In September 2014, work began on the refurbishment of a Gravity Water System (GWS) to support 10 villages in Ruboroga, Kabale District, Uganda.
The project will bring clean, safe water to over 7,000 people.
A GWS’s supply is usually from a small upland river, stream or spring. Using the force of gravity, water can be transported by pipework to tapstands placed near to homes, reducing the work involved in carrying water. For this project, three springs formed the source.
Though these systems initially have higher capital costs than other schemes, they ensure a reliable and sustainable water supply requiring very little treatment.
Map showing outline of the three springs and the pipeline with tap stands to various points in the community:
The 10 villages which benefited from the project are: Bugarama, Kigarama, Kitagata, Karungu, Nyamasiizi, Nyakanengo, Nyarunbya, Rutoma, Ruboroga and Rwamiganda.
The current system was designed and implemented by a private contractor (unrelated to Just a Drop) who left the job unfinished.
Insects and dirt contaminate the water supply due to ill-fitting tank covers and consequently, children suffer from illnesses such as diarrhoea, dysentery and intestinal worms. This has sometimes been so severe, several children have almost died.
The project aimed to replace, refurbish and repair the water sources, storage and break tanks, reservoirs, pipes and tapstands throughout this area.
The communities in the 10 villages survive mainly through subsistence farming, timber cutting, brick making or stone quarrying. Land is divided into small plots and women move between these plots, looking for work – usually digging crops. The main crops include potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbages, sorghum, peas, finger millet, bananas and pineapples, none of which attract high prices at market.
There are 2,457 children between the ages of 4-17 in the area and six schools, but seasonal agriculture and the need for daily water collection often prevents many of them from attending classes.
In addition, many young boys drop out to work in the stone quarries and girls are often married off at an early age in exchange for money. As a result, the literacy rate in Kabale is just 47%.
Girls are the main water carriers for their families and are expected to collect water every day before going to school. At 6am, when it is still dark, it is not uncommon to see them struggling with their heavy jerry cans along the mountain paths. In the past, when the taps were working, they would return with clear, clean spring water. Once the taps and pipes fell into disrepair, they had to fetch water from streams or ponds, only to be rewarded with cloudy water full of wriggling creatures. They also risked being bitten by malaria carrying mosquitoes whilst waiting to fill their jerry cans.
More often than not, the time taken to walk and wait for their water meant that they were late for school. Some resorted to hiding in the bushes all day, rather than facing a reprimand from their teachers. Others were nervous about being attacked on their way to collect water – an all too common problem in Uganda.
The repairs to the GWS included: clearing the area around the springs; repairing, waterproofing and reconnecting the reservoirs; installing gate valves and gate valve houses (to enable closures and decreases in pressure for cleaning and maintenance); and repairing sections of the pipeline.
New tap stands were constructed and the community were advised and trained on the maintenance of the system.
Five people from the local community volunteered to work alongside the Africa Equipment for Schools team throughout the duration of the project.
The whole community is responsible for the maintenance of the pipes and reservoir. Those in closest proximity to the tap stands have formed their own ‘Tap Maintenance Committees’.
The entire system will be regularly inspected by the Gravity Water Committee.
- The 10 villages in the area now have a clean, local water supply
- Water collection used to take – on average – 1.5 hours. It now takes between 15 – 30 minutes
- It is anticipated that children will now spend less time collecting water and more time at school
- The general health and well-being of the community is expected to improve, as well as a reduction in the number of water-related illnesses.
Project visit: Colonel Mike Reynolds
“I know AES well having visited on several occasions. I have seen AES projects before, during and after completion to carry out audits. I visited this project when it was 80% complete. It was up to the usual high standard of project management and construction quality. It was contributing significantly to the well-being, health and quality of life to the community, even before completion. Most importantly it will greatly reduce the time and effort of the women and girls in fetching water, thus releasing the women to get on with other important work in looking after their families and for the girls, increased school attendance.”
Sincere thanks to Meetings Industry Meeting Needs, Evan Cornish Foundation, The Open Gate Trust and The Century Function Delegates for making this project possible.