In 1992, at a meeting in Kenya, it was agreed that there was a need to create a global network of handpump experts who could make the most of the great work done by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank (WSP) in the 1980s. The humble handpump was seen as cornerstone of improving rural water supplies by making clean groundwater available to millions of people.

From small beginnings, UNICEF, Skat, the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation (SDC) and others developed the Handpump Technology Network and broadened its scope until in 2004 it was agreed, under the leadership of WSP, to change the name to Rural Water Supply Network.

Today the network has over 15,000 members in over 160 countries, continuing the mission of helping rural water supply practitioners from NGOs, governments, companies and development partners to learn from each other and work together. The scope has moved far beyond handpump technology to encompass a more holistic and integrated approach to improving rural water services as part of the wider Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights.

UNICEF, Skat Foundation and the World Bank still play a central role in the network, joined by African Development Bank, IRC WASH and WaterAid, and our open, collaborative approach has brought in many partners from all over world and from international organisations, governments, non-governmental organisations, development banks, civil society, private sector and universities.

RWSN timeline...


  • New Executive Committee Members and Theme Leaders recruited.
  • New Strategy 2024-2030 under development.


  • RWSN Governance revised and updated.
  • Tommy Ka Kit Ngai (WaterAid) takes over Chair from Louisa.
  • New partnership established with Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to support networking and knowledge sharing within Latin America and South-South exchange with Africa and Asia.
  • 9th World Water Forum in Dakar in March, where RWSN/REAL-Water convened session on “Rural Water Supply Management and Professionalisation” and presentation on the AfDB/AMCOW pavilion on “The State of Rural WASH in Africa”.
  • UN Groundwater Summit 2022 in Paris where RWSN and partners hosted a session on “Groundwater for Rural Water Supply”.


  • RWSN becomes part of USAID funded programme Rural Evidence and Learning for Water (REAL-Water), led by the Aquaya Institute
  • SDC steps down from RWSN Executive Steering Committee, but continues funding through other mechanisms.
  • "Stop the Rot" campaign gains momentum in tackling widespread handpump corrosion.


  • Louisa Gosling (WaterAid) becomes Chair, Francis Bougaire (AfDB) confirmed as Deputy Chair
  • RWSN becomes a UN Water Partner
  • RWSN supports members to adapt to the impacts of COVID-19 through a e-discussion, expert webinar and sign-posting to emerging authoritative advice and guidance 
  • UPGro Knowledge Brokering partnership (2013-2020) is successfully completed and legacy online report published
  • Webinar attendance increased significantly, along with demand for sponsored webinars


  • "Leave No-one Behind" the major theme of the year for RWSN online and face-to-face events
  • RWSN Young Professional Mentoring scheme launched with 400 participants
  • Successful online courses on drilling professionalisation and solar pumping run in collaboration with UNDP CapNet
  • Jochen Rudolph (AfDB) confirmed as Deputy Chair
  • Partners Meeting hosted at UNHCR in Geneva. 


  • Launch of new strategy and updated RWSN website.
  • The Water Institute of the University of North Carolina joins as a Topic Leader (Water quality monitoring and data)


  • Kelly Ann Naylor (UNICEF) becomes Chair; Sean Furey (Skat) becomes Secretariat Director.
  • Piers Cross passes away.
  • External Evaluation of RWSN and development of 2018-2023 strategy.
  • Membership reaches 10,000
  • Simavi and Water Mission join as Topic Leaders (Social Accountability; Solar Pumping)


  • Ton Schouten passes away.
  • 7th RWSN Forum held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (450 delegates)


  • New RWSN Strategy (2015-2017 launched)
  • Individual membership exceeds 7,000 in March
  • RWSN joins the research programme REACH: improving water security for the poor, led by the University of Oxford


  • Ton Schouten (IRC WASH) becomes RWSN Chair


  • "Member Organisation" grade introduced


  • New RWSN Strategy (2012-2014 launched)
  • RWSN membership re-launched using Dgroups with around 1,200 members by June.
  • The World Bank joins the RWSN Steering Committee
  • First series of webinars, organised with WSP.
  • First e-discussion, on the Human Right to Water, organised with WaterAid and the UN Special Rapporteur.


  • RWSN Steering Committee Chair passes to Professor Richard Carter (WaterAid, later independent)
  • RWSN Forum Kampala, Uganda (480 delegates, 54 countries, 240 organisations), with the theme "Myths of the Past, Visions for the Future"


  • IRC joins the Steering Committee
  • Code of Practice for Cost Effective Boreholes launched.


  • Erich Baumann retires from the RWSN Secretariat and succeeded by Dr Kerstin Danert (Skat Foundation)


  • RWSN Steering Committee Chair passes to Clarissa Brocklehurst (UNICEF, New York)


  • RWSN Forum Accra, Ghana (290 delegates, 37 countries), with the theme: “Scaling up Local Entrepreneurship in Rural Water Supply”.  Thematic foci were endorsed.


  • The theme coordinator workshop held in February in Kampala, Uganda defines the strategies for the three flagship activities and the working budgets.


  • The network is officially renamed RWSN (Rural Water Supply Network).  Theme coordinators employed for the three flagship activities. The Steering Committee unanimously re-confirms Skat Foundation as the global secretariat for at least three more years


  • HTN Forum in Durban, South Africa (250 delegates, 37 countries) endorsed the relevance of the network and the new, broader thematic vision and identity including three flagship activities.  At the Forum, a new name is also mooted (RWSN – Rural Water Supply Network) and an action plan 2003 - 2005 is drafted. 
  • Piers Cross (WSP Africa) becomes RWSN Chairman


  • In a Rope Pump promotion drive, HTN and SDC jointly organise the First International Rope Pump Policy Workshop in Managua, Nicaragua (66 delegates, 22 countries).
  • A new vision for the network is drafted – activities would be broadened to encompass more rural water issues while maintaining traditional network activities.  The first regional chapter of HTN is established by a dedicated group of members in South Africa.


  • HTN Forum in Hyderabad, India (200 delegates, 38 countries).  Retaining a global membership, members endorse the new African focus.


  • HTN Workshop in Mangochi, Malawi. Over 150 participants from 40 countries endorse the need for (and activities of) the network.  HTN envisages a broader remit and revises the name to HTN “Network for Cost effective Technologies in Water Supply”. The steering committee is expanded to 16 members.


  • Chair of the HTN steering committee passes Rupert Talbot (UNICEF India), reflecting a continued network focus on Asia.



  • International Handpump Workshop in Kakamega (Kenya) mandates the formation of HTN, the “Handpump Technology Network”.  Peter Wurzel (UNICEF Pakistan) is chosen to chair the new HTN steering committee (4 persons); Erich Baumann (SKAT, later Skat Foundation) establishes an executive secretariat for the new network.


  • UN International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD).  Intensive development of public domain handpumps occurs.










close menu

close menu

close menu