Integral Watersystem Design

The Project

An alternative process water and integral irrigation system shall be constructed in the community Ha Omek Ka. In the first phase of the project a reservoir (20 m³ water tank) will be build with ferrocement. During the rainy season the tank will be filled with the water that is collected from the rooftop of the adjacent building to facilitate sufficient water supply during the months of November to April.

Ha Omek Ka

Ha Omek Ka is a little community that is located in a small village named Tzajalja in the heart of Chiapas Mexico. Numerous travelers and people who are interested visit it and work to support them in their vision to live together in harmony without damaging nature. There is a community kitchen in which delicious food is prepared with ecologic homegrown veggies. The garden provides several kinds of vegetables, bananas, herbs and medical plants and, as customary in Mexico, corn and beans.


There is a vital intercultural exchange between the local indigenous people and the community, which includes all generations. So for example in the primary school there are classes in music and art for the younger inhabitants. But also between older people of the area there is mutual exchange of knowledge. Women come together to teach each other new recipes for baking delicious bread and show the newest ways to create clay pots in the blaze of the fire.
Furthermore Ha Omek Ka offers employments for the local community. Many young men from Chiapas and other regions of the country are employed in creating jewelry from amber and silver. Other local indigenous men build further residences from adobe together with international helpers or travelers, visitors or inhabitants of Ha Omek Ka.
In Chiapas many houses are not attached to canalization and very often the inhabitants have just an evil smelling hole in the ground. Together with the people of Ha Omek Ka the project builds compost-toilets considerably increasing life standard and hygiene conditions through simple means. Twelve toilets have already been built and further five are projected[1].
Many local people have no direct water supply. For example, there are three families in Tzajalja and, some kilometers further away, a whole village lacking a connection to spring water. The entire drinking water is to be carried up the mountains. But through the collection and procession of rainwater this burden would stop.

The System

The system consists of a combination of five different compounds that solve basic difficulties regarding drinking- and processwater as well as food supply. The compounds can be extended and adjusted by modules and are:
a) A system to collect rainwater; b) A reservoir for water; c) A irrigation system d) A backup-waterpump (water ram).

The Tank

rainwater_harvesting_tankThe tank will have a volume of 20 m³ and is the center of the construction. Compared to usual systems a construction with ferro-cement is approximately 75% cheaper. For this a grid of metal is needed (reinforcement steel mash), which is to be fettled with concrete, beginning from within to the outside of it.

Rainwater Catchment

The adjacent building will serve to collect the rainwater. It will have a place of 60 m² , which will enable it to be filled up to four times during May to October. In the dry months from November to April the rainfall will not be sufficient to fill the tank completely (~13 – 17 m³).


For keeping the tank clean, it is necessary to integrate a water separator and a gross filter.
This one can be easily installed with buckets, a roll and some string. (see Sketch).
To raise the quality of the rainwater to the level of drinking water, further steps are required to purify and mineralize the water. (for example eco-sand-filter, UV- light / solar desinfection, cooking, chlorine…).

Extension a) Drip Irrigation & Sustainable Agriculture

Due to the inset of the drip irrigation system merely little amounts of water are required, because from the inserted water, plants will be able to absorb up to 80% of it. In conventional large-scale irrigation systems 70% will evaporate!
At the same time the focus must be set to a sustainable agriculture. That means that a natural ecosystem has to be created, that in the end continuously produces vegetables and is intact with minimized human effort. This requires conglomerate and harmonic interacting plants. Moreover the ground must be prepared to stay moist with appropriate methods (like mulching). To generate a permanent natural ecosystem, the water supply will be throttled, up until there is no more irrigation required.

Extension b) Water Ram

After the collection-system for rainwater and the reservoir have been built, terraces can be spreaded on the hillside. Due to the water conserving irrigation system, it is possible that more water is collected than required. In this case it is possible to access the more than 240 years old technique of the water ram.
The water ram is a backup-pump that pumps without electricity or fuel. The energy source is the flow of the stream. It enables the water ram to pump the water up to the tenfold height of its original downward slope. Through a serial connection even greater heights are reachable, in which per grade about 10-20% of the water can be transported further.

Pilot Project

Pilot Project
Ha Omek Ka is increasingly transforming to a center for exchange of knowledge between the inhabitants and the indigenous people of Tzajalja and the region around Oxchuc. The construction of the system (rainwater collection, reservoir, processwater, irrigation methods) serves as a pilot for further projects in the region. The learned experiences and the individual production steps of this project will be documented and can be adjusted and passed over to other families.


The cost for the reservoir in this size are for example is 11 000 MXN (660 €). This includes building materials for the tank with ferro-concrete (sand, concrete and reinforcement steel mashes).The general costs for work are not calculated in this sum, because the assistance works on voluntary basis. Eventually an experienced mason will be hired for assistance (5 Days a 200 MXN = 1000 MXN).

Advantages at a glance
  • Relief for the usage of the local spring
  • Independence in case of dysfunction and clarification of water supply
  • Foundation for agricultural utilization of the hillside
  • Generation of knowledge and pilot fur further project in the region
    • Low-Tech water pump (Water Ram)
    • Rainwater collection system
    • Cheap reservoir alternative
    • Creation of a permaculture-system for sustainable food supply
    • Introduction of drip irrigation system
    How you can help

    In Mexico, especially Chiapas there is generally less money available than in western countries. The average daily salary of a worker is 100 MXN (6 €). To progress and to make possible projects in this category, Ha Omek Ka needs your help. This can be for example:

    1. Material assistance (building materials, a bag of concrete, pipelines…)
    2. Assistance through your manpower
    3. Promotion of this project (distribution of the link or this file)
    4. Financial support
    5. Every MXN/EUR counts and helps to manifest the project. The donators will be informed in detail about the application of their donations.

      B. Eng. Aurèle Haupt
      Ha Omek Ka
      Florian Mast

      [1] For further information to the project „compost-toilets“ in Chiapas look up

      Download PDF: 06-Irrigation-System-0.7-English.pdf

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