Monday, April 3, 2017

“Humans can dig wells, but they can’t create water.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

A Tale of Two Wells —  Part One

                      This has to be a two-parter, and you will understand if you keep reading why that must be so, and why you will want to read both parts.  When we first moved here twelve years ago, we knew we had to have reliable water and that meant a well.  Our good friend, Jerry Buckingham from Cherokee Village, Arkansas, doused out a good spot, and we hand dug a well that went down about thirty feet.  We even had a middle-schooler from Arkansas here on a mission trip climb down and help dig it.  We hit water about twenty feet down but kept digging to thirty feet when we got to the bottom of the water seam.  Sadly, it was fairly shallow well with only about a five-foot column of water at the bottom.  That would allow us to pump 1,000 liters in the morning, wait until nightfall, and we could pump another 1,000 liters for a total of 2,000 liters a day.  Unfortunately, our water needs for the entire facility ran to 4,000 to 5,000 liters a day and that well just wouldn’t be able to provide enough to meet our needs.  So, Jerry got out his dowser once more and moving about fifty feet away found another, stronger source closer to the middle of our compound.  (I know, I didn’t believe in dousing either, until I tried it and those dang wires twisted in my hand directly over the water seam—go figure.)  Anyway, we got the well guys back out and hand dug another well.  Sure enough, we hit water about twenty feet down but kept on digging for another twenty feet and never hit the bottom of the water seam.  Now, we had a well forty feet deep with a twenty-foot column of water in it that would regenerate (fill back up) after just three hours.  Thank you so very much Martha Albright McCandless for paying for all this work.  This meant we could pump over 5,000 liters out of this well twice a day if we needed it.  An excellent solution just by moving fifty feet from the site of the first well.
                          We got a very good Italian, solid brass submersible pump for about $1,000 and installed it well below the water line and hooked it to two big water tanks, one a 3,000 liter and another 2,000 liter one.  We’d fill both tanks every morning and never needed any other water source.  This pump worked without a hiccup for twelve years until earlier this year when, during the drought, the well ran dry leaving the pump hanging in thin air with no water to pump.  We had the city come give us an estimate of how much it would cost to connect to the city water (pumped from Lake Victoria), and their estimate was about $4,000 which was highway robbery as far as we were concerned.  It turned out later (after we turned them down) that they were running the lines past two other customers (relatives of theirs) that would have been hooked to our pipe, and we would have been paying for their water, too.  Wasn’t a hard decision to turn down something that cost that much, involved local corruption, and wasn’t all that reliable—not to mention adding another monthly expense to our budget.  Shaban went and got the guy who dug the original well and discovered that for about $250, the well guy would dig our good well down for another ten feet or so and promised to get us back in the wet stuff.  Turned out he was as good as his word.  It also turned out that wells need to be cleaned every three or four years because they clog up with stuff.  After cleaning the original well and digging down another ten feet we were back to our twenty-foot column of water and pumping over 5,000 liters every morning and regenerating in three or four hours—more than enough for our needs and for just a $250 investment.  Not to mention discovering that our original pump still was going strong and good for at least another ten years.  Here ends the story of the second well, but back to the first one.
                          It seemed silly to have a second well (the first one we dug) near the fence marking our property and just sitting there.  Our good friend, Jerry Buckingham, created a hand-pump made of locally sourced plastic and leather parts, and we were able to hand-pump the water from that shallower well.  So, we fenced it in, put an exterior gate on it and an interior one (those two gates I called Bill and Melinda—the Gates Foundation, get it?).  Then, we would open the exterior gate for two hours every morning and again every evening and invited the neighbors to come get free water.  It was a big hit and was used a lot.  Inevitably, the neighbors began sending their children to pump the water, and it wasn’t long before they broke the pump.  We had to lock up the well until we could get the pump fixed, and as Jerry had to return to the United States, we did the best we could and got it running again.  Sure enough, the community responded well and sent kids to get more water—and broke the pump again.  This went on for several years with the pump getting broken and fixed maybe twice a year until we just couldn’t afford it any more.  We had to lock the external gate for good as we had tried as many ways to make it work as we could but to no avail.  Sadly, we had a well but couldn’t figure out a way to make the water consistently available to the community.  Nothing sadder than seeing a well that wasn’t in use.  Of course, the drought dried that well up for what I thought was going to be forever.  (See the sad picture at the right.)  That is not “the rest of the story” however.  That will be tomorrow’s blog, so stay tuned to see the elegant and God-sent answer.
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