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Gravity Water Supply (2019)


In 2017 CSW set out on a goal to provide self-reliant access to clean drinking water for the Botshabelo Community. This began with the installation of a 3.2 kilowatt solar panel system. Pumping water by harnessing the power of the hot South African sun was a critical first step in creating a self-sufficient community water management system. This year CSW aims to advance this goal by retrofitting the existing water distribution system to an entirely gravity fed system supplying water to taps, toilets, and baths without the use of electrical pumps.


Currently the community pumps water from a deep drinking water well to a storage tank using energy from the sun but they still rely on the national power grid to supply pressurized water to throughout community. Powering these pressure pumps take a lot of energy, around 15-20% of the community's monthly electricity bills. The national power grid is also very unreliable in rural South Africa. During power outages, or load shedding, the community can gather water in storage tanks thanks to the solar pump, but does not have pressurized water to wash, cook, or flush toilets with.


This year, our goal is to redesign the water distribution system to operate completely off-the-grid. What does a self-sufficient water distribution system look like?


  • The current 3.2 kilowatt solar powered pump supplies fresh drinking water from the borehole to the main community storage tank

  • Water is storage at height in water towers providing pressurized water via gravity

  • Additional storage through linked water towers allows for ample storage during nights and cloudy days

  • A diesel generator provides a backup power supply in the event of long period without sun or in the event of maintenance to the solar system

  • Removal of pressure pumps reduces monthly electricity bills (15-20%)

  • The water system is independent from the national power grid and provides water to the community regardless of load shedding or power outages

  • Provides the community with a reliable, independent, and sustainable source of water that is easily maintained by community members



A project of this magnitude requires a great deal of collaboration between our team and the Botshabelo Community Development Trust. We'll be working with the team at Botshabelo to get a better understanding of the current system as well as the potential future community demands of their water system. Over the next several months we'll also be mapping out the current system and designing the new system that can serve their existing and future needs.


In September we'll be returning to Botshabelo to begin executing the project. This includes providing the necessary education and skills training, making infrastructural changes and getting the system up and running. Finally, we'll continue to use our data loggers to track the community's water usage, water levels and availability with the goal of assessing the long-term sustainability of Botshabelo’s water supply.

Estimated Total Project Cost: $5000 - $7000

Costs for the Gravity Water Supply project include: 

  • Water stands and tanks

  • Pipes and fittings

  • Surveying tools and equipment rentals

  • Fair wages for local hired help

  • Installation costs

  • Building supplies

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