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Understand the hydrology of your catchment before developing solutions


Understand the hydrology of your catchment before developing solutions

Understand the hydrology of your catchment before developing solutions

Posted on September 30, 2019 by Karina de Souza

Authoring Organizations: Pacific Institute
Consulting Organizations: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Universal: No
Applicable Phases: Assess
Last Updated May 22, 2024


Before designing any project, understand how your local river and groundwater catchments are connected (or not) and how they feed local water supplies or ecosystems. Baseline condition data will inform a feasibility study on the project approach.


The feasibility study will determine the quantity or quality of water needed, helping the project conserve time and resources. The feasibility study will also help to identify any risks, opportunities, or assumptions in implementing the work, so that these can be managed from the start of the project. Finally, the feasibility study will determine whether an engineering approach is sufficient, or if the project will also require a “soft skills” component to guide the local community on necessary behaviour change.

Attempting to implement a project without a thorough understanding of these elements risks damaging the credibility of the partnership.


  • Undertake an independent verification of the condition of the local water source, unless the water source condition is already available through easily accessible resources e.g. public sector reports.
  • Search for other local water security plans to understand existing approaches and seek opportunities to coordinate between existing projects.
  • Consider a feasibility study that investigates multiple implementation options to review all the potential risks and opportunities for any future project. These risks can then be assessed and agreed upon by stakeholders or partners. Supplied with this information, a project will likely have greater success.


As part of the Lusaka Water Security Action and Investment Plan (WSAIP) in Zambia, the LuWSI partnership wanted to increase the city’s awareness on ground water pollution and access to water and  sanitation. The partnership commissioned a hydrogeological study that examined Lusaka’s public water supply wellfields and  of 121 boreholes around the city. The study helped LuWSI to understand how the groundwater beneath Lusaka flowed, and where to protect this water from surface contamination by human or commercial waste.

The partnership was unable to install sewerage pipelines across the city due to financial constraints and the current status of the unplanned peri-urban areas (informal settlements had no legal entitlement to sewerage). Understanding the vulnerability of the groundwater to surface contamination in different parts of the city helped the partnership propose the solution of centralized facilities instead. Rather than disposing of waste at multiple domestic households using septic tanks or soakaways, waste is taken to a central point and disposed of safely. This approach helps protect the groundwater supply for drinking water and commercial purposes while still scaling up access to adequate sanitation across the city.

Projects that have validated this Lesson

The WSAIP is a highly participatory stakeholder empowerment process delivering a multi-stakeholder owned plan to improve Lusaka’s water security, with the commitment of stakeholders to implement that plan. The plan cuts across water supply and sanitation services, water resources management … Learn More

To strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration to safeguard Lusaka's water resources while enhancing the sustainable and timely access to water and sanitation for all." Cooperation is crucial if the complex issue of water security is to be addressed sustainably. Water security is … Learn More

This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.