Monday, October 17, 2011

It takes water to make water

I never fully realized how much water it takes to drill a water well. This can prove problematic when drilling a well in an area that does not currently have a water source because water is going to have to be brought in from somewhere. One of the wells we drilled in Bolivia near Nucleo 41 required a considerable amount of water to get the well to a place where it would produce its own water. The landowners that comprised this group of 11 families worked tirelessly from about 8 a.m. to nearly midnight for several days in a row to get two wells drilled. The first well we drilled to a depth of 42 meters (about 137 feet) in two days of drilling. Once a well has been physically drilled you are only half way to making a well that will freely produce water - the second phase of the process is called conditioning the well. The conditioning phase is not as labor intensive as the drilling but can take days or even weeks. Conditioning a well requires washing the cased well and breaking up and removing all the drilling mud and bentonite used during the drilling. The drilling mud is used during drilling to help seal off and stabilize the walls of the well. Once you finish drilling you have to remove all the mud that is impregnated out into the walls of the wells so water can enter to hole. If you do not condition a well properly it may never produce water or may be a poor producing well. When you work as hard as they guys did to get a 42 meter hole drilled, you want to do all you can to make sure it produces adequate water. I am not sure how much water was used during the actual drilling of the well hole (several hundred gallons though), but during the conditioning phase we used somewhere between 450 to 500 gallons of water. All of this water had to be brought in from a small pond located about a half mile away in 5 gallon jugs. These fellows would put two 5 gallon jugs in a wheel barrow and walk half a mile to the pond and half a mile back, dump their jugs of water into a large barrel, and then do it all over again. Each jug when full weighs around 40 lbs, so with two jugs in a wheel barrow they were transporting around 80 lbs. for a considerable distance over rough terrain. I made one trip to the pond to fetch water and it was no easy task. At one point on the trail you actually have to duck down and scoot your wheel barrow under a barbed wire fence before proceeding down the jungle path to the pond. It was tough for me to do and I was easily 30 years younger than all of these guys. The desire to have a water well was enough motivation for these guys to make trip after trip to the pond to fill their jugs of water. It was humbling and convicting to watch these guys work. All of these guys were tired, they were on day three of working this hard, the temperature was in the 90’s, the humidity felt like it was around 600% (that is not an exaggeration. Yes I know the scale only goes to 100%, but it felt like way more than that!), but they kept working because a water well means a better life for them and their families. Just having a personal water well can improve the overall wealth of a family considerably over just a few years. The impact of every family in an area having their own clean water well can have huge positive economic effects, and can potentially transform an entire region.

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