Let us build a decentralized, cost-effective and eco-friendly rural water supply system for developing countries like Bangladesh.
The objective of this project is to take an urban approach to a rural problem. Water can be extracted from any source, but setting up a supply system takes up a great deal of financial resources, planning, time and effort. In urban areas, complex water supply systems are quite common. However, that is not the case in rural areas. Since a robust water supply system is expensive, we tried to come up with a simple solution to this problem. This solution is particularly suitable for rural areas of developing countries. In the proposed project, we try to build an underground water extraction system and an overhead storage tank like the ones found in urban water systems. But we will redesign the system to minimize cost and avoid complexity. The supply lines of this redesigned system will be overhead and will use gravitational energy to reach smaller storage facilities which will provide potable water to rural families.
Category of the action
Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change
What actions do you propose?
The actions are planned primarily for the southern part of Bangladesh, which is vulnerable to increased salinity due to sea level rise. According to Soil Resource Development Institute (2002), 80% of the surface water quality in that area is not suitable for drinking, whereas about 78% of shallow tube well water is potable, having the electrical conductivity (EC) under 4.0 mmhos/cm (tolerable EC: 2.0-4.0 mmhos/cm). Unfortunately, most of the people in that area cannot afford a shallow tube well individually.
This problem can be resolved by providing one shallow tube well and storage system for a number of families. That would require a simplified supply system.
Every village in the area will be divided into several units. Each unit will contain one complete water supply system that includes -
a. a shallow tube well;
b. a mother overhead tank;
c. an independent power supply system for pumping;
d. a water distribution system; and
e. individual storage tanks.
The units may contain 10 families, thus the pump has to supply potable water for 10 families. An entire village will have several units, depending on the population of the village. However, the number of consumers in a unit may vary.
The shallow tube well pump will have the capacity to regularly extract and supply sufficient amounts of potable water for all of the 10 families. The pump will operate only once a day. All the water will be stored in the mother tank for the rest of the day.
For a greener purpose, the pump will operate using solar power, thus each unit will be independent. The mother tank will have the capacity to store enough water for all of the consumers for an entire day.
The supply system will be the key feature of this project. Unlike urban water supply systems, this one will be overhead, not underground. Low cost bamboo columns will be used to hold the supply pipes. The water head difference will maintain a constant slope from the supply end to the consumer end (Image provided above).
- At the end of all supply pipes, a relatively smaller storage tank will be placed so that each consumer family can collect water for themselves.
Who will take these actions?
The actions can be undertaken in a number of phases by several beneficiary parties.
A pilot project will be initiated in this phase. Any nongovernment organization (NGO) in collaboration with the local government can set up 5 units as test projects. At least 50 families are expected to be covered.
If the pilot project is successful, any interested NGO can take up the initiative to build and help manage potable water systems in a village or a union (rural administrative units in Bangladesh). However, the opinion of community members must be taken into account in this regard.
If the second phase succeeds, the government should take up the responsibilities of spreading the idea and ensuring sustainable potable water supply systems for other rural communities in need.
Actors and Their Responsibilities
- Implementing the project on a small scale;
- Providing community members with guidance on the maintenance of water supply systems.
- Helping maintain water supply systems;
- Using collected water responsibly.
- Monitoring the progress.
- Providing technical assistance whenever and wherever necessary.
- Taking the project to the next level (large-scale implementation).
Other potential actors may include companies and businesses willing to offer sponsorship under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes.
Where will these actions be taken?
The primary project area for these actions is the southern part of Bangladesh. Considering the vulnerability and the lowest elevation from sea level, we have selected two Upazillas (sub-districts) - Amtoli and Pathorghata (Barguna District). In these areas, the population growth rate has been only 0.11 percent in the last decade, whereas the tally for the whole Bangladesh is 1.37 percent (BBS 2011). In fact, some independent census showed a negative growth rate of population. Due to excessive salinity, drinking water is very scarce there. We can minimize the adverse conditions if we can develop an affordable and sustainable potable water supply system for the communities living in those areas. Moreover, this project can be used anywhere where potable water availability is a burning problem, since it is a decentralized water supply system requiring relatively easy maintenance.
What are other key benefits?
Redesigned Urban Approach, Rural Benefits: The key benefit of this project is applying the urban water storage and supply system in rural conditions. The proposed project avoids complex design and placement process. It offers a simplified solution.
Low Cost: This project offers a low-cost solution suited for developing countries. Even if implemented on a large scale, it would not require a tremendous sum of money.
Decentralization: It is not easy for a government to develop and manage water supply systems, especially in rural areas. In this project, the government will require less manpower for monitoring purpose. Moreover, the communities involved will have more authority over the supply system.
Zero Emission: The system will use solar power for water extraction and pumping, thus having almost a net zero carbon footprint.
Lesser waterborne diseases: As the system will provide completely potable ground water, it will minimize the risk of waterborne diseases.
What are the proposal’s costs?
Consumption Considered to Determine Costs
For drinking and cooking purpose, potable water consumption per capita per day: 10 liters.
Thus, a family containing 5 members will consume a daily amount of 50 liters of water.
If a unit contains 10 consumer families, the total storage capacity of the mother tank has to be 500 liters.
Costs Per Unit
- Shallow tube well centrifugal pump having 1 h.p. and head of 15 meters: $150
- Mother water tank with a capacity of 500 liters: $200
- Overhead RCC stand for mother water tank: $150 (can be managed by bamboo frame at even a lower cost)
- Approximately 10 KM length of UPVC pipe for supply system: $200
- 10 individual water storage tanks of 50 liter capacity: $500 (10 x $50)
- 1 K.W. solar power system with storage and inverter: $1000
Note: 1. Costs are calculated in accordance with Bangladesh market price.
- Feasibility Study: 3 months.
- First Phase Pilot Project for 5 Units: 5 months.
- Second Phase Test Project for a Village or a Union: 1 year.
- Water Supply System for the Entire Area: 5 years.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) (2011) Population and Housing Census 2011, Government of Bangladesh.
Soil Resource Development Institute (2002) Soil Salinity in Bangladesh, Government of Bangladesh.