RWSN Topic

Groundwater Management

What happens when the borehole runs dry?

Even with a well maintained pump and a good borehole or well, things can still go wrong.  Understanding how groundwater behaves and how the quality and quantity of water in well can be affected by natural and human activities is essential. But how can it be done cost-effectively? RWSN is on the look out for good stories of how groundwater is monitored and managed well - by individuals, communities, service providers and governments.

Some example of locally-focused groundwater projection and management include:

  • Water Safety Planning (WSP) - by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Water Source Protection Planning  - by the Government of Uganda
  • Water Use Master Plans (WUMP) - by Helvetas Nepal
  • Community Integrated Water Resource Management (cIWRM) - by WaterAid
  • Sanitary Surveys

The UPGro programme is doing interdisciplinary groundwater science on how groundwater in sub-Saharan African can be managed better for the benefit of the poor. From this work, by many of the world's leading hydrogeologists, we expect solid evidence and effective tools for cost-effective management.

Related Resources

Assessing the Risk to Groundwater from On-Site Sanitation

Guidelines for

There has been encouraging progress with access to safe drinking water and sanitation in both rural and urban areas since the United Nations Water Decade of the 1980s. However, more than 1 billion people around the world still lack access to safe water supplies and more than 2.4 billion are without adequate sanitation. A substantial majority of these people live in Asia where the lack of sanitation provision is particularly acute. In Africa, over one third of the population still remains without access to safe water and sanitation, and many of these can only be served by groundwater. The need for renewed efforts to improve the situation is recognised in DFID's recently published water strategy paper - ''Addressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and More Productive Lives for Poor People''.

These guidelines are an important contribution to risk assessment and the avoidance of the contamination of groundwater supplies from on-site sanitation. They have been development as part of a project funded by DFID through the water component of the Infrastructure and Urban Development Division's Knowledge and Research Programme. | more information »

Water Source Protection

Exploring ways to incentivise citizens and organisations to manage shared water resources in a fair, equitable way.

What is a Water Source Protection Plan?
A Water Source Protection Plan can be an extension of Water Safety Planning. The plan is an agreed statement between stakeholders that establishes objectives, actions, responsibilities and funding. However, it should go beyond the needs of the water infrastructure and actively look for win-win opportunities:

Key Messages
Important to sensitise land and water users in catchments to the impacts of their actions on others; aligning their self-interests with the wider collective interest is vital for avoiding conflict and protecting the rights of poorest, and the quality of the natural environment.

Bottom-up planning is essential where conventional permitting, monitoring and enforcement is ineffective or under-resourced.

More evidence is needed to show how effective locally-focused water source protection and resource management are when scaled up beyond resource-intensive pilot projects. | more information »

Framework for Water Source Protection

Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda

These guidelines were developed as part of the wider operationalisation of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The basis of the guidelines is developing a 'Water Source Protection Plan', which bridges the gap between Water Safety Planning, payment for watershed services and IWRM. The planning process encourages the owners/operators of water infrastructure (pumping stations, dams, valley tanks, boreholes) to identify the people in the catchment area for their water source whose activities may be impacting the quantity, quality or reliability of their water supply, and then to agree a mutually beneficial plan of action.

Of the five volumes, three are currently available from MWE from their website (or below) | more information »

How to Make Water Wise Roads

This note may serve as guideline on how to combine roads and water harvesting. The investment in roads in almost any country far exceeds that in local water management or watershed protection. Hence roads offer one of the largest opportunities to secure local water supplies, if done wisely and in an integrated way. This document describes both the governance and proceses to combine road development with water management as well as how recharge, retention and reuse (3R) of water can be enhanced through improved designs.

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

Water safety plan

A field guide to improving drinking-water safety in small communities

The WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality recommend the water safety plan (WSP) approach as
the most effective way of ensuring continuous provision of safe drinking-water. The challenges related
to drinking-water supply in rural areas and small towns are of notable concern across the entire WHO
European Region, but the WSP approach has been proven to work effectively in small-scale water supplies.
This field guide aims to support WSP implementation in small communities by providing brief explanations
of the WSP process and practical templates for field use. | more information »

Local Council Water Security Training Course

The course provide appreciation and knowledge of water resources management, a better understanding of risks to water resources, introduces techniques for monitoring water resources and enable a better understanding of the factors that need to be considered when planning WRM activities. | more information »

Experiences and Ideas from RWSN’s Sustainable Groundwater Community 2013

What are we talking about?

The RWSN’s Sustainable Groundwater Development community ( comprises over 500 members from 69 countries. There has been vibrant exchange and debates on topics such as national groundwater policies, gravel packing, drilling technologies, the life of a handpump and many more. This synthesis pulls together the many ideas, opinions, experiences and suggestions from the online community and makes recommendations for a collaborative way forward. | more information »

Social adoption of groundwater pumping technology and the development of groundwater cultures

Governance at the point of abstraction. Thematic Paper 8.

This thematic paper examines the historic and on‐going development of water‐lifting technologies and the governance problems and solutions that have arisen from controlled or uncontrolled groundwater abstraction.
It also examines legislation on improved pump efficiency and the economics and life‐cycle costing of borehole

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

Water Catchment Protection Handbook

1. Learning and Experience Sharing Series

This document describes a more or less standardised approach for the organisational and technical implementation of water catchment protection. This approach consists of 8 steps:
1: Preparation
2: Sensitisation of the population
3: Feasibility study
4: Water catchment protection plan
5: Land demarcation and ownership
6: Implementation water catchment protection
7: Operation and maintenance
8: Monitoring and evaluation

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