Wells in Africa

Digging Wells in Africa:
How it Works

Learn how The Water Project often provides safe water

Complete water project in UgandaIt's hard to believe that more often than not, the clean water a developing community desperately needs is right underneath them. And it's amazing how a relativly small investment to get to it can make such a dramatic difference in so many lives. That's why we fund these well projects!

Below, you'll find information on the types of wells that can be built and a brief decription of the process.

For an in-depth look at our process, and how we work, read more about The Water Project Process here.


How Much Does a Well Cost?

One size does not fit all
Finished Well

We get asked a lot about the cost to dig a well in Africa. It's a difficult question to answer though because Africa is a continent with wildly diverse geology and the water wells needed in each come in many varieties.

There are lots of ways to drill them and one size simply doesn't fit all. Let's take a look at some common projects to learn more abuot the challenges and costs involved.

Hand Dug and Dangerous

Hand Dug WellThe simplest wells have traditionally been hand dug. That's right...by hand. They can be fifty or more feet deep and are used when ground water is generally abundant. These wells are extremely dangerous to build and have cost many lives of unskilled laborers. They are also often left uncovered and easily contaminated. They aren't always an ideal solution, but when properly installed they can be quite effective.

We work to ensure our partners have the right tools for the job. We want the work to be done safely for both the workers and the people who will benefit from the new source of water.

Shallow Wells - Low Cost, Clean Water

Shallow Well RigAn example of one of our project sites is in Western Kenya, where we fund a young NGO known as The Bridge Water Project. Many of the drillers on this team have had experience deep in a hang dug wells.

Today however, they are working with new, small rigs provided by donors. These simple machines can dig to about 150-200 feet. The rigs are very cost effective and in this region of Kenya do a good job. They can be moved with ease and allow work to happen quickly.

As these machines drill through dirt and rock, casing is installed to keep the hole from collapsing. Then a concrete base is formed around the small casing (a few feet in diameter) and is left to set up overnight.

Well Pump Installation Once the concrete pad is dry, the pump mechanism is carefully lowered into the hole and a hand pump is attached. The team makes note of how much water flows and ensures it is safe to drink.

Well Pump InstallationBecause these new wells are completely sealed, the water stays clean and can be consumed without any treatment.

See Recent Water Well Projects »

Deep Wells
Lots of money, Lots of Water

Serving large communities with clean, safe water

Large Drill RigIn Central Kenya, just one example of how different geography can dramatically change the game, some wells must be over 900 feet deep. This introduces all kinds of challenge and expense.

First, a much larger drill rig, truck and crew are needed to actually drill the hole. It can take many days.

Deep Well Pump HouseThen, because the water is so deep, a motorized pump must be installed. The water is simply too heavy to lift from that depth with a hand pump. Diesel generators, large electric pumps, piping, storage tanks and housing for it all can drive the cost up to $30,000 or more. But, since these very large systems serve so many people, they are still quite cost effective. In fact, some of these large systems can serve over 3,000 people!

We only partner with established drillers with a lot of experience for these complicated projects.


Involving the Community
Ensuring Success

In all cases, we work to ensure that the local community is actually invested in the project. One of the best ways we've seen that happen is to require the villages to arrange and pay for the initial geological survey work to be done. That usually costs a few hundred US dollars and requires the community to mobilize and organize around the project. In the long run, this initial commitment to the project means it will be valued and cared for by the community. It's can prove an essential step.

After a well is installed, the drill team will explain how the pump works, how to keep the area clean, and what to do if it breaks. We make sure each community it able to contact our partners whenever maintenance is needed. A simple repair can become costly if unskilled folks try to fix it alone.


How Your Donation Helps

$34 can provide one person with clean, safe water

Your gift provides technical assistance and supplies (rebar, concrete, forms, fuel, drilling supplies etc.) so that communities can afford to build these wells. You make it possible for them to help themselves.

The Water Project works hard to keep administrative costs to an absolute minimum.

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