Water for Sumba


Once a lush, green and tropical island, Sumba now consists mostly of dry savannah-like wasteland. As a result of forest clearance and repeated, anthropogenic burning for grazing and agriculture, the forested area of Sumba has declined significantly over the last century, reducing the durance of the rainy season from six months a year, back to three months a year.


Sumba is one of the poorest islands in Indonesia. For local people, especially women and children, the day revolves around obtaining enough water. Several times a day they have to travel several kilometers to fetch water for living.

Deforestation has set in motion a downward spiral. The soil is exhausted and prone to erosion. In the past decade the length of the rainy season has reduced from six months a year, back to only three months a year. This lack of water leads to serious, WASH-related health issues and also to malnutrition.

SOS, the Dutch organization: “ Steun Oost Soemba (Support East Sumba) ”, has contacted Engineers Without Borders Netherlands for engineering help of several small villages in the Eastern, most dry and deforested part of Sumba. Located in different locations in East Sumba, the environment and circumstances vary. This means they all have their own unique water related challenges.


Our goals are:

  • Improved access to safe water
    The main goal is to improve the access to safe water for the different villages in East Sumba.
    This can be used for drinking and cooking purposes. Management of the water
    infrastructure should be strengthened to ensure maintenance.
  • Locally financed and maintained
    A payment system should be enforced to ensure the necessary funds for operation and maintenance of the water supply systems.
  • Sustainable, replicable, practical and easy to maintain
    The project should be set up in such a way that it can be replicated in other locations that cope with similar problems. The chosen solutions are sustainable, for instance, they will not damage the ecological system. The solutions and materials used are low-cost, sturdy and practical to ensure locals are able to maintain the system themselves when needed.

As mentioned before: at the root of the increasingly long and severe dry season and dry wells lie deforestation and anthropogenic wildfires. Educating locals in the consequences of their actions is also an important step to be taken and is seen as a long-term goal.

These solutions will ultimately help reducing poverty and increasing the living standard (health, education), thereby contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Main Activites

Our main activities can be put into four phases:

1) Feasibility study
In October 2019 two volunteers of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands have traveled to Sumba, Indonesia for a survey of the existing situation. Data has been collected and will be used to develop a strategic plan.

2) Design
Solutions for the villages will be made. These solutions will come with crystal clear design instructions. Materials will be specified and preparations for execution will be made. A
payment system will be developed ensure maintenance will be executed.

3) Execution
We will train the locals and caretakers on how to take care of and maintain the system and how to ensure safe drinking water. We will help with the construction.

4) Handover
This will come with a handover document, containing a maintenance plan and spare parts list. This handover document is “IKEA-like” with a lot of graphics and a minimum of words.


EWB NL volunteers give their time and expertise. Support us by clicking the “DONATE” button at the bottom of this page and refer to the Water 4 Sumba project.

Or donate to:
Stichting Ingenieurs Zonder Grenzen
NL69 RABO 0192 3575 73
Referring to Water 4 Sumba

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