November 11th, 2021 09:29
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. More than half the population of the world does not have access to safe sanitation. Both of these issues relate to the Sixth Sustainable Development Goal, clean water and sanitation for all.
WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) is often overlooked as an issue that is also related to sustainability and climate resiliency. Access to water is critical for health and safety and should be a priority for all parties working in international development and humanitarian crises. Access to fresh water is dependent on healthy ecosystems, and water quality and quantity is already threatened by the rapidly evolving climate crisis. The ongoing drop in water quality and quantity will result in a drop in water security and increased cost of critical infrastructure and energy services.
This raises the question of how we can ensure access to water. IDRF’s current approach entails the funding and procurement of water wells. Water wells are able to provide communities with large quantities of fresh water that is accessible and prevents people, typically women and girls, from having to travel far distances to acquire water for their families.
Water wells are region specific and require many monitoring and evaluation processes to decide whether a well is viable, what type of well can be built, and whether drinkable water can be accessed.
A variety of regional and contextual factors must be analyzed prior to any drilling or building of a well. Different regions have different soil surveys, water tables, and water depths.
For example, in the drought prone Tharparkar region in Pakistan, the desert conditions make hand pumps the most viable option of water well since handpumps allow access to deeper groundwater. Wells cannot be thought of in a vacuum – like all our programming, our choices are dependent on sustainability, regional factors, contextual concerns, and building local capacity.
Ensuring sustainability and longevity of water sources is one of the key goals of IDRF’s water well program. In order to ensure these standards, we utilize our local partners to maintain a high standard of monitoring and evaluation prior to any water well location being chosen. The first step to any water well project is having a surveyor complete field assessments of targeted locations facing critical water shortages. After the field assessments are completed, water well locations are identified based on soil survey and assessment of water depth. If there are issues with being able to pinpoint drinkable water or issues related to wells drying up, the project will not move forward.
We want to ensure all our programming assists local populations in accessing their human right to water. In order to maintain that standard, no shortcuts or details can be overlooked in the process. After the drilling and construction of the water well occurs, water well operations testing, water testing, and health assessments are all undergone to ensure the safety and efficiency of the well. The information is then provided to the local district governorship protection.
Two of the main reasons why wells dry up are improper location citing and lack of maintenance. We ensure proper location citing through the utilization of extensive monitoring evaluations and reporting which is carried out by specialists. We also ensure maintenance of the well by training community members to maintain and upkeep the well. This helps to keep the well running but also ensures that we are building local capacity and knowledge. We give the local communities the agency and knowledge to upkeep and maintain their own wells since they are the people with a vested interest in the well’s success.
There are three different types of water wells: solar water wells, regular motor water wells, and regular handpumps.
The first type of water well is the motorized water well. Motorized wells run on gasoline and the motor generates power to pump water from the ground. We have these types of wells in various regions as well. This type can be seen in our Gaza water well programming which includes ten large community wells. Each well will produce 20 cubic meters of water per hour and will have the capacity of 15 horsepower. Each well will allow for the consumption of clean water for five hours without electricity. These wells will additionally be equipped with a chlorine system added to clarify the water. This project’s impact is estimated to support 7500 individuals upon completion.
The second type of well is the regular hand pump variation. The handpump variation is utilized when the clean groundwater is embedded deep within the ground. We have implemented the hand pump variation in India, Pakistan, and Sahel regions where our program will build 90 feet deep manual hand pumps which will provide clean water for fifteen households.
The last type of well is the solar water well. Solar water wells are the most sustainable option, but are also the most expensive. Solar panels capture energy from the sun then the energy is used to power an engine/ motor. Then the motor helps to pump water from an underwater reservoir. To reduce the costs, IDRF covers the cost of the solar water well and the maintenance and support costs as well. We have solar water wells in many regions, including our current program in Yemen. We have 4 solar water wells in Yemen: three are located in the Hadramout Governorate and one is located in the Abyan Governorate. Through this program alone we have been able to support four villages in accessing water; which includes Al Aeeg, with a population of 1800 people, Gaaodah, which a population of 1500 people, Sana, with a population of 2000 people, and the village of Dafeesh, with a population of 1600 people. We believe sustainability is both a process and an outcome. We hope to continue building more solar water wells which will address both the needs for accessible, safe, drinking water while utilizing green power. We hope to expand our solar water well programming as sustainability is as much a process as an outcome.
Through our local partners, IDRF is able to procure and fund these water wells and cover the cost of training local members to maintain the wells and any other maintenance costs.
Through our various WASH programs, we have increased the number of individuals who can access clean water and sanitation. We hope with the help of our donors, funders, and local partners that we can expand our work and continue to strive for sustainability in all aspects of our programming.