Water for Life

Go Beyond's Water for Life project addresses the urgent need in many remote villages for a sustainable water supply. Rainwater harvesting, improved tank construction and water pumping solutions are implemented using local materials. The project provides excellent volunteering opportunities for students, and enables sponsors to partner with Go Beyond in meeting a critical need and simultaneously make valuable training available to students.

(Click on any photo and then use left / right arrow for slide show)


A Village water collection system installed by Go Beyond

Village water collection system installed by Go Beyond




  • U-Action, Hong Kong
  • Poly-U SIP program, Hong Kong
  • Macalline, Shenzhen
  • Staff from Ma On Shan Primary School
  • Private sponsors





The name "Water for Life" is based on feedback we received from a village leader, who summed up the value of the project thus: "The water system being installed will provide a life-long water supply for a family." ‘Water for life’ provides one of the most basic needs for life, for a life-time.





The project, originally dubbed "Mountain Village Project", was initiated by volunteers, in 2007, in a Yunnan village which faced challenges with water collection and storage.

Funding from Hong Kong sponsors supported the project during its first five years from 2007 – 2012, with part coming from private donors. The bulk however came from students who obtained grants to support both the project as well as student participation.

The initial private sponsor, Dongguang factory owner, Mr Cheung, and several other private donors got the ball rolling in 2007 by funding a test water system which was attached to a village house. Volunteers Scott and Chris, Go Beyond founder, made three trips that year, completing the first house. Out of necessity these first volunteer teams were small, but in keeping with Go Beyond’s concept of working alongside students, were a mix of coordinators, students and villagers.

Much of the work on these two trips was in selecting locally available materials, and establishing an easy method for attaching guttering to village houses. The goal was to hone the procedure to where a system could be installed in one day by a 6-man team, and to date, several teams have been able to achieve this.


Final touches
Connecting pipes to tank

Completing the first water collection system – November, 2007



(As shown above)

The materials used are all locally available, reasonably priced, and fairly simple for the village to obtain and transport. The guttering used is thick 160mm PVC pipe split lengthwise using a handsaw. Installing a system like the one shown above takes:

1. A 4 – 6 man volunteer team
2. 1 to 2 days’ work
3. Sponsorship -- 2500 litre stainless steel tank approx. HK$3000, PVC pipes approx. HK$1800



The first system proved successful, providing drinking water for the families near the house it was attached to. As a test system it provided a model which could be copied and pasted many times, each time providing a simple rain-water harvesting system for another household.



With further private sponsorship in 2008, two more tanks were installed by a student team, working with an engineer from Mr Cheung’s factory. The engineer provided a means for the project to receive some expert help, and to involve and train villagers to be able to carry out the work themselves in the future.


With engineer, Mr Lai, on 2008 trip

With engineer, Mr Lai, on 2008 trip

Another tank installed

Another tank installed




During 2009, funding from U-Action, kept the project going, and another tank was installed by a student team. At an annual U-Action event in Hong Kong, the student team set up a booth to showcase the project and the importance of water conservation. The project was also high-lighted on the U-Action web-site, as an example of students taking initiative to meet a major need.


Our 2009 team sponsored by U-Action (lower photo)

Our 2009 team sponsored by U-Action (lower photo)


Student team
Model house

2009 student team with a model of a village house and attached water system

U-Action Auditorium
Introducing our team

U-Action 2009 event for student teams



The small capacity tanks we were installing provided convenient drinking water storage, but were only the first step. With most of Yunnan’s 1,200 mm of annual rainfall falling during the wet season from May to October, providing a year-round drinking water supply necessitates at least one 30 cubic meter tank per family. With several metal tanks already in use, we considered the next step – concluding it should be to construct larger concrete tanks to collect overflow from smaller metal tanks.

Suddenly the urgency of the situation came into clear focus, when drought struck.



In late 2009, the most serious drought in a century struck southern China. Villages in the mountainous karst terrain were particularly vulnerable and when the "predictable" monsoon rains didn’t come, disaster struck. Many lacked sufficient water reserves and water had to be brought in by truck in order for many to survive.

The solution, echoed by experts, was clear – each household needed at least one 30 cubic metre water tank to survive a drought lasting from October to May.




With funding from several sponsors our 2010 team along with villagers built the first of what we envision will be a number of reinforced concrete tanks, with the engineer who was on a previous trip providing training for the villagers. Previous tanks made of brick were prone to cracking, so reinforced concrete offered a far better alternative.





Setting up


Constructing the base

Learning how to install reinforcing bar

Learning how to install reinforcing bar

Preparing boards for formwork

Preparing boards for formwork

Formwork ready

Pouring begins (smaller feeder tank in background behind)


Sponsors of this 2010 trip included Macalline furniture company and U-Action, and at this year’s U-Action meeting the team’s presentation included a short drama and a song based on the words and tune of "Country Roads Take Me Home". The words which were translated into Chinese for the presentation were:





Mountain roads,
Take me home,
To the place where I belong,
Over mountains,
Through the valleys,
Take me home,
Mountain roads.


Mountain village,
West of Kunming,
Lotsa rainfall,
Quickly runs into the valley,
Help is coming,
It’s not far away,
We will find it,
There will be a way.


In the morning,
We hear the sound of children,
Can we make them happy
And share what we have?
And coming down the road again,
I see the children, hear them say,
"Do you care? Do you care?"


Hong Kong volunteer with village children


CAN YOU SPONSOR A TANK AND / OR JOIN A TRIP? Click here to find out how!


The tank shown above was completely finished, the top added and pipe connections added, by a follow-up team in January, 2011, sponsored by the Poly-U SIP program. That team of 6 also contributed to Go Beyond’s library project in the area.

Installing a concrete tank like the one shown above, along with guttering on a house, takes:

1. A 4 – 6 man volunteer team working with 4 – 6 villagers
2. 5 - 7 days’ work
3. Sponsorship - HK$8000