BOUNTIFUL – For people all around the world, there’s no better Christmas present than a drink of clean water.
Millions of people in developing countries lack access to clean drinking water, and will often collect their daily water from sources also used by animals. WHOlives, a new Utah-based non-profit, is hoping to change that through the creation of a human-powered drilling rig that can dig 20 wells a year for the same cost as one machine-drilled well.
Co-founders Verlyn Harris and John Renouard spoke recently to the Bountiful Rotary about the drills and the steps the charity is taking to bring clean water to the people of Africa.
“There are three major impediments the people over there have to getting water,” said Renouard. “The first is scarcity, the second is contamination, and the third is the time needed to acquire water.”
The most common solution to all three of these issues is to drill a well for the village, which provides a regular supply of animal-free, naturally filtered water. The difficulty with these wells is their cost, which can top out at $30,000 including training costs. Drilling wells have also traditionally required large trucks that can’t drive off-road, severely limiting the areas where they can dig wells.
Because of these difficulties, Renouard said that larger charities have essentially given up on drilling wells.
“The population grows so fast that they end up losing ground,” he said. “Charity: water has given up completely, and Water.org is focusing on microloans to help people install rain collection systems on their roofs. But they’re not doing wells anymore.”
Harris and Renouard went to BYU engineering students to come up with an alternative to the larger drilling rigs. The result, called the Village Drill, can be disassembled and transported in the back of any size truck. All the crews that man the drills are African, and use approximately the same amount of effort it takes to keep a small child moving on a merry-go-round toy at the playground.
“The only time you’ll see white hands on one of our drills was when we were doing our first tests on the initial drill,” said Renouard.
It costs approximately $16,000 to construct a drill, which can be used to drill approximately 20 wells a year. The group is seeking charitable partners to help with these costs.
The cost for a village to get a well drilled is $3,500, and the charity requires that the well have a money-producing aspect that the village can use to pay off the loan for the initial cost. Afterward, the money can be used to help repair the water pump, and the crew instructs the villagers in making basic repairs.
Each village must have a water board that oversees the water pump’s use. According to Renouard, the charity requires that the board have at least three female members.
The drills are also constructed in Africa, creating even more jobs. So far, the charity has built 10 drills, with five in operation and the other five almost ready to be sent out. There are orders for 18 more drills.
For more information and to donate, visit wholives.org.