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of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augumentation
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3.14 Development and Protection of Natural Springs
The main objective of spring development and protection is to provide
improved water quantity and quality for human consumption. Development of
natural springs tends to improve their yield, in contrast to the
generally-held belief that discharges decline if the springs are touched.
Spring development activities include provision of storage tanks,
tapstands, drainage, and catchment area protection. Thus, the design of a
standard spring development and protection scheme includes the
construction of an intake structure, collection tank, tapstand, and
retaining wall, and the provision of drainage, fencing and grassed
surround. The intake structure is located at the source of the spring
(called the eye, or the point within the spring where the spring flow is
concentrated and follows a stable channel), and collects the water for
transfer to the collection tank.
The intake structure also protects the eye of the spring from immediate
and future contamination. In concentrated springs, where the water appears
in a single channel, water can be tapped easily using a standard catchment
structure at the eye. In dispersed springs, where the water flow is
diffused and an eye is not discernable, suitable channels may need to be
constructed to divert water from diffused sources to the catchment area. A
typical intake structure is constructed of a minimum of 2 m backfill above
the source of the spring, 1 m of which should be constructed of impervious
clayey soil. This construct is protected from erosion by a dry stone
retaining wall built to prevent the backfill area from being washed away.
Immediately around the spring is constructed a filter bed of dry rubble.
In dispersed springs, where the construction of a filter bed may not be
possible, a dry-stone channel may be used to the direct water from the
spring source to the catchment floor. The stone channel and catchment area
are covered with heavy duty plastic sheets to stop the surface water from
mixing with the spring water. A concrete pad is required below the filter
bed whenever the soil conditions are in doubt. However, it is important to
ensure that the concrete pad of the intake structure floor and walls is
well drained in order to prevent seepage from undermining the concrete
floor. Also, while small plants and grasses should be planted around the
spring area to filter surface runoff and prtoect the spring from
contamination, deep-rooted trees should be avoided as the root systems can
clog the spring and damage the protection works. Finally, the outlet and
overflow pipes placed into the intake structure should be sized so as to
avoid the possibility of impounding the spring water during peak flow
Spring water should be stored in an appropriate collection device. A
small ferrocement tank of 500 or 1 000 l capacity serves to store the
water in most cases when the average discharge of the spring under
consideration is below 0.1 l/s. If the flow of the spring exceeds 0.1 l/s
then a storage tank may not be necessary and direct flow to the point of
use could be provided. The size of the tank is determined based upon a
minimum supply of 20 l per capita per day. Where a storage tank is
provided, the top of the tank should be raised above ground level. The
tank should be located as close to the catchment as possible, and the head
difference between the intake and the tank should be sufficient to drain
off the collected spring flow to the tank without causing a back-up or
impounding of the water within the spring. The tank also should be
protected by a fence.
An appropriate tapstand, including a washing platform with the provision
for drainage, may also be constructed.
Extent of Use
The concept of spring development and protection was developed and
initiated in Nepal during 1992 by the Department of Water Supply and
Sewerage (DWSS). This technology has been used extensively in the Eastern
Region of Nepal, moderately in the Central Region and rarely in the
remaining three western regions, although the government has planned to
implement spring protection projects in the all the regions of Nepal. This
concept has been developed and is reflected in the policy and guidelines
Operation and Maintenance
Regular maintenance of the scheme is required and includes cleaning the
storage tank regularly, protecting the storage tank and catchment area
with fencing and grass plantings to minimise contamination, keeping the
tap area clean and properly drained, and diverting surface water drainage
away from the catchment area. Retaining walls should also be constructed
on steep hillsides to mitigate landslides.
User participation in the project from the beginning, and contributions
to the project by providing labour and locally available materials for its
construction, ensures familiarity with the system. Users are trained in
the operation and maintenance of the system, and one user is selected to
act as the caretaker. This person is provided with some basic tools as
part of the project cost. Since all the components of the scheme are
located in close proximity to each other, the caretaker can maintain close
observation of the users and the site, which reduces the chances of misuse
of water or overuse of the system due to the limited capacity of the
source. In many communities, users raise maintenance funds as part of the
process of project implementation. However, some maintenance problems have
been noticed due to the passivity of the users.
Level of Involvement
Spring protection schemes are generally implemented by the government,
with active community involvement, with assistance from NGOs and
international agencies such as UNICEF. Private construction has not been
noticed as yet.
Direct capital costs include local and non-local materials,
transportation, and labour. The average cost of a scheme is $500.
Effectiveness of the Technology
This technology is very effective and has brought about extensive
improvements in the quality of water from the springs. The efficiency of
utilisation has also improved due to the provision of storage capacity and
conservation of water that previously was wasted during night.
This technology is suitable in hilly regions where small springs with
minimum discharges of 0.01 l/s are available. However, it should be noted
that spring protection, in general, is not considered as an alternative to
piped distribution system as it does not reduce walking distances or
ensure provision of an adequate water supply. People benefiting from
spring protection systems may request a piped distribution system at a
The technical advantages of the technology are:
- The technology is very simple and does not need any standard design
procedure to be followed, making it replicable.
- It helps to augment available water resources which otherwise would
not be used or considered "unhygienic" by the local people.
- The technology can be adapted to work in conjunction with other
technologies such as gravity-flow, piped systems.
- Small springs can be developed to secure a supply of water during
periods of extreme demand or when the main system fails for some time.
- There are fewer chances of disputes regarding the spring and its use
as the users and developers of the water resource are the same.
- The entire construction can be completed within one week, once
everything is available at the site.
- An high level of supervision and highly skilled operators are not
- The per capita costs are very low.
Though there are no major disadvantages to this technology, some minor
- The exact shape and size of the catchment structure cannot readily be
predicted before construction, and inexperienced contractors may not be
able to trap the flow properly with respect to the quality and quantity
- Since the spring becomes "user friendly" after development
of the protection scheme, demand may increase, and, if the yield is low,
frustrations may arise within the user community.
- Since the benefit of this technology is solely in terms of improved
water quality and yield, the community may not accept it as a "water
supply" project, since it does not reduce the distances between
source and point of use.
- In some cases, it may be difficult to site and construct the
components of the system due to a lack of area or required head.
In general, the technology is very acceptable to communities, and people
are appreciative of the user friendly system with safe water (instead of a
dirty pond from which they previously used buckets to collect water).
However, in some cases, people have opposed the excavation of the spring
for fear that the source may dry up if touched; practically, this is not
true, if handled properly. Also, in some areas, people believe that stored
water is not fresh, and, hence, is not suitable for morning ablutions and
puja (worship), although such beliefs are slowly disappearing.
Further Development of the Technology
This technology is still experimental in Nepal and needs to be further
developed in terms of technology, construction, management and
adaptability. The following points should be considered for further
- A detailed study should be carried out, and detailed guidelines
prepared, to facilitate the use of this technology in a range of specific
- Spring development techniques should be designed and implemented in
such a way as to form the basis for installation of a piped distribution
system in the future, especially with regard to intake structure
Planning Section, Department of Water Supply and Sewerage,