April 2017

Springshed management improves life in Himalayan villages

Springshed management by Himmotthan’s Society’s Water and Sanitation programme has eased life for residents of Himalayan villages — distance travelled to collect water has reduced from 2.5km to less than 10m and water consumption has increased from 24 to 70 litres per capita per day

A spring is a place where water from beneath the ground naturally flows out to the surface. The word originates from the German word 'springer,' which means 'to leap from the ground.

An aquifer is an underground layer of permeable rock or sand that collects, holds and conducts water. The materials act like underground sponges allowing water to flow very slowly through it. Water in the aquifer is called groundwater. Groundwater may naturally emerge from the aquifer as springs.

The science of groundwater known as ‘hydrogeology’ can lead us to a better understanding of aquifers, thus providing ways and means for its sustainable management.

In the Himalayan region, most of the water consumed comes from springs. However, spring water supply in Himalayan villages is becoming increasingly uncertain due to the impact of climate change on precipitation patterns, leading to rise in rainfall intensity, reduction in temporal spread and marked decline in winter rain.

Together with climatic factors, anthropogenic causes and the topography, vegetation cover, soil and geology of an area also affect water availability in a region. These factors control the rainfall runoff and groundwater recharge and storage.

Himmotthan’s WaSH programme
Springshed management is an integral part of Himmotthan’s Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) programme. Himmotthan has been implementing spring-fed, gravity flow community Water Supply and Sanitation (WaSH) projects since 2002, which has benefitted more than 40,000 individuals, spread across 133 villages in Uttarakhand through 200 gravity flow water schemes. Over 7,000 sanitation units were created as part of the WaSH programme. All the assets created under the project are owned and managed by the village communities.

Comprehensive scientific methods (hydrogeology, assessment of water quality, etc) were added to the WATSAN programme from 2009. These augmented groundwater recharge, thus ensuring long-term sustainability of water schemes.
Loose boulder check dams constructed for springshed management has prevented both soil and water runoff, increasing the rate of infiltration of water and enhancing water discharge from springs. The dams have also helped to reduce landslides due to peak flow (run off).

More than 145 springs were augmented in a project undertaken by Himmotthan, resulting in sustained water supply to project villages. The WaSH programme has also followed an integrated approach between water supply development, sanitation and catchment area protection to improve water resource sustainability.

Himmotthan Society’s Water Supply and Sanitation programme has followed an integrated approach between water supply development, sanitation and catchment area protection to improve water resource sustainability
Currently, Himmotthan with its Implementation Support Agencies, is implementing various projects across a number of districts: 18 villages in Tehri district, comprising the Chamba and Jaunpur blocks, are covered under a WaSH project; 16 villages in Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts are covered under Tata Uttarakhand Programme; and 312 villages of Gangolihat block of Pithoragarh are covered under the Block Open Defecation Free project; water security and Point of Use is an integral part of the project.

As part of a school WaSH programme, being implemented with support from the Hans Foundation,  which is underway in 85 centres, children are being motivated to understand water security and its related issues, through Spring Walk, Water Quality and various other tools which help preserve water resources.

Before Himmotthan’s WATSAN projects were implemented in the Himalayan region, on an average the drinking water consumption was 24 litres per capita per day (LPCD), which was about one-third of the World Health Organization standard of 70 LPCD; after the project implementation, it has increased to 77 LPCD. The projects have reduced the time and efforts in terms of distance travelled; average distances travelled by residents for collecting water was 2.5km, which has come down to less than 10m after the intervention. The maximum benefit has been to the women and girls who have to walk the distance and carry the water home, as well as to children who now have more time with their mothers. There is overall increase in the quality of life due to the increased use of water in households. People are also using surplus water to cultivate small vegetable patches.