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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 7: Springs
View the documentGUIDELINES
View the documentREADING SECTION




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

1. Define the term spring and give an example of a spring in the area.

2. Discuss the need for and methods of keeping spring water clean at the source and at the tap.

3. Discuss community and individual responsibilities for the protection of the water system.


one to two hours


chalkboard and chalk, or flipchart and pen




2. The USEFUL WORDS at the beginning of the session material are very important. If the participants do not understand them, 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.

3. The design of each water system depends on the geological and topographical factors in the area. Consequently, the intake chamber referred to in this session is not described in detail. What is important is the FUNCTION of the intake chamber, not its exact design.

If the spring and intake chamber are nearby, it would be useful for the participants to take a field trip to inspect them and also the watershed area.

4. Some water supply systems based on spring water may have reservoirs and sedimentation tanks. Some may use pumps; others are simple gravity systems. The group discussion leader must be prepared to explain the function of all major components of the system.

If the participants understand the functions of the various components of the water system, they will be more motivated to take care of the whole system.

5. The section entitled “Possible Problems” gives a good opportunity to reinforce the personal and communal Rules of Hygiene which were discussed in Session 4.

6. The information presented in the section entitled “Community Responsibilities” may or may not be suitable for this community. Let the participants decide if the suggestions are appropriate for their area. This section will be most valuable if it provides an opportunity for the participants to think carefully about their responsibilities.

7. DISCUSSION OPPORTUNITY: These questions present a good opportunity to gain a commitment to solving or preventing problems with the community water supply system.

Emphasise the idea that these participants are leaders and that they should use their influence to prevent or correct problems of the water system.


Question 1: The definition of a spring should include the following information: A spring is ground water which naturally seeps or flows to the surface.

Questions 2, 3 and 4: Answers will vary. Be sure that they are based on the facts of the area.

Question 5: The discussion of this question could lead to an understanding of community responsibility for the continued maintenance and operation of the water system. Encourage commitment to whatever actions are necessary.

9. READING ASSIGNMENT: If this group does study assignments before each learning/discussion session, ask them to read the material in Session 8 before the next group meeting.



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 water systems which use spring water. Your discussion leader will answer any questions you have.

Use the DISCUSSION OPPORTUNITY to talk with the other group members about the water system in your community.


ALGAE - very small, greenish plants that can grow in water. They may give the water a bad taste.

DRAINAGE - to let water flow away through special channels or ditches.

WATERSHED AREA - the area of land from which water seeps into an aquifer or drains into rivers, streams, etc.

INTAKE CHAMBER - a man-made container (e.g. a masonry or cement box) around the mouth of a spring. Water flows directly from the mouth of the spring into the chamber.


When underground water is stopped from going downwards by a layer of rock or clay, it sometimes seeps upwards to the surface of the earth. This is a spring. The mouth of the spring is the place where water from an underground source comes to the surface.

Spring water flows from a water-bearing layer of sand or gravel (an aquifer) to the surface. Because the water is filtered through the sand or gravel, most spring water is pure when it comes out of the ground.

The amount of water coming from a spring may change according to the season. A spring can give a normal flow right into the dry season. Then the flow may slow down and not return to normal until after the rainy season has begun.

To keep spring water flowing, it is very important that the watershed area has a good cover of vegetation - trees and bushes. Plants will prevent rain from quickly running off the ground and will allow the rain to seep into the ground and become spring: water. Reforestation (if necessary) and good soil conservation practices will help ensure that the spring flow will not decrease because of erosion.

Spring water is usually free of disease-causing organisms when it comes to the surface, but it can become polluted if it flows over the ground or stands in an open pool where animals or humans can contaminate the water.

Examples of Unprotected and Protected Watershed Areas




The people who built your water supply system using spring water were very careful to keep the water pure as it came out from the ground. They built some kind of a “box” as an intake chamber at the mouth of the spring. The spring water is collected in this “box” and then flows directly into a pipe without being exposed to outside pollution.

An Intake Chamber

The collection box is probably built of brick or masonry or concrete in such a way that no light can enter. (Light could allow the growth of algae which affect the taste of water.) It has an overflow pipe to let out excess water. This overflow pipe is designed so that no surface water, rain water or dirt can enter through it and pollute the water inside the collection box. On top of the box there may be a covered and locked manhole. The caretaker of the water system will occasionally need to wash out or inspect the inside of the box. He will use the manhole as his entrance.

Your water system may be a free-flowing system without faucets. Or it may have faucets to shut off the water at each standpost. It may have been built with a tank in which to store water. No matter what the design, however, it has been built for the purpose of bringing pure water to the people in the community.


You must remember that spring water can be polluted just as can any other source of water. In your community, because you have a protected spring, the water that arrives at the standpost is probably pure. BUT, the water you take home may not be pure. Human carelessness may cause water-related diseases and problems.

You have already discussed (in Session 3) how water can become contaminated after collection. Here is a brief review of some of these methods of contamination.

1. A dirty water container can contaminate the water put into it.

2. Dirty hands dipped into full water vessels can contaminate the water in the vessels.

3. Dirt and micro-organisms on the tap (faucet) itself could wash off into the water as it is collected from the tap.

Other problems could be related to misuse of a public standpost. If, for example, water is left running and allowed to collect in a muddy, swampy pool, the standpost area becomes slippery and unattractive. People may not want to bathe or wash clothes at such a place, and thus, there may be an increase in water-washed diseases.

Another possible problem where there is not proper drainage is that the area will become a breeding ground for mosquitos and other insects which can spread disease.

Notice the drains and drainage ditches in the pictures of standposts.

Examples of Stand Posts


Your community has a new water system. It should last for many years and help villagers lead a healthy life. The community has a responsibility to keep the water system working. In many communities, the water and sanitation committee (or other group responsible for water) takes action to ensure that the community water supply keeps working.

Examples of these actions are below:

1. Set up a schedule for regular preventive maintenance of all parts of the system (e.g. intake chamber, sedimentation tank, reservoir, pipes, all standposts).

2. Hire, train and pay a caretaker to look after the water system and the standpost sites.

3. Keep a supply of important spare parts available.

4. Enforce disciplinary measures for misuse of the water system.

5. Educate community members about how to use the water system. Teach such things as:

· how to guard against flooding at the standpost; and
· how to guard against vandalism or careless misuse of the pipe or standposts.

6. Protect the spring by keeping the watershed area planted with trees and bushes.

What does your community do to prevent pollution or breakdown of your water system?


1. What is a spring?

Is spring water surface water or ground water?

Do you know of an unprotected spring in your area?

Does water flow from it all year?

2. Tell about the protected spring(s) in your area. Where is it?

What is the intake chamber made of?

Have you seen the overflow pipe? Draw a picture of it on the chalkboard.

How many metres of pipe do you think were necessary to bring the spring water to the standposts in your village? Guess.

3. Have you had any problems with the water system in your community?

Is the water pure? Does it taste good?

Is there enough water all year?

Do people use the standpost properly? If not, what should they do?

4. Do you know where the watershed area is for your spring(s).

Do most community members know?

Is the watershed area protected? How?

Does anything need to be done now to protect the watershed area? Who should do this?

5. Did the people in your community make contributions of money, materials and/or labour for the construction of your water supply system?

Do they have a continuing obligation to pay for the costs of the operation and maintenance of the system?

Has your water supply system ever failed because of the lack of funds to pay the cost of the caretaker’s salary, or of spare parts, or of specialists needed to repair the system?

Do you know of communities where this has happened?

What could be done to prevent such occurrences?