How is Water Distributed?

Compiled by:
Katharina Conradin (seecon international gmbh), Michael Kropac (seecon international gmbh), Dorothee Spuhler (seecon international gmbh)

Water Distribution

  • How is the water distributed to the different users? Is it a centralised distribution system or individual collection, or a combination of the two?

  • Are there problems with water distribution, i.e., water loss, illegal water tapping, pollution?


Where to get further information: In a first step, it may be sufficient to answer this question at your desk. You may get additional answers by calling up the local water provider, or community based associations and NGOs working with water.


Interlinkages: How does water distribution link to other areas of the water and nutrient cycle? The way how water is distributed is e.g. influenced by the method used for water collection (individually at households or centralised); and by the amount of water that is available. The way of distribution also influences other areas: e.g. if water is distributed by hand carts after a centralised collection, a treatment at household level may be necessary, because hand carts bring with them a certain risk for pollution. Can you think of other such interlinkages?


The Case of Unsustainaville

Water Distribution in Unsustainaville


SEECON 2010 Unsustainaville Water Distribution

Unsustainaville - Water Distribution (SEECON 2010)

Water distribution in Unsustainaville is organised in the following way:

  • Industry, the central business district, the high income areas and parts of agriculture receive piped water.
  • The low income areas are not hooked up to the grid and transport their water by hand.

Problems with Water Distribution in Unsustainaville


SEECON 2010 Unsustainaville Water Distribution Problems

Unsustainaville - problems with water distribution

On closer inspection, the following problems with water distribution become apparent:

  • More than 40% of the water that enters the grid at the reservoir are lost through leakage, leading to high costs.
  • As the inhabitants of Unsustainaville are not aware of the water problems the city has, they continue to use a lot of water.
  • The pipe network was continuously expanded, resulting in the fact that there was not enough water for 24-hrs supply. Now, the city of Unsustainaville uses intermittent water supply. What looks like a good solution to reduce the amount of water that is put into the grid, turns out to have many disadvantages at a second glance: Often, more water is used than with 24-hrs systems; it is inconvenient for users, and the risk of contamination of the water is high (see also intermittent water supply.
  • Many homes are not connected to the pipe networks, in particular in the low-income areas. People have to spend considerable time to get their water. They also use unprotected borewells that are contaminated, and thus the health and hygiene situation is not good.
  • The sewer system in Unsustainaville was constructed after the drinking water grid. The drinking water pipes are old and frequently corroded. Back then, to save costs and time, the sewer pipes were laid above the freshwater pipe. Now, some of the sewer pipes have started to leak, contaminating the freshwater.

Where do I find further information to tackle problems with water distribution?