Water Distribution

Oxfam emergency water programmes should select the most appropriate approaches to ensure access to and use of safe, sufficient water to affected communities for drinking, cooking and other uses.

These approaches deal with distributing bulk quantities of water to users.


The Oxfam Water Distribution Manual is practical advice focused on the type of system commonly used in common emergency situations:
Oxfam Water Distribution Manual

There are a series of books by Sanitago Anaralich which are a good starting point for understanding the design of small water systems. You can read one of them for free here:
Gravity Flow Water Supply by Sanitago Arnalich

The below book has been a useful reference text for many years. It is not free to access, however.
A Handbook of Gravity-Flow Water Systems

Oxfam Water Tanks

Oxfam Supply Centre have produced a one hour video series detailing how to properly install an Oxfam water tank. A variety of water storage solutions are available on the Oxfam Supply Centre.

View the Oxfam Steel Tank Video Series

Minimum Requirements

Design of Water Collection Points

  • Water collection points should be designed to avoid standing water around them; in particular, a proper soakaway should be incorporated to the design.
  • The tap stand should be no more than 10cm (4โ€) higher than the tallest locally used water container.
  • Ensure that provision is made for people with limited mobility to access water.
  • Users should be consulted on tap stand locations but try to ensure the tap stands are located safely and strategically (near to schools, health and feeding centres etc.)

Gravity-Fed Systems

  • Low maintenance requirements and the formation of User Management Committees are essential for building local capacity, improving resilience and sustainability.
  • Technical calculations and detailed drawings are required before construction begins.
  • Pipe design networks should range between the following values:
    • Flow rates to faucets 0.1 to 0.3 l/s
    • Tap stand residual heads 4 to 12m (depends on faucet type) Velocity in all pipes 0.3 to 1.5 m/s generally. Refer to the guidelines for the exact figures.
    • All PVC/PE pipes should have classed pressure ratings with the minimum 6kg/cm2 (higher pipe pressure ratings may be required depending particular design)
  • PVC/PE distribution pipes should be buried a minimum of 0.8m (1.5 in sub zero temperatures). When pipes cannot be buried GI pipes should be used.
  • All designs that pass through landslide prone areas should have serpentile or progressive joints for quick isolation, diversion or replacement.
  • Gravity designs should include appropriate wash out and air purging points where necessary to ensure the correct functioning of the system.