Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The key to drilling wells with staying power in the developing world


UNC study finds World Vision's model of local water committees, usage fees results in nearly 80 percent of wells remaining in use after 2 decades

What happens after a well is drilled, fitted with a hand pump, and a community celebrates having access to clean water for the first time? Half of them break down in a year.

A repair committee in Ghana fixes a well drilled by World Vision.

Credit: World Vision

When a community lacks sufficient resources and training, these wells would be rendered unusable; however, a new study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's (UNC) Water Institute and Water and Sanitation for Africa, a Pan-African humanitarian agency, found that if local water communities collect fees for repairs and train community members to fix the wells, they can remain in use for decades.

The study found that nearly 80 percent of wells drilled by the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision – which integrates local water committees, usage fees and repair teams into its model of delivering clean water – were still operational after more than two decades. The research, funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, will be presented at the World Water Week meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. The foundation has provided $80 million over more than two decades to enable water access to an estimated 2 million people.

... more about:
»Diarrhea »Water »malaria »water communities

"The results of this study are very encouraging," said Steven M. Hilton, Chairman, President and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. "Strategic investments targeted at developing the capacity of local communities ensure that water systems remain reliable and long-lasting."

"The good systems are the ones that are maintained and repaired when they fail," said Jamie Bartram, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health and lead researcher on the study. "And they can fail and be repaired time and time again for decades."

Bartram and his colleagues studied 1,470 wells in the Greater Afram Plains region of Ghana. A total of 898 of those wells were drilled by World Vision. The study found that wells were significantly more likely to be functioning if the community had both a local water committee and fee collection system in place.

In communities where World Vision operates, local water, sanitation and hygiene committees are established to manage every new water point. The committees, comprised entirely of local residents, collect fees for the usage and repair of the wells. World Vision also provides the committees with tool kits and comprehensive training on maintaining and repairing wells when they inevitably break down. The formation and training of committees is now standard practice across many government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and this study appears to strongly validate this approach.

Models for fee collection vary among communities, with some opting for monthly fees and others charging a few pennies for every water jug that is collected.

The study found that 45 percent of all wells broke down in the past 12 months; however, the majority of the wells drilled by World Vision were repaired and remained operational for years to come.

"World Vision is to be congratulated," said Bartram. "This study showed a high level of functioning of World Vision wells based on having a water committee and charging a small fee to ensure funds were available for their repair."

More than 1,600 children die each day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices. This is more children than die from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

"Ensuring that people living in poverty have access to clean water has life-and-death implications," said Greg Allgood, vice president of water at World Vision. "Children can't go to school because they are sick, women walk for hours each day to retrieve water and ultimately people die from waterborne illnesses."

Bartram and Allgood agree that local ownership and accountability as a key to ensuring that access to clean water remains after charities and NGOs leave, noting one particularly memorable encounter Allgood had with the leaders of a water committee in Ghana.

"I asked the chairman and the secretary of the water committee who owns the well, and they were clear in telling me 'This is our well'," Allgood said. "World Vision provided the well to them, but now it's theirs."


World Vision is the largest nongovernmental provider of clean water in the developing world – reaching one new person with clean water every 30 seconds. Its program in West Africa has provided sustainable access to clean water for millions of people, contributing to a dramatic reduction of diarrheal illness and trachoma and the eradication of guinea worm in Ghana.

Johnny Cruz | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Diarrhea Water malaria water communities

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets
16.11.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht NIST study of Colorado wildfire shows actions can change outcomes
10.11.2015 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer

25.11.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip

25.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere

25.11.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>