An estimated 1 billion people in undeveloped countries do not have access to clean drinking water. Contaminated drinking water is responsible for more than 5 million deaths per year. In Ethiopia, for example, less than one-fourth of the population has access to clean water and, in the rural areas, only 11 percent can obtain clean water. In some villages, women and children often walk five or more miles several times a day to fill water jugs with filthy, disease-infested water. The cost of drilling wells in those countries has been prohibitive, but a new application of an old drilling method could bring clean water to millions.
The Water4 Foundation recently demonstrated a low-cost hand drilling method and a low-cost durable hand pump to Oklahoma Christian University engineering and MBA students on the OC campus. Oklahoma Christian students who founded and operate Wishing Well, which has completed 65 water projects in several African countries, are partnering with Water4. The foundation is also hoping that engineering students at OC will consider starting a business drilling wells in remote areas of Africa. According to Dick Greenly, a geologist with Pumps of Oklahoma who volunteers for Water4, a profit of $200 per well or more can be made on each well because the drilling instruments, pump and labor are very inexpensive and can even be made from materials already in-country. Most villages, he said, can afford the $600 and will gladly pay it to have a clean, convenient water source. It is also important for the villagers to have some buy-in for the well so they will maintain it.
The hand drilling method can drill a well as deep as 300 feet, through rock if necessary, and costs about $600, compared with $15,000 in Africa for a mechanically drilled well. The hand drilling equipment is also highly portable, capable of being carried by the workers, making wells possible in areas not accessible by vehicles. The method does not require water, often a problem in remote areas with mechanical drilling.
The drilling method, cable tool, was used over 3,000 years ago by the Chinese, according to Greenly. “We researched a number of hand drilling techniques and this was the most efficient and cost effective for what we were trying to accomplish.” Greenly also developed a low-cost hand pump from PVC that can be produced in country and is very durable.
During the past year, the Water4 Foundation has brought clean water to people in 24 countries including Zambia, Mozambique, Ecuador and Ethiopia. World Vision International provided $2.5 million budget for Water4 to continue its ambitious water drilling program.
“Our goal is to get fresh water to 1 million people by 2020,” Greenly said. “Currently, we’re completing 12 wells a week, bringing fresh water to approximately 5,000 people weekly. Working with OC students and Wishing Well, we hope to accelerate the program. Since the locals can make money drilling these wells, we are bringing them fresh water, helping the local economy and sharing the love of Christ.”
For more information on The Water4 Foundation, contact Christopher W. Cotner, Executive Director, Water4 Foundation, P.O. Box 8304, Edmond, OK 73083-8304. Telephone: 405-694-5214 or log onto water4.org.