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4.4 Spring Protection -- Mukono District, Uganda
This study outlines the experiences gained during the implementation of
spring protection programmes in the Mukono District of Uganda during the
RUWASA project.Mukono is one of eight RUWASA project districts. The
project aimed at improving the quality of life of the rural people through
provision of water supply and promotion of sanitation and good hygiene.
The project was identified in 1989, after the area was found to have harsh
socio-economic and health conditions related to poorly developed water
supplies and poor sanitation.
The Mukono District lies between 32o 30' 30" and 33o 25' E, and
latitudes 1o S and 1o 30' 30" N. The district is bounded by rivers on
the east and west, Lake Victoria on the south, and Lake Kyoga on the
north. The northern and cental parts of the Mukono District are underlain
by undifferentiated gneiss of the basement complex. Recent sediments cover
the contour boundary along the Nile. The southern parts are underlain by
the Buganda Toro system (granitic and partly metamorphosed rocks) with
basement complex (granite gneiss) exposures running in a northeasterly and
southwesterly direction. From a monotonous flat topography in the north,
the land changes to an undulating topography in the central parts,
becoming hilly in the southern parts. The central parts have intermediate
to thick overburden while the southern parts have very thick overburden in
the Buganda Toro system areas. Rainfall varies from an average of 1 010
mm/year of rain in the northern half to 1 625 mm/year in the south.
In 1991, the population was 750 000 people. The population was largely
rural, with over 90% residing in the countryside. The majority of the
people are self-employed in agriculture, growing food crops for domestic
consumption with the surplus, if any, being sold to urban centres.
The water and sanitation coverage in 1991 was about 10% and 30% of the
population, respectively. It was estimated that water sources in the
District were distributed as follows: 21% spring sourced, 43% shallow well
sourced, and 36% borehole sourced. An inventory carried out in 1990,
however, indicated a great number of protectable springs were located
primarily in the south. Bacteriological tests showed that most of the
springs were contaminated with faecal coliform bacteria.
The RUWASA spring protection project started in 1990. To date, about 800
springs have been protected in the Mukono District, benefiting an
estimated 120 000 people. Protection activities start with source
identification carried out by technical officers and the community. The
criteria used to recommend a spring for protection include the following:
(i) There should be at least 50 users, or about 10 households for the
protection project to be economically viable.
(ii) The spring should be perennial (confirmed by the users).
(iii) The spring should have a flow greater than or equal to 10 l/min.
(iv) There should be an adequate ground slope to provide ample drainage
after construction of the retaining wall.
The structure or retaining wall placed around the spring to be protected
was originally constructed using stones and/or hard core. However, this
was changed to concrete blocks, except in the case of the wing walls. This
was because stone-masonry work was slower since the stones provided by
most communities were small, and greater skills are needed by the mason to
fit the stones into the wall. The skill of the masons may be a problem in
the application of this technology elsewhere, especially with new masons.
A 2½ inch galvanised iron pipe, used to protect the PVC outlet pipe,
is cast into the retaining wall flush with the back and extended 50 mm at
the front. At the back it is sealed off with cement mortar in order to
avoid contact with the spring water. The 50 mm extension offers a good
outlet, making the water easy to draw with the water buckets, but too
small to make it an attraction for children to stand or sit on. It is
important not to block off any spring eye.
The work of clearing and digging the drain, with an appropriate notch
shape and slope, that protects the spring from surface runoff and from
back flows into the spring from the surrounding land surface, tends to be
rather hard, and the communities tend to leave it uncompleted. Thus, they
have been encouraged to complete work on the drains in one operation
before any of the other work takes place.
Extent of Use
Natural springs have traditionally been used as a source of water,
especially for domestic purposes. This project has improved the protection
of such springs from pollution and improved the method of collecting and
distributing the spring water. The technology, therefore, is acceptable,
especially since the water acquired from the springs is softer than most
deep borehole water.
In a few cases, people have tried to resist the implementation of spring
protection measures for fear that the eyes of the springs would disappear.
These fears have been minimised by informing people about the causes of
such disappearances, and by demonstrating examples of protected springs in
The speed with which protection is implemented is affected during the
rainy season because, during the planting season, people are busy in the
fields. The rains also make some roads impassable, and the delivery of
Operation and Maintenance
The operation and maintenance of spring protection systems is well
within the capacity of the local communities. Apart from keeping the area
surrounding the spring tidy, maintenance consists of fencing sensitive
areas, especially the area behind the retaining wall, and maintaining the
storm water and runoff drains.
Level of Involvement
The responsibilities of the communities in each of the spring protection
projects undertaken during the RUWASA project included: (a) selection of
at least six members of the community to create the Water User Committee
(WUC); (b) selection of two caretakers, one of whom must be a woman; (c)
provision of manual labour and locally available materials for use in the
protection project; and, (d) assisting in construction work on a self-help
Prior to the construction of the protection works, the community is
responsible for clearing the drain and providing hard core, plaster-sand,
and clay, where available.
The responsibilities of the WUC include: (a) ensuring that individual
members actively participate in the construction activities; (b) ensuring
that the water sources are well looked after; (c) assisting and
supervising the caretakers in carrying out their assigned duties; (d)
proposing and enforcing by-laws, approved by the water users, regarding
the use and up-keep of the village water supply; and, mobilising the
community through the promotion of sanitation and hygiene education
The government or project manager produces guidelines for community
based operations and maintenance activities; facilitates the training of
caretakers and the WUC; and, pays for the skilled labour (masons and
supervision), the transportation of materials to the site, and the
acquisition of locally unavailable materials. Such materials may include
cement, pipes, and lake sand.
A further pilot project, using the private sector operators, started in
1995. The private contractors carry out the physical construction under
government/district supervision, and with coordinating input from the
Protection of a spring is estimated to cost about $1 000. The value of
the in kind community contribution (unskilled labour and locally available
materials) is also estimated to average $1 000. Materials provided by the
community are mainly sand, hard core and clay.
Effectiveness of the Technology
In general, the spring protection project was considered successful,
although a high proportion of the springs continued to fall above the
bacterial water standard. Unfortunately, during the 1993/94 drought, a
large proportion of the protected springs were reported to have dried up.
Notwithstanding, a study in May 1994 showed that, of 743 springs checked,
52% passed the minimum design yield criterion of 5 l/min, 42% were over
7.5 l/min criterion (the theoretical minimum to supply 20 litres per
capita per day to 150 people over 8 hours, with 20% spillage), 34% were
over the criterion of 10 1/min required for a spring to be protected, and
26% were completely dry. Over-night storage tanks are being constructed
for low yielding springs.
Given the community concerns regarding the drying of springs, additional
investigations were made of the 26% of springs that have become dry. Some
reasons for drying were found to include:
- Poor construction due to the contractors not following the
specifications (e.g., the wall not being carried down deep enough, or
the spout placed too close to the top of the water table so that even a
small drop in the water table results in the spring drying up).
- Blockages of the spout, usually with a banana, in order to "save"
the water which can result in a build up of a water pressure and the
groundwater finding an alternative route to the surface at another
The studies showed that there was no difference in the protection
provided to the springs in which polyethylene materials were used instead
of clay as a seal.
Because of the early concerns regarding the contamination of the
springs, investigations into the water quality of the protected springs
were also conducted. Water quality in the protected springs was generally
satisfactory from a toxicological point of view as shown below. However, a
survey carried out in the wet season showed that 3% exceeded the 50
Escherichia coli counts per 100 ml (EC/100 ml) criterion, 12% exceeded the
25 EC/100 ml criterion, and 52% exceeded the 3 EC/100 ml criterion.
(Faecal coliform measurements were not made.) In 65% of cases
investigated, there were higher levels of contamination at the household
level than at source level, indicating that contamination occurred within
the distribution system.
||Percentage Exceeding: Criterion
||0.5%: 300 mg CaCO3/l
|| 0.5%: 1 mg/l
||4.8%: 0.1 mg/1
|Chloride, Sulphate and Nitrate
| Total Dissolved Solids
||0.2%: 1 500 mg/1
||1.3%: 1 mg/1
Other studies have suggested that springs located within less steep
countryside had a higher percentage of better quality, in terms of both
coliform counts and turbidities, than springs located in steeply sloped
areas. It was also found that better the maintenance of the spring, such
as maintaining the storm drainage, resulted in better the bacteriological
Some communities have started growing vegetables to take advantage of
the continually flowing spring water.
The advantages offered through the use of spring protection technologies
- Ease of construction and maintenance, as a high level of technical
knowledge is not required.
- Improvement of a community water supply already used and accepted by
- Low cost of construction and maintenance.
- A potential to up-grade the system by collecting the water in a tank
and pumping it up a storage tank and distributing it through a pipe
system as economic conditions permit.
The disadvantages of spring protection technologies include:
- No improvement in the service level associated with the community
water supply, since protecting the water source has not effect on
walking distance to the source.
- Interference with the flora and fauna down stream if a storage
facility is provided in case of low yielding springs, since spring water
is retained at the source.
- Poor accessibility if the spring is located at the bottom of a hill
and most households are located on the hilltop.
- Limited improvement in the bacteriological quality of water and
continued difficulty in improving the quality to a higher standard.
Further Development of the Technology
Although the village inventory indicated a great number of protectable
springs (3 200), only 40% met the project criteria for protection. Many
reported springs were traditionally dug water holes in valley bottoms that
could not be protected through this programme. Spring identification
should be carried out during the dry season to minimise risk of protecting
seasonally drying springs. Declines in the water table due to drops in
rainfall were a major cause of drying springs. More detailed water
resources studies are required to document the relationship between
rainfall (seasonal and annual variations) and spring yields. In the
meantime, the minimum yield criterion for a spring to be considered for
protection was revised from 10 l/min to 15 l/min, and , in the case of low
yielding springs, construction of a storage tank to collect water
overnight is being explored and should be considered. The work plan for
construction of spring should take into account the seasons (e.g., the
demand for labour during the planting season).
Human activity in the catchment area of a spring has a big affect,
especially on the bacteriological quality of the water. Preferably, 30 m
around and upgradient of a spring should be kept free of human activity to
minimise the potential for contamination from this source. By-laws to this
effect should be encouraged where possible. There is a need for improved
and recorded observations on spring site features which might correlate
with the vulnerability of the spring to pollution. Similarly, monitoring
and record-keeping relative to the sensitivity of a spring to seasonal
discharge changes would be desirable. Some general monitoring of
subsequent performance of the spring would also provide valuable
information with which to measure project success.
Rural water quality guidelines should take into account the resources
available and the coverage of public water supplies. In this case, if the
project guidelines were strictly followed, 52% of the water sources which
provide water to over 60 000 people would be condemned on the basis of
excessive E. coli counts. Notwithstanding, hygiene education,
especially the safe water chain, is important as the contamination level
at the point of drinking in household is much higher than at the source.
DANIDA (Danish International Aid Agency) 1995. Project Document:
RUWASA Phase II. DANIDA, Copenhagen.
Geria, I. and UNICEF (United Nations International
Childrens Emergency Fund) 1993. The Potential for Different
Abstraction Technologies for Rural Water Supply in Uganda. Ministry of
Kruger, I. 1990. National Rural Water Supply Programme: Republic of
Uganda. Nordic Consultancy Group.
RUWASA East Uganda Project 1993. 1991-1992 Data And Experiences.
Directorate of Water Development, Uganda.
RUWASA East Uganda Project 1994a. Phase II Strategy Report.
Directorate of Water Development, Uganda.
RUWASA East Uganda Project 1994b. Status Report. Directorate of
Water Development, Uganda.