New drilling technique to get water to a million in need

New low-cost drilling technology will increase access to clean water and allow local people to form their own well-drilling businesses.

By James Addis, Word Vision U.S.
Published April 5, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

Successful trials of a low-cost drilling technique promise to allow more than a million people to gain easy access to clean water.

Providing jobs, boosting economies

The drilling technology, developed by Oklahoma-based Water4 Foundation, allows wells to be sunk as deep as 150 feet without the need for a heavy-duty, truck-mounted drill rig.

The technology is so cheap, it’s anticipated that local entrepreneurs will be able to secure their own drilling rigs and establish well-drilling businesses — providing jobs and boosting the economy in impoverished regions.

Square pipe and a tripod

The drill comprises a square pipe, which is turned manually using two wrench-like tools that function as handles. Attached to the pipe is an interchangeable drill bit that can be selected according to the type of soil and rock formations to be drilled through.

As the hole gets deeper, additional lengths of square pipe are bolted in place as needed to burrow further into the ground.

A plumb line suspended from a tripod above the drill ensures that the drill hole remains straight. All the equipment fits into two bags, which can be transported via motorcycles.

World Vision has already successfully used the drilling rigs to sink about 200 wells in Angola. This year, the organization will partner with Water4 Foundation to drill 7,000 wells in eight African countries over a five-year period.

In the coming months, rigs will be shipped to Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Also joining the partnership is the Desert Research Institute, based in Reno, Nevada. The institute uses satellite technology to measure surface temperatures and identify types of vegetation, which can indicate the presence of underground water.

Together with on-the-ground electronic and magnetic readings, this information can help to create detailed maps showing the drilling teams where they are most likely to strike water.

‘Really taking off. It’s almost scary.’

Randy Strash, World Vision senior manager for water and sanitation programs, says where the geology is suitable, the cost of drilling each well with the new rigs drops from about $13,000 to about $2,000 — hence the enthusiasm from water-starved countries.

“This thing is really taking off. It’s almost scary,” he says.

In the early stages, World Vision will continue to supply money for the wells for the poorest communities, as well as hire and train staff to do the actual drilling. But the ultimate goal is for local people to form their own well-drilling businesses by taking advantage of small loans to purchase drilling equipment.

Randy says communities with ready access to clean water often have up to eight times the disposable income of communities without such access.

Hence, once a community has access to one well, it could pool its resources to purchase a second well to reduce lines at the pumps.

Alternatively, an enterprising farmer might realize he could boost production with access to more water, and then purchase his own well.

“What happens when you bring water into communities is that the economy starts to rev up,” Randy says.

Two ways you can help

Thank God for new technologies that are bringing clean water to communities in need. Pray for a ripple effect that will include healthier children, a stronger economy, and more children going to school because they will no longer need to walk miles for water.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund. Your gift will support our clean water, hygiene, and sanitation projects around the world through interventions like deep wells, water storage containers, piping systems, purification equipment, latrines, and more.