DEWAS | Decentralized Water Supply



Water supply – a poverty-related Basic Needs Service

Access to clean water constitutes the basis for a minimum standard of living and enables the deprived to improve their quality of life. Water supply for household and agricultural use is thus a key component of poverty-oriented Basic Needs Services.

The willingness of the target group to actively participate in the project realisation is essential for the sustainability of any action and is a precondition for project implementation. BORDA incorporates only environmentally friendly technologies and the renewable energy sources into the technology selection process.

Particularly in rural, mountainous areas with little rainfall, water sources are often several hundred meters away from houses and fields. People in these often agricultural regions may need to walk long distances in order to fetch water and carry it back to their villages. Moreover, the lack of accessible clean water constitutes serious health hazards. Dim prospects for socio-economic development under these conditions can fuel mass migration to urban areas, with dreams of a better life.    

Water supply shortages are particularly problematic in remote rural and mountainous areas
Water has to be carried to the villages. It is mostly the task of women and children.
The Challenge

Where conventional water supply systems fail

Local and state governments have continuously failed in their efforts to supply water to rural and mountainous areas. Conventional systems that channel water over long distances from rivers or big reservoirs, or that employ diesel motor pumps to deliver water to mountainous villages are expensive and rarely show positive long-term results. On the contrary, such programmes often can have a demoralising effect on the participating population.

The failure stems from the concept and technologies of the systems employed:

  • not appropriate for specific preferences and needs of the poor target groups
  • provider are often unaware of the needs and financial capabilities of the user groups
  • high costs for operation and maintenance of diesel powered systems that are susceptible to break down
  • maintenance servicing is expensive
  • high investment and administration costs (in order to service remote areas)


Water supply - a global issue

Water is essential for life. However, 1.2 billion people have no regular access to safe drinking water. The UN Millennium Development Goals aim to halve the number of people without access to water by 2015. In March 2003, the UN also proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2015 International Decade for Action on the subject 'Water for Life'. The intent was to call attention to the vital role of water and its urgency for human development around the world.

Water scarcity mostly affects poor countries and constitutes a threat to food security and economic development. Without sufficient water farmers cannot produce enough food and industries depending on regular water supplies struggle or collapse.

At the same time, 90% of the wastewater produced worldwide is discharged into the water cycle without receiving sufficient treatment.

80% of all diseases and 25% of all deaths in developing countries are a result of water contamination. Thus, water supply and wastewater treatment together play a key role in the fight against poverty, the reduction of environmental pollution and the prevention of conflicts.

Even though the rivers have enough water, it doesn’t reach the fields for irrigation.
Good Practice: The Hydraulic Ram

Successes in  India ,  China and  Vietnam

Since 1981, BORDA has been active in the dissemination of poverty-oriented decentralized water supply systems in remote rural and mountainous areas. The implementation and continuous improvement of demand oriented approaches has led to notable successes in India, China and Vietnam. The water lifting technology of the Hydraulic Ram (HydRam) is a feasible solution for the geographic and economic problems of the farmers in remote mountainous areas.

Characteristics of the HydRam


Suitable for remote areas
Low investment costs
Minimum operation and maintenance
Utilises renewable energy
Continuous operation possible
No fuel or electricity required
Can lift water up to 120 meters
Well-proven performance in over 1500 installations
Needs- and demand- oriented
Operation and maintenance by user groups

Decentralised Basic Needs Service: water supply for household and agricultural use

Workshops and Seminars

The demand for this concept was reaffirmed by all involved stakeholders in various information and awareness campaigns, as well as in conferences (NET 2001 in China and NET 2002 in India), seminars and workshops organised by BORDA

Capacity Building and training for partner organisations

It is necessary to adapt services to regional conditions and specific user demands and to fulfill training requirements of partner organisations. Thus, ‘Good Practices’ are first introduced by pilot or demonstration projects. Results are then integrated into plans going forward.


The implementation concept is documented in the ‘HydRam Handbook’. Together with regional studies and surveys, the handbook forms the basis for further dissemination.

Informed Choice and Demand-Oriented Approach

Water User Committee meeting.
All villagers benefit from common planning.

Informed choice

First, feasibility studies provide data on technical possibilities in new regions. Potential users and different stakeholders are then informed about the new water supply options to enable an informed choice between different solutions and technical options. This allows a comprehensive final selection on the part of user groups and stakeholders – according to the criteria of a demand-oriented approach.


To facilitate sustainable operation and further dissemination, service provider concepts must be supported by the main stakeholders. The user/target group, relevant government institutions and the partner organisations (mostly NGOs) join together as a development cooperation and share the responsibilities of the project implementation, including planning, construction, operation and maintenance. BORDA’s engagement in the project is tied to specific conditions that have to be fulfilled:


1. Participation of user groups

  • Essential criteria for selection are poverty and real need for water supply, as well as the participation of user groups.
  • It is indispensable that users can operate and maintain the supply schemes independently, particularly in remote areas.
  • Selecting appropriate technologies guarantees that expenses for O&M can be covered by user fees.

Water User Committees are founded to organise the participation during construction, O&M and fee collection.

  • Investment costs for delivery pipes and storage tanks are mostly covered by users.
  • The demand-oriented selection and user participation guarantees high user acceptance.

2. Involvement of local, regional and national authorities

  • The involvement of policy-makers is necessary for the legal project basis.
  • As public authorities are commissioned with the provision of water supply systems they are integrated in the early stages of the dissemination process and are encouraged to take a stake in the project as provider of services and/or co-finances.

3. Willingness of implementing partner organisations to learn and grow

  • Demand-oriented Basic Needs Services can only be disseminated with regionally operating partner organisations.
  • They have well-established contacts to the marginalized target groups and are familiar with their habits.
  • To act as a provider for basic needs services they have to be able and willing to install supply systems, manage O&M and organise user committees.
  • They act as the locally responsible agency right from the start of the demonstration and pilot projects.
  • Partner organisations are continuously trained within the BORDA partner network.
Technical Options

High system flexibility


Over the course of one thousand decentralized water supply system installations, BORDA has developed a range of technical options that adapt the technology to user demands and topographic conditions:

  • Five HydRam types with different feeding capacities are available
  • Parallel and serial installation is possible
  • Flood cage constructions for special sites are possible
The irrigation tank is filled overnight
The operator opens the HydRam
Parallel installation of the HydRam

Water for drinking, household use and irrigation

The HydRam lifts water. The source determines whether the water can be used for drinking, consumption or irrigation. The system can be configured to deliver different quantities of water to consumption water tanks in the villages or to irrigation tanks on the fields.

Simple and efficient technology

As long as there is a river, stream or canal with sufficient inclination, the HydRam provides a simple solution for both domestic and agricultural water supply – 24 hours per day, 12 months a year.

The HydRam is based on the ‘water hammer effect'. Kinetic energy obtained from flowing water of small rivers or streams is utilised for lifting a specific quantity of water (maximum height: 120 m).

The lifted water output depends on the ratio of the lift (height) to the water drop (h/H). For example, with a ratio of 10:1, the lifted water output is between 2 m³ and 300 m³ per day, depending on the size of the HydRam in use.

Produced in Asia

Initiated by BORDA, HydRam units are produced in India , China and Vietnam with production cost between 250 and 1.400 € (depending on the size).

Dissemination Strategy

Informing key stakeholders

Early information dissemination to key stakeholders is vital to ensure continuous support for the programme on a macro-level.

Informed choice

Users/communities are informed and choose technical options and service models.

Project planning

Project planning includes technical and socio-economic feasibility studies, as well as construction design and legal aspects.

Training programs

BORDA experts facilitate training programs for qualified staff of partner organisations to strengthen capacities of the local service provider.

Project implementation

To ensure high quality standards, major tasks are carried out by qualified experts. User participation in construction work reduces costs and generates ownership identification among beneficiaries. User committees are trained by experts for sustainable O&M.

Quality control

Both internal and external evaluations ensure the quality of the service provider system and help improve performance.

Cost efficiency

Spreading up-front costs amongst stakeholders, cost efficiency is increased; furthermore, O&M can be financed by user fees.

BORDA network

The international BORDA network facilitates further dissemination (knowledge transfer, trainings, conferences, cooperation between experts from partner organisations).

The second crop in February would not be possible without irrigation with HydRams
Benefits of HydRam

  • Effective, efficient and sustainable Basic Needs Service solution for decentralized water supply
  • Improvement of the livelihoods of marginalized people through provision of reliable water supply for agricultural and household use
  • Reinforcement of self-determination of user communities
  • Reduction of the daily work load of women and children
  • Capacity-building in social, technical and management competencies
  • Decrease of rural outmigration
  • Environmentally friendly
Mushrooms in China , apricots in Ladakh – a second crop guarantees additional income.
Country Study: P.R. China

  • By 2002, 600 HydRams had been installed in China.
  • Over 400.000 people benefit from the activities
  • An additional 2.000 hectares of terraced fields are now irrigated.
  • Farmers’ yields have thereby been increased by about 20%.
  • Every year, about 10 Million kWh of energy is saved.
  • This equals an emission decrease of 13.000 t CO2 and 100 t SO4 annually.
  • A technology transfer from P.R. China to Vietnam was initiated by BORDA in 2001. Within the first year 52 villages were provided with HydRam water lifting devices produced in Vietnam.