Clean Water: A basic human right

Working with communities to provide access to safe water

This is a picture of young Uganda children in their uniforms during a lesson at school

Meet Hassan. He used to miss school 3 days out of 5 because he was suffering from diarrhoea as a result of drinking dirty water. Amigos built a well in his village and now he's drinking clean water he makes it to school 5 days a week. His future is looking good!

Wells and Boreholes

                                           This is a picture of three young children pumping clean water from a newly built well

How they work: The need for clean, safe water is widespread in Uganda. The good news is that in many places there is ample groundwater that allows for hand-dug wells to be installed. Teams dig to a depth of 50-100 feet, reinforcing the walls of the well along the way. Once a good amount of water is found, the well is capped and a hand pump is attached. Amigos staff train the community in how to use and maintain their well, as well as the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
The impact: One well provides up to 500 people with access to clean water all year round. This saves children from taking long and dangerous journeys to collect water, keeping them from their school work.

Rainwater Harvest Tanks

                                          This is a picture of a rainwater harvesting jar in Uganda

How they work: Tanks are made by covering a brick mould with mud, letting it dry and then encasing it in concrete. The bricks and mud are then removed and the inside of the tank is plastered to make it waterproof. Rainwater is collected from guttering on the roof of an adjacent building.
The impact: Rainwater harvesting is a cheap and effective way to create a lasting supply of drinking water, no matter what the season. One tank can supply several households with up to 2000 litres of filtered rainwater. The tanks mean people don’t have to collect water in open metal drums which fill with insects, and the tanks can be locked to prevent water from being stolen.

Bio-sand Water Filters

                               This is a picture of 6 children stood around a bio-sand water filter in Uganda

How they work: The filter container is filled with layers of specially selected sharp sand and gravel. The sand removes pathogens (micro-organisms in the water that make us sick) and suspended solids (such as dirt) from contaminated drinking water. A biological community of bacteria and other micro-organisms grow in the very top layer of the sand. The micro-organisms in this layer eat many of the pathogens in the water, improving its quality. After one hour of filtering there will be 12-18 litres of drinking water. These filters are effective, easy to use and there are no recurring costs.
The impact: Every day people risk their lives and health by drinking from contaminated sources. Filters result in a nearly 50% reduction in diarrhoea risk.

Tippy Taps

                                           This is a picture of a man washing his hands with a tippy tap in Uganda

How they work: The container is tipped to drain water like a tap. Users press a foot lever which is attached to the container via piece of string, this tilts the container releasing a steady flow of water which can be used for hand washing. The foot lever reduces the chance for bacteria transmission as the user only touches the soap, which can be suspended on a string next to the tippy tap. The taps use just 40 millilitres of water per handwash, compared with 500 millilitres using a jug.
The impact: Its effectiveness lies in the fact that it eliminates the need to touch the opening of the container which controls the spread of bacteria and other bugs. Handwashing with soap could save the lives of 1.2 million children worldwide a year. Tippy taps are a simple, smart, cheap way of raising hygiene levels, particularly since 95% of households in Uganda already have soap and the technology is so easy to put together that even children can – and are – making them.


  • There’s no point providing access to clean water without hygiene education. Amigos always provides training alongside any safe water projects.
  • If there is no understanding of basic hygiene practices contamination will occur when water is collected, transported and stored at home.
  • Sanitation and water programmes can weaken the link between poverty and disease. Hygiene promotion has been found to be the most cost-effective means of improving sanitation. Put simply, without safe water or sanitation, people are trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease.

The Response:
Mr Wafula, the council chairman at Nalyamagonja village, Uganda says:
To households in this village a water jar is not just a source of clean and safe water, but a solution to the root causes of problems people face, such as poor performance of children, rape and pregnancies in young girls, domestic violence, disease and poverty. Now we have a water jar my children will get to school on time, they will have energy to learn and they won’t be at risk fetching water at night. We are overjoyed.”

This is a picture of two girls in front their rain harvesting water jar in a Ugandan village

The Aspiring Landlady
Annette, a headmistress, used to struggle to collect enough water for her extended family. She would walk to the borehole before and after school but she could only carry half a jerry can at a time due to the fact she could only use one arm after an accident. The family needed 5 jerry cans of water a day – which would mean walking 10 miles.

‘Before we had the rainwater harvesting tank we couldn’t always wash our plates and cups and had to leave them dirty,’ explains Annette. ‘The flies would come and spread germs and the children would get sick. Often we didn’t have enough water to wash our clothes either.’

What is life like now they’ve got the tank? ‘Life is so much better, the children rarely fall ill and we can keep clean. Forty of our neighbours can also use the tank and it has made the community a very friendly place, everyone is so happy.’

‘Before the tank, two out of my seven children would be sick every week. When they got typhoid and were hospitalised I had to pay USh 40,000 (£10) for their treatment. Most of my annual salary of USh 200,0000 (£50) went on hospital bills.’

With the money Annette saved on medicine she bought a baby goat for USh 60,000 (£15), which she is about to sell 18 months later, for USh 200,000 (£50) – making a tidy profit.

‘It’s a good business. It doesn’t cost much to feed the goat and she’s about to have kids too – I hope to have 10 goats eventually and then I’ll use the money I’ve made to build a house and rent it out.’ Annette is an amazing lady who is lifting herself out of poverty – slowly but surely!

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