Spring-fed Gravity Flow Scheme

Capturing spring water and transporting it, usually by gravity in pipes, to water users, is a very common form of rural water supply around the world - particularly in hilly and mountaineous regions and islands. The technology is relatively simple and by using the energy of gravity, there is generally no need for pumps or other forms of energy input. The biggest cost tends to be the initial construction of the tanks and pipes, however, over time these will degrade and need repair and eventual replacement.

Despite its widespread use, RWSN does not explicitly include gravity spring-fed schemes in the thematic work - but it is not excluded at all. What we are really missing is a champion - a person or organisation that is really passionate about this form of rural water supply and is would like to develop a strong community of practice to share experiences and ideas. If this is of interest, then please get in touch.

On this website, you will find some great manuals and resources that can help you design, build and maintain a gravity scheme

Spring Catchment Manuals on Drinking Water Supply. Volume 4:

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

Water Safety Planning for Small Communities Step-by-step risk management guidance for drinking-water supplies in small communities

Guidelines to Planning Sustainable Water Projects and Selecting Appropriate Technologies Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group

Water Catchment Protection Handbook 1. Learning and Experience Sharing Series

Pump-fed piped supplies

For larger villages and small towns, a mechanised pump is a common option, usually taking from a borehole, a lake or a river. In most cases the water will need to be treated and pumped up to header storage tank to ensure that the pressure head and flow rates through the pipe network are consistant. These schemes are much more expensive and complex than point water sources, but can deliver a high level of service - either through public stand pipes or domestic household connections.

RWSN has looked at some of the management issues around these schemes in the 2013 WSP-RWSN webinar series: "Professionalising Rural and Small Town Water Supply Management."

Other useful resources on this website:

Related Resources

Professionaliser les services d'eau portable en milieu rural / professionalising rural water services World Water Forum 9: Session 2A4 (22 March 2022)

Presentations at the World Water Forum Session 2A4/Présentations au Forum mondial de l'eau Session 2A4

1. "Professionaliser les services d’eau potable en milieu rural" - Julia Boulenouar, Aquaconsult / Sean Furey, Skat Foundation

2. "Réforme du mode de gestion des ouvrages hydrauliques ruraux par les communautés villageoises au Sénégal" Mamadou DIAGNE, Administrateur Sahel Conse, Expert en Habitat et Développement Urbain, Adama NDIANOR, Expert-hydrologue, Opérateur STEFI

3. L’externalisation de la gestion de l’AEP en milieu rural au secteur privé - L’expérience de l’ONEE - MAROC, Mr Bahaeddine AKDI, Chef de la Division GESTION à la Direction Généralisation de l’accès à l’Eau potable, ONEE - MAROC


5. Results-based contracts to sustain and scale professional rural services - Dr Alex Money, Uptime Catalyst Facility

6. Water Quality Testing Assurance Fund - short film, Caroline Delaire, Aquaya Institute/REAL-Water | »

Modular Building Project How data-driven and disruptive technologies can improve the sustainability of water services in rural Africa

The newly developed setup as tested in the pilot–referred to as modular building in this paper - is a small network of prepaid water kiosks fitted with a mechanical prepaid device. The system itself is adaptive: it can grow or decrease in size depending on the uptake or changing demographics. Thereby creating the ability to optimize the business case during the operational phase. Moreover, the system as a whole is sized based on field monitoring of existing water points in rural settings – ensuring an optimum balance between service levels versus costs. | »

Enhancing Frontline Provider Collaboration to Improve Rural Water Sustainability Operational Lessons from Indonesia’s Community-Led Water Supply Project—PAMSIMAS

This policy brief improves our understanding of the actions that projects can undertake to harness community participation to improve the long-term sustainability of infrastructure investments. We use panel data and qualitative assessments from Indonesia’s PAMSIMAS to provide evidence on how some communities are able to manage and sustain the functionality of their water systems for over 6 years while others face the tyranny of build-neglect-rehabilitate. | »

Global prospects to deliver safe drinking water services for 100 million rural people by 2030 REACH working paper 12

The climate crisis and global pandemic have accelerated the urgency of providing safe
drinking water services around the world. Global progress to safe drinking water is
off-track with uncertain and limited data on the extent and performance of rural water
service providers to inform policy and investment decisions. This report documents
a global diagnostic survey to evaluate the status and prospects of rural water service
providers from 68 countries. The service providers describe providing drinking water
services to a population of around 15 million people through over 3 million waterpoints.

The data provides information on the scale and sustainability of rural water services to
• The extent and type of professional water service provision in rural areas globally;
• Self-reported metrics of operational and financial performance; and,
• The size and scope of current rural service providers that could transition to resultsbased

Five major findings emerge. First, most service providers aim to repair broken
infrastructure in three days or less. Second, almost all service providers reported at least
one type of water safety activity. Third, most service providers collect payments for water
services. Fourth, about one third of service providers reported major negative shocks to
their operations from the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifth, non-governmental service providers
in low income countries less often report receiving subsidies for operations, and more
often report paying part of user fees to government, including through taxes.
Most rural water service providers are working towards provision of affordable, safe and
reliable drinking water services. Key barriers to progress include sustainable funding
and delivery of services at scale. We propose four conditions to promote scale and
sustainability based on policy alignment, public finance, professional service delivery,
and verifiable data. To illustrate these conditions, we consider the differing context and
service delivery approaches in the Central African Republic and Bangladesh. We conclude
by identifying a group of 77 service providers delivering water services for about 5 million
people in 28 countries. These 77 service providers report operational metrics consistent
with a results-based contracting approach. Technical assistance might support many
more to progress. We argue that government support and investment is needed to
rapidly progress to the scale of 100 million people to provide evidence of pathways to
universal drinking water services for billions more. | »

From implementor to facilitator – Transition management of the Department of Rural Water Supply in Lesotho case studies of rural water supplies

Management of the transition phase of the Department of Rural Water Supply, away from an implementing towards a facilitating role. Organisational development, capacity building and launching of a sector wide approach (SWAp).

The case study on hand describes how the transition process was planned and implemented. It focuses on the phase of transition since 1993, even though many of the stakeholders have been involved for many decades. It describes the objectives and goals of the strategy, and takes a look at future developments. | »

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