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What we learn together

Sierra Leone: Water everyday, and drilling wells in wells

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Making sure there isn’t an end date on impact. Innovation comes from knowing and continually facing the truth of challenges. In Sierra Leone, we drill wells inside of wells to increase water yield.

Imagine if your water company considered your family to have water simply because pipes were installed in your home years ago. Or, imagine if they showed up during a week of rain, saw water flowing from your gutters, and considered your house as having access to water every day. You’d never accept this.

Should we expect the people living in the communities where we work will accept this?

Setting a goal of verifiable water every day is a high standard. It’s easier to drill a well, see that it’s working once installed, take some photos and count it as a success. But, solving the water crisis means 100% uptime of all water projects. In Sierra Leone, we aren’t just visiting communities a few times a year; we’re in communities all of the time. Through this work, we discovered that some of the wells run dry, but only during a few months each year. As a result, some communities where you’ve made investments in clean water had to turn to alternative, often unsafe, water sources in order to meet their water needs during these months.

Once you know exactly what is happening, you cannot simply move on to the next water point.

Mr. Amadu Tholley deserves clean water 12 months out of the year. He’s a member of New London Community in Sierra Leone, and his community received safe water a few years ago. His community is one where we’ve seen seasonal dryness, caused by the water table dropping in the entire region.

Mr. Tholley loves his community water source.

“The water in this community is very nice to drink,” he said. “There are other wells but this one is different. It taste like spring water, please help us fix the problem of the well drying! I cannot afford to miss it.”

Powered by your support and driven by our shared responsibility to Mr. Tholley and those from other communities experiencing the same, seasonal issues, we went to work towards a permanent solution.

The innovative imagination and technical expertise of our team led to the development of a completely new way of making existing wells deep enough to access water every day of the year. Using a custom-created hand auger and bit, teams drill down approximately 20 feet beyond the base of a shallow hand-dug well. This “well within a well” is then cased and transformed into a borehole, thus extending the depth, improving the yield and reliability of the water point. This technique has now been integrated into every new rehabilitation project we undertake.

Our concentrated and focused network of water wells within Port Loko District – and their daily reliability – have transformed the region. To date, over 150 projects have been completed (and are actively maintained) in Northwestern Port Loko. Water projects remain at or near 100% functionality due to dedicated quality implementation, effective customized hygiene, sanitation, and maintenance training, and are sustained through reliable monitoring, evaluation, and resolution relationships.

Your support is going further, doing more and providing lasting solutions for communities in Sierra Leone.

Your generosity is world-changing. Check out our 2018 Impact Report to learn more about the lives being transformed through your support of clean water.

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Tom Murphy

Tom is a Program Officer with The Water Project after working as a humanitarian journalist for 8 years. His work appeared in publications ranging from the Guardian to Foreign Policy to NPR, covering topics including water in India, agriculture in Kenya, public health in Haiti, and electricity access in Ghana.