Bringing Water to the World Through Digging
Everyone enjoys celebrations – and what could be a greater cause for celebration than gaining access to clean water for the first time in your community’s history? The “opening” of a new well ushers in tremendous improvements and transformations in a community, and it is an occasion that involves much ceremony and celebration.
But the celebration day is only one moment in time. The most important days are those leading up to the event and those that follow it.
While it often only takes a few days between when the drilling rig appears and the new water point is in place, many months of preparation go into establishing a sustainable water project in a community.
The first step in the journey is when the community in need of safe water contacts our local partner organization to request a project. During the course of the past 25 years, we have found that demand-driven projects are far more sustainable than projects where an outsider makes the decision to provide a project.
After our local partner evaluates and approves the community’s request, they put together a proposal and send it to Water.org for funding consideration. Once the proposal has been reviewed and approved by Water.org, the preparations begin.
With technical input from our partner, the community selects the type of project, what local materials to use, where it will be located, and how much it will cost. One of the first project activities is the election of a local water committee. The water committee serves as the liaison between the community and our partner organization, facilitates the hygiene education program, and determines the community work schedule for construction. Water committee members are also trained on how to operate and maintain the water system, as well as how to manage the finances.
Getting rock, sand and other necessary materials to the site can be a challenge, especially in some of the more remote areas of the world where we work. It is not uncommon for entire villages to donate weeks of labor toward hauling these raw materials miles on their backs to a project site.
Prior to installing the new well, we insist on village-wide education on good hygiene practices and the importance of proper sanitation. Intensive training and motivation seminars on these topics are conducted through the project. Experience tells us without good hygiene practices and safe sanitation, the health benefits of clean water are not sustainable. Regardless of whether a person is drinking clean water, without good hygiene habits (such as hand-washing prior to food preparation) water-related diseases continue to take their toll.
Now we can finally dig the hole. If the geologic surveys prove correct, the drilling occurs only one time. Very often, we don't need to go more than 60 meters into the ground. Once we hit water, we install the pump system, install a cement cap, and in some areas, build a walled enclosure for the well. Overuse is a frequent cause of pump failure for community water points. To address this, people pay a usage fee, which covers ongoing maintenance and repair.
For the next several months, project teams regularly visit the well site to ensure proper use practices and that the village is satisfied with the system, community leadership, and the overall quality of water drawn from the water point. During the next five years, we will regularly visit previous well sites to monitor use, production, condition and the impact safe water is providing to a community. Learn more about our approach to projects: solutions.