A small-scale well is a shallow and less expensive well, typically around 40 ft deep; deep wells are typically around 150 ft deep. The water from a shallow well is not as clean as the water from deep wells, but the shallow wells provides accessible water for households where the equipment and resources needed to dig a deep well is expensive and/or not found locally. The shallow wells are priced low enough for families /compounds/ neighborhoods to afford, enabling them to have access to water closer to their homes. Some are even built in the middle of a compound.
Traditionally, these shallow wells are large open pits with a stone or concrete wall. The open-hole structure is both unsanitary and unsafe because the open design exposes the well for debris to fall into, and sometimes people (especially children) as they pull up the water.
ODD has partnered with The Collaboratory at Messiah College to design a hand-dug auguring system with a pump instead of an open hole. The drilling method (auguring) makes it more affordable and possible for residents of Mahadaga to order a well, and the pump closes the well, solving the sanitation and safety issues mentioned earlier. These wells are priced comparatively with the existing design for shallow wells, while offering a cleaner and safer alternative. Brendon Earl, a Short Term Associate (STA) during 2011-2012, trained three men how to use the equipment and to set up the well drilling as an enterprise. Since he left, these men (Bouba, Ali, and Tiabli) have continued to drill wells for the clients in the region. Not only does this offer a needed service, but it also provides good jobs for several men.
This past May, Brendon returned to Mahadaga with another design. This design is intended to relieve the physical strain on the driller's bodies. As the augur system is manually powered, it takes significant labor force to work on a well. This new design is mechanically assisted and greatly reduces the stress on the body while remaining a cost effective and simple machine to set up and operate. It also uses a percussion technique rather than auguring. There are different bits designed for various soil types. These bits are attached to the rope and are pulled up and dropped down repeatedly from a tripod to dig the bore hole. The tripod has a gas engine connected to a transmission and then to a capstan. The capstan rotates and the rope wraps around it when the operator pulls and creates tension.
For two weeks, Brendon worked with Diada (a local welder) to construct the new equipment and also worked with Peter Haugh, an STA from Cedarville University, to teach him the new design. Now Peter is continuing to work with the well drilling team to test the equipment after Brendon has left. There are also a few members of the well drilling team from Messiah College Collaboratory here currently. They are also taking time to better understand the auger and percussion methods.
Right now, the new method is in a prototype stage. The students and STAs are collecting data to see how it performs in different conditions such as varying soil types and water levels. We have a testing location in the fields behind the station where the team has practiced drilling. As of this past week, they reached water! Now they will take the tripod to a well they started earlier and continue drilling with the new equipment. Ali, the team member trained on it the most so far, is optimistic about the equipment and likes to work with it.
The system is simple enough to operate that it takes only about 10 minutes to understand how to use it. One potential issue is the clip used to hold the bit and rope. There is a lot of pressure on the clip and it may need to be replaced with a better clip or may require an edited design. The rest of the equipment seems to be handling the pressure of drilling well. From here forward, the engineering and design goals will be to make it more efficient, structurally sound, and sustainable to maintain or replace.
The old auguring system works efficiently for up to 10meters (approximately 30 feet) but then is very slow; as the depth increases, the amount of work and time it takes to raise and lower the bit increases substantially. The percussion method works at a more steady rate, even at greater depths. Because of this, part of the experimenting and testing will also involve exploring operations. It may be better to change the drilling teams from working on separate wells with different sets of equipment, to the set up the teams to have one team start with auguring and then another team follow after with the percussion method. We will be working with the drillers to explore and suggest the best way to implement the new equipment.