Gravity Piped Water

Greg WillsonAbout 3 min

Piped drinking water distribution systems are typically designed by engineers and hydrologists, who take into account various factors such as water source availability, water quality, population density, and topography. They must also ensure that the system can withstand hydraulic pressure and minimize the risk of contamination.

The management of piped drinking water distribution systems can vary, depending on whether the system is run by the government, a private company, or a community-based organization. In any case, it is important to maintain the infrastructure, test the water regularly for quality, and manage the distribution of water equitably to all users.

In urban slums and low-income areas, common problems with piped drinking water distribution systems include:

Lack of access: Many people may not have access to piped water due to financial or logistical barriers, such as the cost of connecting to the system or the lack of infrastructure in their area.

Poor water quality: In some cases, water may become contaminated with pollutants such as chemicals, sewage, or other harmful substances, leading to health problems for those who consume it.

Inadequate infrastructure: Piped drinking water systems in low-income areas may be poorly maintained, with outdated or broken pipes, pumps, and valves, leading to leaks and water loss.

Overuse and depletion of water sources: In areas where water is scarce, overuse of the piped water system can lead to depletion of the local water sources and a lack of water for future generations.

Unequal distribution: In some cases, the distribution of water may be unequal, with some communities receiving more water than others, leading to conflict and social tension.

Design considerations for gravity fed water distribution systems

Gravity-fed water distribution systems rely on the natural force of gravity to distribute water from a higher elevation to a lower elevation, eliminating the need for pumps and other mechanical equipment. The following are some of the key design considerations for gravity-fed water distribution systems:

Source of water: The source of water for the system must be reliable and of good quality. For example, water from a spring or well may be suitable for gravity-fed distribution, while water from a river may not be as suitable, due to contamination or seasonality.

Topography: The topography of the area must be taken into account when designing the distribution system, as water will flow downhill due to gravity. The system must be designed so that the water can flow smoothly and continuously to reach the desired location.

Water pressure: The water pressure at the source must be sufficient to ensure that the water reaches its destination. If the water pressure is too low, the water flow will not be adequate, and if the pressure is too high, it can damage the pipes and fittings.

Pipe size and material: The size and material of the pipes used in the system must be chosen carefully to ensure that the water flow is not obstructed and that the pipes are durable and long-lasting. PVC and polyethylene pipes are common materials for gravity-fed systems.

Storage: Storage tanks or reservoirs must be incorporated into the system to ensure that there is enough water available to meet the demand. The size and location of the storage tanks must be chosen carefully to ensure that they are easily accessible and that the water stored in them is of good quality.

Distribution network: The distribution network must be designed so that the water reaches its destination effectively and efficiently, without any significant loss of pressure.

Examples of gravity-fed water distribution systems can be found in rural communities and small villages around the world, where the topography is suitable for this type of system and there is a reliable source of water. For instance, the Jal Jeevan Mission in India is working to provide piped water supply to every rural household using gravity-fed systems.


"Jal Jeevan Mission." Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation Ministry of Jalshakti, Government of India. in new window

"Gravity-Fed Water Supply Systems." United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). in new window

"Water Supply Systems and Evaluation Methods." Volume I: Water Supply System Concepts. US Environmental Protection Agency. in new window

"Water Supply System." World Health Organization. in new window

"Water Supply Systems and Evaluation Methods." Volume II: Water Supply System Components. US Environmental Protection Agency. in new window

"Gravity-Fed Water Supply Systems in Rural Areas: A Guide for Implementers." International Labour Organization. in new window

"Gravity-Fed Water Supply Systems: A Guide for Development Workers." Intermediate Technology Development Group. in new window

"Piped Water Supply Systems in Urban Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers." International Labour Organization. in new window

"Gravity-Fed Water Supply Systems: A Guide for Community-Based Organizations." World Vision International. in new window

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries." United Nations Development Programme. in new window

"Design of Rural Water Supply Systems." International Water Management Institute. in new window