Protected springs technology provides environmental relief in Ethiopia

25 April, 2024 | Anna Self
Categories: Carbon Offsetting, Case Study, Climate Change, CO2balance, Ethiopia, Safe Water

More than 2 billion people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water and roughly half of the world’s population is experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. Waterborne diseases and increasing deforestation (for timber needed to boil unsafe water) are development concerns in many countries. Natural springs are an important and naturally occurring source of clean water for many people living in rural areas, however they can easily become polluted and therefore need to be protected.

Using technology to protect springs can make clean water accessible to more people. CO2balance works with in-country partners Vita on the rehabilitation of protected springs in Ethiopia where more than 60 million people lack access to clean drinking water. There projects are located in the SNNPR where 9 protected springs support more than 1300 households and in the northern region of Amhara, where 32 protected springs support almost 3000 households.

CO2balance and Vita have rehabilitated 41 springs for over 4000 households in Ethiopia!

Protected springs: technology rooted in nature

Once a suitable site has been chosen where a spring or aquifer is located, several stages of protection can be implemented to improve the quality of water. First, the area around the eye of the spring is excavated the area is lined with small stones. This helps with filtration and creates a natural reservoir behind a newly built retaining wall. On top of the layer of stones, a layer of clay or plastic sheeting is added which acts as the main source of protection preventing water from the surface from contaminating the eye of the spring. Chlorine dispensers can also be fitted to provide an extra level of protection. A pipe is fed through the retaining wall and then gravity is used to pipe water to local stakeholders. The pipes can be extended to bring the point of water to a more convenient location if necessary.

An infographic of a protected spring showing a cross section of a water source with a wall and delivery spout
WaterAid, 2021

Protected springs are popular for a few reasons. The technical skills needed to build protected springs are minimal and materials are commonly available meaning protected springs are one of the cheapest methods of providing water access. However, excavation of the eye of the spring does require care and experience. Communities can therefore use protected springs with minimal consultation or expertise. Protected springs can also be expanded by adding a water tank to provide larger yields of water to users. However, water levels in natural springs can change seasonally and protected springs remain vulnerable to extreme changes in rainfall especially in times of drought.

To prevent contamination of the spring, activities should be limited around it. Livestock watering, bathing, and laundry should take place downstream of the spring which as well as protecting the spring makes access easier by reducing journey times. However, because they are located on hillsides, access is not the easiest for those with mobility issues. There can also be land ownership issues which need to be considered and springs are normally only suitable for small communities.

CO2Balance and Vita work to rehabilitate Protected Springs which have fallen into disrepair, that have become contaminated, or that need to be made bigger in size due to increasing demand for water. First the eligible spring is identified for repair, enhancement, or expansion, building materials are identified and sourced, and a skilled local artisan is employed to lead the rehabilitation.

“Accessing Pure Water Means A Relief For Our Environment”

A woman fills up her container from a protected spring
Spring user Kasalem Nega now has access to safe drinking water

Kasalem Nega is a user of one of the springs Vita has rehabilitated in Shema matebit. She said “collection of fire wood for water boiling was…another burden for us. Thanks to you, Vita, nowadays we are getting pure water as we did get before… Now onwards, we shall not go nearby bush to collect fire wood for boiling purpose and our environment will get relief.”