Water                                                                Download the PDF


These wells are deeper holes drilled into the ground to reach the groundwater. They are most appropriate when a large volume of water is required for a larger population. Usually fitted with a hand pump or powered pump, tubewells and boreholes are lined with pipe from the surface to the water table. Depending on depth (which can be greater than 100m) and costs of drilling operations, these wells can generally be built quite efficiently.

Selecting which type of well to dig depends on the depth required, soil conditions, terrain, and equipment available. There is no “one size fits all” solution.

Borehole drilling
Field crew from Divine Waters Uganda start drilling in
Ayang Village
Borehole - reaching water!
A drilling rig reaches water at Alito Leper Primary School, Uganda

Protected Spring

Underground springs are used to provide clean water to villages that may not have an underground water table accessible by a standard hand pump. The springs are “protected” by maintaining a clean environment uphill of the water source and by constructing a “spring box” at the point where the water leaves the ground. Protected Springs can be counted on to produce safe water and so it is suitable for drinking. This type of water point is common in Uganda’s Rukungiri district.

Rainwater Harvesting

In areas where rain falls regularly, rainwater can be collected before it evaporates or becomes contaminated. Rainwater is generally clean water and can be collected from pre-cleaned roofs of homes and schools by using gutters to direct the rainwater into a storage tank (Source: WHO). This water is useful for cooking, cleaning and drinking in some cases. In some Ryan’s Well projects, schools are using rainwater to teach handwashing before eating and after using the bathroom.

Rainwater Tank
Building a rainwater tank at Poano R.C. High School in Ghana

Dug Wells

These are one of the oldest and most common forms of obtaining groundwater worldwide. Dug wells are restricted to locations where the ground and soil can be removed by hand. Basic dug wells are unlined holes in the ground which reach the water table. These wells can either be shallow (around 5 meters deep) or deeper (upwards of 20m in depth). Ryan’s Well helps to construct this type of traditional well in some areas of Burkina Faso.

A dug well
This well is being dug by hand in Burkina Faso's Yatenga

Shallow Well

A well would be considered a “shallow well” when the water table is not very deep and the well is up to 30 meters deep. Shallow wells are less expensive due to less drilling being required. Because they cost less to drill, more shallow wells can be constructed if conditions like a suitable well site with appropriate terrain can be located.

Deep Well

A well is considered a “deep well” when the water table is further away from the surface, usually at a depth of more than 30 meters. This will usually require a longer drilling period and more labour to perform the hydrogeolocial survey and drilling to reach water. Digging deep enough to reach groundwater aquifers can provide a more sustainable flow of water from the well with less seasonal fluctuation in water levels. This means that with proper maintenance, a deep well can generally serve a larger population for a great number of years.


The India Mark 2 Pump is one of the most common pumps used in Africa and is used by Ryan’s Well partners in Uganda and Haiti. It is essential that the India Mark 2 Pump is used in these countries because replacement parts are most readily available when repairs are needed. Using a pump more widely used throughout the country will ensure reasonably priced parts and mechanic expertise if the well ever breaks down. Increased sustainability occurs when local community members can repair and maintain pumps.

India Mark 2 Hand Pump
Children from Haiti's Artibonite Valley use an India Mark 2
hand pump to collect water from their community's well

Other pumps used by Ryan's Well - depending on the location - include:


The Afridev pump is used in Kenya by our partner in the Samburu region.

Afridev hand pump


The Volanta pump is used by our partner Federation Nununa in the Léo region of Burkina Faso.

Volanta hand pump

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Ensuring that a water supply and its delivery system can meet the needs of current populations while also taking into consideration the needs of future generations. Sustainability also means that a local community has the training and capacity to fund and conduct repairs on the water point when they are needed. It means the community, without outside intervention of funds, can maintain the well. The term also refers to creating and maintaining the surroundings of the water point so these activities do not cause damage to the environment.

Read more about our focus on sustainability and other priorities in the field.

Water Committee

These committees are selected by the community and/or elders to manage and maintain the water systems at a school or in a village. They make decisions regarding all aspects of the project such as: the location of water supply points, wells, and boreholes; the method of construction; whether the initial contribution should consist of cash or labour; and the daily maintenance and cleanliness of the system (Source: WaterAid, UN). Committee members are elected to positions such as Chairperson (and Vice Chairperson), Caretaker (and Vice Caretaker), Treasurer, Secretary and Information Officer to manage and maintain the well. Approximately 9 people comprise each committee with balanced representation of women and men.

A water committee in Ghana
Water committee training in Wawase, Ghana. This committee
will ensure the well remains clean & functioning

Learn more about the importance of local water committees

Waterborne Diseases

Waterborne diseases are caused by the ingestion of water contaminated by human or animal feces or urine containing pathogens. They can be reduced through improved water quality. Examples include: Diarrhoea, Typhoid and Cholera. (Source: WHO, UNICEF)

A former water source
Ketty collects water from her village's former water source in
Kulu Amik, Uganda

Learn more about our role in reducing the spread of cholera in Haiti

Unsafe Drinking Water - Dirty Water

Typically, water is considered unsafe when it has come in contact with animal or human feces. Water can transport bacteria from feces that is harmful to human health. It is also possible that worms and other insects breeding in this type of water could make it harmful if ingested. Unsafe water can have chemical, biological and bacterial contamination, all of which can make it unsafe.

Collection of dirty water
Children fetch water from their village's former water source
in Te-Oburu, Uganda

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VIP Latrine

Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines are pit latrines that help reduce odours and prevent flies from entering the latrine. Waste is collected in a pit, which has a venting pipe covered by a fly-proof screen. Uncovered holes or open seats in a VIP latrine ensure that air flows into the latrine and out through the vent pipe, reducing foul smells. Although slightly more expensive to build and maintain than a simple pit latrine, VIP latrines remain relatively inexpensive, and are more hygienic and pleasant to use (Source: WHO).

Some improvements from our partners include rainwater jars to catch water for handwashing and making latrines drainable so they can last much longer.

VIP Latrine
The latrines at Oket Kwer Primary School in Uganda provide
two separate facilities, 1 for boys and 1 for girls

Improved Sanitation

According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, Improved Sanitation describes adequate facilities for cleanliness in order to prevent the spread of illness. Access to a private pit latrine or a VIP latrine, toilets with a septic tank, composting toilet, pit latrine with a cement slab or a piped sewer system are all considered improved sanitation facilities. Public latrines, open pit latrines and bucket latrines are considered “unimproved” because they increase the risk on contamination and illness and do not provide privacy. There should also be provisions for handwashing and clean water to further facilitate cleanliness.


WASH is an acronym used to indicate the importance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in preventing sickness caused by waterbourne diseases. Ryan’s Well funds WASH education in communities who can benefit from training in keeping themselves and their water free from contamination. WASH training teaches the concept of the safe water chain which promotes using a safe source of water, a safe method of transportation (clean jar or bucket), safe storage of water (clean container with a lid to prevent bugs from entering), and safe usage (clean hands, etc). If in any part of that chain water is not handled in a safe manner, it can lead to contamination or illness.

WASH training
Teachers in Togo promote proper health & hygiene by
hosting a drawing contest at school. The translation reads:
Our health depends on proper sanitation

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Hygiene Education

Handwashing Stations

Handwashing stations are a source of clean water available for handwashing. Handwashing helps drastically reduce the transfer of bacteria and viruses that cause disease and infections and is vital after going to the bathroom, handling children’s feces, before preparing food and before eating (Source: UNICEF).

Handwashing station in Togo
Students from Togo line up to use their new handwashing
station for the first time

Tippy Tap

A Tippy Tap, made from locally available items, is a low-cost, easy invention allowing people to wash their hands without coming in contact with germs or bacteria that could make them sick.

Little girl using aTippyTap
A young girl from Uganda practices proper handwashing
with soap using a Tippy Tap

Hygiene Training

Training sessions occur regularly to ensure communities know the importance of improved sanitation, raise awareness about washing their hands, how to keep water clean and safe and how to pass this knowledge to other members of the community. Ryan’s Well relies on training sessions like this to educate communities before and after the well is built. Access to clean water is vital, but it must also be accompanied by proper sanitation and knowledge.

Community hygiene training
During a hygiene training session in Uganda,
participants use posters to map disease

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