Hyogo Prefecture will start digging wells in fiscal 2015 at public schools designated as safe shelters so that local residents have access to water when natural disasters occur.

It will be the first prefecture to set up wells at shelters.

Drawing from the experience of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the aim is to ensure adequate safe water supplies to maintain public health.

The prefecture's disaster management section will check if there are water sources at 100 schools out of the 760 that don't have wells and start digging next summer when schools enter a long break. Each well will cost about ¥400,000, which will be shouldered by cities and the prefecture.

The wells will be equipped with hand-powered pumps to ensure access to the water even if power is cut off. The water will also be checked for potability.

The two huge earthquakes led to outbreaks of infectious diseases because victims could not flush toilets or wash themselves. Many survivors also suffered deteriorating health leading to death in the disaster zones.

"We realized we couldn't maintain sanitary conditions without water when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. We can use the water not just for drinking but also in other ways," Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido said.