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Low-Cost Water Wells for Developing Countries
  • Russell Qualls
Russell Qualls
University of Idaho

Corresponding Author:rqualls@uidaho.edu

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Environmental justice and equity should include access to clean water for all. It is expensive to drill borehole wells, typically over $10,000 US dollars, and so organizations working to provide wells in developing countries have typically installed community wells at some common gathering place. This requires that many users must walk long distances to access these water sources. This limits the quantity of water available to a family, and also creates vulnerabilities for the family member, usually a woman or child, sent for the water since the journey is often made early in the morning or at night in the dark. I have been drilling wells with a Kenyan team since 2010 using a simple, manual percussion hydraulic method developed by WaterForAllinternational.org whereby we can install a well generally for less than $200 US dollars excluding labor. Through their own participation in the drilling process, this low-cost enables families to pay for and drill their own well. In this way, they gain access to a much larger supply of water at or close to home, and eliminate the need and vulnerability associated with walking long distances to procure water for their family. Both the drilling apparatus and the cased well, including the pump, is constructed from materials available off-the-shelf at local hardware stores. Over the years I have made several modifications to the pump design, other infrastructure, and manufacturing process to improve the longevity, simplicity, and interchangeability of the final product. The drilling method is primarily applicable to aquifers lying above bedrock and it is feasible to drill wells to a depth of several hundred feet. The greatest challenge in the endeavor is earning the trust and cultivating the participation of the local community. This presentation will address the drilling process, the well infrastructure, and some socio-cultural aspects of the project.