Piped Water Projects

How Will the Intervention Help?

  • Most homes have no easy access to water requiring 1-3 hours per day of carrying water up and down mountainsides from distant sources
  • Significant time and calories are expended getting water. This reduces the nutrition of women and children that carry water and takes away precious time from a mother's day that could be better spent caring for her children
  • When possible, piped water is one of the lowest cost methods to bring water to area homes. Depending on the distance from the water source to the home and the number of homes served, it is possible to provide piped water for a cost of $250 - $500 per home.

What is involved with a piped water project?

The most important requirement is finding either a naturally occurring water source (spring) or drilling a well. The water source must be higher in elevation than the homes to receive the piped water. Given the mountainous terrain and the cost of well drilling ($5,000 - $10,000 per attempt) in the San Jose area, we are only using naturally occurring springs that are above homes needing water and that can deliver an adequate amount of water, even during the dry season.

  • The water from the natural spring must be able to be captured by building a small dam around the source.
  • A holding/distribution tank is built near the water source. Most area natural springs only produce a few gallons a minute, so the distribution tank allows collection and storage of water even when people do not need water. Then when people need water, there is an adequate supply for their immediate needs.
  • A short section of pipe is installed between the natural spring and the water tank. When possible, PVC pipe is used and buried in a hand-dug trench.
  • A combination of PVC and galvanized steel pipes are used to carry the water from the distribution tank to individual homes. When the terrain allows the digging of a trench, PVC pipe of various sizes is used. In areas where there is only rock or when crossing a ravine, galvanized steel pipe is used (very expensive). When crossing wide ravines, a suspension bridge type structure is built using barbed wire (low cost) for the supporting cables.
  • Given the huge elevation differences often existing between the water source and homes, pressure release valves often have to be installed or the pipes will explode.
  • At each home, one garden-type faucet is installed.
  • Due to limited water production by local springs, water used is closely managed by a water committee created by each village. During the dry season when water production is down, some homes have to use less than 50 gallons/day.

Required Materials

  • PVC pipe, glue, connectors, valves, etc.
  • Galvanized steel pipe, teflon tape, connectors, valves, etc
  • Ferro-cement tank
  • Faucets

Building Process

  • Complicated and beyond the scope of this article

Total Monetary Cost

  • Total cost depends on distance from source to tank, tank to home, diameter of pipe, number of homes served and the distance between homes, type of pipe – PVC vs galvanized steel, etc. For San Jose, current projects have varied in price from $250 - $600 per home.


Small natural spring   Woman and son carrying water up a mountain side
Water is a requirement of life, but in the San Jose area, water is mainly available only at naturally occurring springs such as the one pictured above.  The spring pictured above provides all water for about 12 families.     Prior to the piped water project, carrying 40-60 lbs of water up mountainsides was a 2-3 time-a-day chore.
Carrying water pipe to Portillin  

girl with new water faucet in la Calera

The first faucet in la Calera and the realization that this girl will not have to haul water twice a day anymore.

Carrying pipes down the mountainside for the Portillon water project