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With the Lisu People in Northern Thailand

Mountain Village with "Water Snakes"


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The Lisu are hill tribe people. They prefer to settle along slopes.

To live at a certain place permanently you need a good water supply. Some hill tribes are real experts in providing water. They tap springs up in the mountains and lead the water for miles down to the villages.

Lisu-aqueduct 1982

Bamboo aqueduct [1982]

In 1982 I visited a Lisu village for the first time. The village is situated near the border to the Shan-region in Myanmar. At that time people lived in bamboo huts and this was their "water pipe". Here and there water was lost pouring down, but that didn't matter as there was plenty of it, running continuously day and night.

Unfortunatly this image is not clear enough. Therefore you find below two photos (shot in 1996) of a place near Phôngsali in Northern Laos.

water pipeline near Phongsali
water pipeline near Phongsali

These are bamboo aqueducts, most of them cut in halves. The image on the right shows two aqueducts flowing together.

Somebody coming along the way with some large freight can take away the pipe and put it back on its place after passing the gateway.

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2008 everything has changed. Now there is some prosperity in the village. Most of the houses are made of stone and concrete.


A reservoir above the village

Above the village the water is stored in reservoirs and flows from there down into the next reservoirs and from there directly to the houses.

The distribution is not comparable to that in large towns. There are no main pipes, which branch up into smaller ones. There are no fittings.

There are only pipes leading from the main reservoirs directly to the houses, all with the same diameter.

Why do they operate their water pipe system like that?  -  I think this system simply grew with the time.

reservoir  inflow
reservoir outlet
tap and distributor

water reservoir with inflow, outlet, tap and the pipes leading directly into the houses

water pipes leading to the houses

To be honest, these photos are from the sourroundings of the village. Inside the village the pipes are not so eye-catching.

I think that from the mountains to the reservoirs the community is responsible for installations and maintenance. From there each family has to care for its own water supply. There is no need for armatures and different pipe diameters. Cheap mass produced plastic pipes can be used.

It is evident that the whole system grew without any plan.

water pipes leading to the houses
water pipes in the village

water pipes in the village ...

water pipes in the kitchen

... up to the kitchen

stock of pipes

a pile of pipes for new connections

transport of pipes

start for the next action

irrigation in the mountains for a new coffee plantation

irrigation in the mountains for a new coffee plantation

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coffee plantation with sprinkler
coffee beans

In 2011 they can harvest coffee beans already.

In the left image you see the sprinkler

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water pipes behind the houses

2018: There are still the "water snakes", a lot of small pipes, each of them for one house.

The larger pipes which protrude sideward over the brook contain waste water.

But something has changed. Look accurately!

2018 the water is transported in a pipe over a distance of 14 km. The water basin is shut, the water remains clean. And the water meters are the reason to look at the consumption.

shutted water basin

water basin shutted ... clean water


use water economically!

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