Britain is an island surrounded by water. It rains frequently and water is available at the turn of a tap. But in south west Uganda, most people do not have a tap, shower or toilet in their home. Their water supply typically comes from a stream, river, pond or well.
In Uganda today many thousands of people collect their water from muddy holes, and often have to walk several kilometres to collect it. Women and children bear the brunt of this work. In wetter areas the water is often low down and they must return up muddy slopes carrying 20 kg on their heads.
The WATSAN project covers an area of some 600 square miles (about the size of Oxfordshire), with a population of about half a million people. Of the people living in this area, up to 150,000 people still lack access to safe water and sanitation services.
The following are the main types of project WATSAN carries out in Uganda.
Types of project
Gravity flow water schemes
Schemes like this take a natural water supply – usually a good strong spring protected in the hills – and use gravity to bring it to a local community. These are major schemes serving up to 5,000 or more people, schools, clinics etc.
Water from natural springs can be directed carefully through a filtration material into a concrete structure, so that clean water can be easily collected by isolated local communities. Projects such as this involve transforming muddy, unsanitary areas surrounding springs into clean, safe water sources.
Rainwater harvesting systems
Rainwater is an excellent source of clean water, and can be collected by running water from gutters round buildings into a rainwater collection tank. The tank has a roof that protects its contents from pollution, and clean water is collected by the users via a tap in the wall of the tank, or may be piped to a tap stand.
A typical unimproved latrine is smelly, fly-blown and even dangerous to kids. WATSAN install Ventilated Improved Privies (‘VIPs’) and ‘Ecosan’ latrines, which ensure that there is no smell, no flies and no embarrassment in using the facilities. An Ecosan toilet uses an innovative but simple composting system so that waste can be reused to mulch or fertilise crops.
Many schemes are built specifically to serve schools and other institutions. In these cases, the project will always serve the surrounding community, and will normally consist of a combination of water and sanitation improvements.