When we think about ways to get or obtain water, we need to consider several factors. The best designs for community water systems start by looking first at the needs and usage loads for the target community. Also, we need to take into account existing and traditional ways to get water and primarily work from where people are and what they have, involving them from the start to be a part of solving their water problems.
Let’s assume that the community is on board with a new water system. What are the factors we need to think about (with the community) in addressing their future water needs?
- Access and reasonable access to a sufficient water source. Ask question, like: what is the distance to the source? Is there a different, closer source that we can work together to provide good water? What is the cost/risk factor of bringing the water closer to the people (such as piping it in)? Can we use gravity flow for water delivery versus an external power source (i.e. pumps using fuel or electricity). Usually, the greater the distance and the more working parts needed, the more expensive the cost of delivery.
- We need to design a system based upon intended use. Is the water for drinking, household, sanitation, or growing crops? Most of the time, it is a combination of these so consideration might only need to be given to filtration/purification for only the drinking water.
- Quality and quantity. What quality do we need and what is the quantity? The quality goes back to the intended use of the water. The quantity goes back to the intended use and the number of people and families utilizing the water. If possible, it is good to plan on providing 50% above the current needs, because a good water source attracts more people.
- Power to purchase. One of the overlooked strategies in helping communities obtain water is helping them earn more so that they can purchase water. There may be areas that have such poor access or poor water quality that the best option for human consumption is to buy bottled water. A big problem with a lot of groundwater in Asia is the presence of high levels of arsenic. In these areas, arsenic is released by the weathering of parent material in the soil profile, and finding sources of arsenic-free water is challenging. In some of these places, purchasing water can be a viable option. There other ways to mitigate arsenic but I use this as an example.