While the types of water sources may vary, the schools and communities we serve share a common reality: access to safe water is essential for people to live, work, worship, and make a way out of poverty.