Upgraded Family Wells

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The family well, owned and maintained by the family itself is a very well established method of supplying domestic water in Zimbabwe.

It is estimated that at least 200 thousand units may be operating in the country. It is a type of water supply, known in the sector as "self supply" as the families themselves have been responsible for digging the wells and maintaining them.

Family wells have been common in Zimbabwe for over half a century. The Ministry of Health encouraged their construction decades ago. They are used in the rural and peri-urban areas where the ground water is relatively shallow. This covers many areas in the country.

In the 1980's, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare's Blair Research Laboratory conducted experiments to established that well safety and water quality could be improved by improving the "headworks" (the concrete surrounding apron and water run-off fitted with a windlass system) of a family well, without the use of a hand pump. This concept was tested country wide and gained acceptance by Government and became known as the "Upgraded Family Well."

In development programs undertaken in the 1980's and 1990's tens of thousands of family wells were upgraded on a cost sharing basis. This program is now much reduced in activity, although it deserves to be revived again, because millions of Zimbabweans depend on water taken from shallow wells. It is becoming an ever more important source of domestic water. Huge numbers of family vegetable gardens also depend on water taken from the family well.

More recently a series of experiments undertaken by Aquamor has established that even the "Upgraded Family Well" can be upgraded through a series of steps, much like the Blair VIP. Start simple and upgrade is the motto. Family based rainwater collection schemes also fall under the banner of "self Supply." Making things work at the family level may be one of the best ways of making things sustainable over time.


Pictures, videos, & downloadable resources

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Upgraded Family Well Film:


Blair Research Laboratory interviews - 1992:


Zimbabwe National Action Committee visits an Upgraded Well project 1994:


School Innovations (family wells @ 3:35):


Manual for the construction of simple family wells

Manual for upgrading family wells. 2010

Now in my back yard. Zimbabwe's Upgraded Family Well Programme. Waterlines. 1996

Simple improved family wells. 2015

Simple method of measuring water depth in wells and boreholes - 2015

Teaching school pupils about upgraded family wells - without windlass. 2014

Teaching school pupils about upgraded family wells - with windlass. 2014

The upgradeable upgraded family well - 2016

Upgraded family well booklet. 2011

Upgraded family well original manual. 1995

Upgraded family well report. 2012

Upgraded family wells and hand pumps in Zimbabwe. 2015

Wells (from Rural Water Supplies & Sanitation book 1990)

What can I do with a bag of cement - 2016

Zimbabwe's upgraded family well program (ppt)

Zimbabwe's upgraded family well program. 2006

Additional resources on main resource page here


© 2022 Dr Peter Morgan