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close this bookSpecial Public Works Programmes - SPWP - Community Water Supply - A Community Participation Training Element for SPWP User Beneficiaries (ILO - UNDP, 1987, 100 p.)
close this folderSESSION 5: How Does the Water Get There?
View the documentGUIDELINES
View the documentREADING SECTION




At the end of this learning/discussion session, the participants should be able to:

1. Draw a representation of the evaporation/rainfall cycle and explain:

how water enters and is stored in the ground;
how it evaporates;
how it is collected in clouds; and
how it falls as rain.

2. Give an example of surface water in the area.

3. Share knowledge of location of ground water in the area (evidence can include sites of wells or springs).

4. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using ground water for drinking water.


one to two hours


chalkboard and chalk, or flipchart and pen


1. The USEFUL WORDS at the beginning of this session material are very important. If the participants do not understand these words they will not understand the information that is later presented.

DO NOT just ask them if they understand the definitions. Translate them into the local language. Discuss and give examples of each word if necessary.

2. The scientific principles presented in this session may be generally accepted in some areas and generally disbelieved in others.

If these principles are new to your participants, they are more likely to be believed if presented by one of their own more knowledgeable fellow participants. Therefore, if some of the participants are school leavers or others familiar with the water cycle, let them teach the material under your supervision.

If most of the group are knowledgeable about the water cycle, use this material as an opportunity for review.


· As is true for all sessions, it may be easier for your group NOT to read the material. You, the discussion leader, can present the information to them orally if necessary. Use the blackboard or flipchart to illustrate the water cycle.

3. DISCUSSION OPPORTUNITY: The purpose of the discussion opportunity is to give people a chance to understand and talk about common water-related problems. It is essential that you listen and encourage people to ask questions and discuss their different points of view.


Question 1: The sketch of the water cycle should include clouds, rainfall, water shed area, surface water (e.g. a pond, stream, dam, lake, etc.) and indicate at which point evaporation takes place.

As with all role plays, you may have to demonstrate before asking two group members to actively take part.

Question 2: Answers will vary. However, a common disadvantage will probably be that the surface water is easily contaminated.

Question 3: Answers will vary. However, a common advantage will be that the ground water is usually not contaminated.

5. READING ASSIGNMENT: If this group does study assignments before each learning/discussion session, ask them to read EITHER SESSION 6 OR SESSION 7, whichever is appropriate, before the next group meeting.

If the community water supply is based on wells, assign ONLY Session 6.

If the community water supply is based on springs, assign ONLY Session 7.

If your community water supply is based on some other system, prepare your own training material and discussion plan for the next session.



Read the definitions of the USEFUL WORDS. Discuss their meanings with your group and your discussion leader. Can you translate them into your own language?

Read about the Water Cycle, Surface Water and Ground Water. Your discussion leader will answer any questions you have.

Use the DISCUSSION OPPORTUNITY to talk with other participants about water sources in your community.


VAPOUR - the gaseous state of water. Steam from boiling water is VAPOUR.

EVAPORATE - to change from water into vapour.

AQUIFER - an underground layer of sand or gravel which holds water. Also known as the water table.

Read the questions that follow. Do you know the answers?

1. How does water get under the ground?

2. Why do we sometimes have to dig through dry soil in order to find good drinking water?

3. A child plays in a stream and he gets his skin and clothes wet. But one hour later, he is dry. What happened to the water?

4. Where is the water that made the boy’s clothes and skin wet?

5. How does water get into the clouds?

6. Where does rain come from?

Continue reading and you will find the answers.


The answers to all of the above questions can be found in the water cycle. It works like this.

The Water Cycle

Water or snow goes around in a cycle (circle). It falls, as rain, hail, or snow. Some of this rain, hail or snow will run off the land into rivers, streams, dams, lakes and ponds. Some will eventually reach the sea. Some of the water will soak into the ground (especially if the ground is covered with trees and bushes with roots to hold the water and soil). This water stays in the ground and may collect in an aquifer. (REMEMBER: An Aquifer is an underground area where water collects).

Now, you can understand the answers to questions 1 and 2. ONE, water gets into the earth from the rain that falls on the earth and then soaks through the ground to the aquifer.

The answer to question TWO is, wells are dug through the dry soil and into the aquifer where cool, clean water can be pumped up for your use.

The Well is Dug Down to the Aquifer

Think about question THREE. What happened to the water on the boy’s skin and clothes? To answer this question you must understand the next part of the water cycle. EVAPORATION. Water can change from a liquid to a vapour (a gas). It evaporates. This means that it changes into a vapour and goes into the air. You cannot see it. It disappears from your sight, but it has not really disappeared. It has only changed form. It has EVAPORATED.

When the sun or the wind dries the water from skin or clothes, or from ponds or streams or puddles, the water changes from a liquid into a vapour.

Now you know what happened to the water on the boy’s skin and in his wet clothes. The water evaporated.

The answer to question FOUR, “Where is the water that made them wet?” is easy. The water is in the air.

Can you guess the answers to questions FIVE and SIX - “How does water get into the clouds?” and “Where does the rain come from?” Water vapour rises up in the air. It collects and forms clouds. In the clouds, the vapour changes back into liquid and falls as rain.

How does water get into the clouds? It gets there from the water vapour in the air.

Where does the rain that falls from the sky come from? It comes from the water on earth that is evaporated into the air.

Look again at the illustration of the water cycle. Do you see how water goes round in a cycle?

Now that you understand the water cycle, you can better understand the two types of water sources: surface water and underground water.


SURFACE WATER is water collected on the surface of the earth in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, dams, seas and oceans. Surface water is often used for drinking water in rural areas because it is easy for people and animals to obtain. It is also easy, however, for people and animals to contaminate surface water.

Unless great care is taken to protect surface water from contamination, it may be a source of disease. For example, disease-causing micro-organisms may enter surface water if people or animals defecate or urinate in or near the water. It can also be polluted by trash or garbage put in the water. Another disadvantage of some surface water (e.g. ponds and dams) is that it can become a breeding area for flies and mosquitos which may carry disease.

If care is taken, however, it may be possible to use surface water for a good water system.


Ground water is water that has soaked and filtered through the top layers of earth and is held in a natural aquifer or an underground stream. This water is usually very pure and is a good source of drinking water.

Sometimes ground water is available from a spring. At the point where the spring comes out from the earth, it will be clean. It should be protected at that place so that it will not become contaminated before people can use it.

To use water from an underground aquifer, a well must be dug deep enough to reach the ground water. This will be pure and clean if people are careful not to contaminate it. (REMEMBER: The water could be contaminated by disease-causing micro-organisms from latrines that are too close to the well. The water could also become contaminated if dirty buckets or trash are put into the water.)

Ground water is almost always safe and cleaner that surface water. It may, however, be more difficult or expensive to obtain.


1. Suppose that you have an elderly neighbour or friend who does not understand the water cycle. Draw a diagram in the space provided here (or on the chalkboard) showing how water gets underground, how water “disappears” or evaporates, and how rain gets into clouds and then falls.

Do a role play showing how you would explain the water cycle to your neighbour or friend. Use the diagram you have drawn.

2. Are there surface water sources in your area?

Where are they?

What are they used for?

Do you think they are sources of pure water?

Are there any disadvantages to using them?

Are there any advantages?

3. Are there any underground water sources in your area?

Where are they?

How do you know where they are?

Are they good sources of water all year?

Is the water pure?

Are there advantages to using these underground sources?

What are they?

Are there disadvantages?

What are they?