Clean Water Clean Water


Developing Countries

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The purpose of this book is to assist the reader in choosing the best method for providing clean water in a developing country. Various approaches are clearly described, and case studies are provided to illustrate the importance of matching need and method when resources are limited.

All profits from the sale of this book will go to the Rotary Foundation or other NGOs that are working to provide clean water to developing countries.

Available in paperback, ebook, and unabridged audio download.

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Author's experience

Most of the book’s content comes from the knowledge gained from:
  • Fifty-plus years of research and teaching in water resource engineering, hydrology and clean water for developing countries at both the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Thirty-five years as an expert witness on numerous legal cases.
  • Clean water projects that I was involved with in Kenya, Peru, Honduras and Guatemala between 2011 and 2017.
  • Attendance at various courses including ones at the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and at “Potters for Peace” in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
  • My many colleagues and students.

From the Preface

The sites needing clean water can be diverse, e.g., an individual household, an entire village, a group of villages, a school, a clinic, an orphanage, etc. The focus of this book is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of how to bring clean water supplies to these entities. The optimal approaches will depend on both the Point of Use (POU), which may be large or small, and the state of the water (quantity, turbidity, type and concentration of pathogens/bacteria/viruses present) at the water source. Point of Use (POU) is the location where the water is to be consumed.

The majority of those impacted by unsafe water live in isolated rural areas of the developing world. Cost, sustainability, cultural differences and acceptance by those who will use the water are all important factors in providing clean drinking water to these people.

These factors include:
  • Community Involvement. By far, the most successful water enhancements in developing countries are tied to community organizations, particularly among the female population.
  • The Source of Water. It could be from ground water, rainwater harvesting or surface water, such as springs, creeks, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
  • The Quality of the Source Water. The water may have physical, biological and/or chemical pollution.
  • The Size of the Demand Population. Is it an individual household, a school, an orphanage, a small or large village, or a group of villages? Obviously, this affects the amount/volume of clean water needed, and this affects the methodology to be used.
  • The location of the population to be served. Are they close together or widely dispersed?


Presented in the first five chapters is the “Multi-Barrier Approach” required to provide clean water in a developing country. Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST) provides more information on the Multi-Barrier Approach at:


Chapter 1.

A Safe Source

If the source is a well, it should be covered with a concrete slab. If it’s from a stream or channel, you will have to make sure that it doesn’t run though a pasture where animal waste can enter the water.

Chapter 2.

Sediment Removal

The clarity of the supply varies with the amount of suspended sediment (turbidity) in the water. The removal of the sediment is essential for minimization of the necessary filtration of the supply.

Chapter 3.


Once the sediment is removed, the water must be filtered to eliminate pathogens. Filtration is one of the most important steps in providing clean water to developing countries. This chapter will cover three types of filters in depth: Biosand, Membrane and Ceramic.

Chapter 4.


This step ensures the removal of any remaining pathogens in the filtered water. Methods include boiling of water, solar disinfection using sunlight (known as SODIS), chlorination (the primary means in the developed world), and Ultraviolet Light (UV).

Chapter 5.

Safe Storage

The clean drinking water must be stored where pollutants, from such sources as dirty hands and bodily fluids, cannot contaminate the clean water. Generally, this involves the use of a water-tight container with a spigot.

Further topics covered here include

Chapter 6.

Safe Transport

Following the removal of sediment, filtration, and disinfection, the clean the water must be moved from one location to another (usually in jerrycans) without secondary contamination.

Chapter 7.

Choosing the Fresh Water Source

The factors involved in the selection of the optimal fresh water source, (ground water, surface water or rainwater harvesting) must include consideration of quantity, quality and cost.

Chapter 8.

Water Quality

Provides an overview of pathogens and how these serve to compromise the hygiene, drinkability and safety of the water. The chapter includes a section on water testing in the field to determine the presence of the various pollutants.

Chapter 9.

Pumps and Energy

Centrifugal pumps and compressed air pumps require the use of electrical energy, either from a grid, solar panels, or other source. Rope pumps and/or hand pumps are useful in those parts of the developing world that lack access to electricity (some 16 percent of the world’s population, or 1.2 billion people).

Chapter 10.


The proper disposal of human waste is a vitally important corollary to attaining and maintaining clean water. Presented in this chapter is how to provide adequate sanitation to households, villages and schools via both the pit toilet and the EcoSan (Ecological Sanitation) toilet.

Chapter 11.


Educating individuals on the necessity of simple hand washing with soap and clean water is one of the most effective ways to prevent disease. Hand washing is an important component of hygiene, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers and before cooking. The Tippy Tap device is an effective and inexpensive hygienic method.

Chapter 12.

Cultural Issues

In some areas of the developing world, people embrace the continued use of polluted water simply because they always have. Customs, such as open defecation, become a social time in the evening in many villages. In addition, there may be an inherent distrust of toilets. A new well, which may be located in the village, may stop the women from walking together to the distant water source – an essential rite of socialization.

Chapter 13.


It goes without saying that systems that provide clean water to developing nations need to be inexpensive and/or paid for by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or other humanitarian groups. This chapter provides some examples and the attendant price tag for bringing clean water to those in need.

Chapter 14.


There are six deadly sins of marketing that NGOs often commit when providing clean water to developing countries.

Chapter 15.


Efforts to sustain the long term use of clean water systems have led to common failures related to community, training, behavioral change, inadequate funding and solutions – but technological advances, including the use of mobile phones, enable troubleshooting issues.

Chapter 16.

Case Studies

As an inspiration for anyone looking to tackle the clean water issue, some 16 case studies demonstrate how others have solved the riddle worldwide. The ingenuity of human beings to serve others in the water arena takes center stage.

Chapter 17.

Resource Guide

The final chapter is a guide to additional resources beyond what is discussed earlier, including newsletters, online booklets, volunteer information and a selection of educational institutions in the United States that include some of the best programs serving the student community with courses related to providing clean water to developing countries.

Appendix 1.

A primer on hydrology.

Appendix 2.

A primer on water resource engineering.


The world is full of opportunities. Every day there's something new that you can do. For example, you could make dirty water potable. Why does anyone not have potable water? Because it's a problem that hasn't been solved yet, but it can be.

- Ursula Burns

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

- W.H. Auden

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.

- Jacques Yves Cousteau

For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.

- Marcus Samuelsson

Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.

- Luna Leopold

People in Ethiopia, the Sudan, etc. don’t know Audrey Hepburn, but they recognize the name UNICEF. When they see ‘UNICEF,’ their faces light up, because they know something is happening. In the Sudan, for example, they call a water pump ‘UNICEF’.

- Audrey Hepburn

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.

- Loren Eiseley

If there's a choice between tap water and bottled water, the consumer can make that choice. In a very large geography in the world, that choice does not exist.

- Muhtar Kent

Water is a very good servant, but it is a cruel master.

- Charles G.D. Roberts

We have grown accustomed to the wonders of clean water, indoor plumbing, laser surgery, genetic engineering, artificial joints, replacement body parts, and the much longer lives that accompany them. Yet we should remember that the vast majority of humans ever born died before the age of 10 from an infectious disease.

- Jay Olshansky

Water is at the center of every chemical reaction, and therefore should be the earth’s most precious gift.

- Janine Benyus

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.

- Benjamin Franklin

Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.

- Luna Leopold

We shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care.

- Kofi Annan

Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants.

- William Osler

All the water there will ever be is right now.

- National Geographic

Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.

- Mark Twain


About the Author

John Dracup was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where his parents settled because the climate reminded them of their native Glasgow, Scotland. He is a civil engineer and hydrologist. He holds degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge and the University of California, Berkeley.

He has taught water resource engineering and hydrology at both the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley for over 50 years. In his research, he has focused on the optimization of large-scale water resource systems and the impact of climate change on hydrologic variables. He has conducted clean water projects in Africa as well as in Central and South America.

Professor Dracup is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Geophysical Union among others. In 2001, he was a Fulbright Scholar to Australia. In 2015, the Rotary Foundation cited him for his efforts in supplying clean, safe water in developing countries. He lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife and family.

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