Guest columnist Don Nolan reflects on philanthropic measures drillers can make towards developing nations that lack potable water.

Lack of water for human consumption is a major problem throughout Nicaragua.
The Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas (W/NP) organization was founded in 1964 as part of the people-to-people component of the “Alliance for Progress” within the Partners of the Americas (POA) organization. Today, as a private, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, W/NP brings together volunteers of both Wisconsin and Nicaragua so they can get to know each other, work to find solutions to common problems, leverage international and local resources and provide technical training. The opportunities for involvement are in the areas of food/agriculture/natural resources, health, women in development, youth development and cultural exchange.

A serious lack of potable water and the need for well drilling equipment exists throughout Nicaragua. W/NP, through the Farmer to Farmer program, has found many open wells and springs where water is used for human consumption and has been contaminated by insects, leaves, bird droppings, etc. Hand-dug, open wells that are 165 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter are not unusual. Many people have died digging these wells.

The W/NP organization is working on a pilot project in cooperation with a cattleman’s cooperative involving the placement of a well drilling rig and equipment in Estel?Nicaragua. This area is mountainous and typically has very good soil. Water is available from streams and river sources for irrigation, crop production and pasture for livestock, but the lack of water for human and cattle consumption still is a problem.

For this project, the cattleman’s cooperative will act as a well drilling contractor, charging a reasonable user fee to their customers to support equipment and maintenance expenditures. This will be a not-for-profit venture. The co-op will invest up to 10 percent of the equipment cost and will drill a well for a village every three months at no cost. Currently, well drilling costs in this area are $45 to $50 per foot, which is cost prohibitive. The co-op will be able to drill these wells for less than half that cost, in addition to providing the no-cost wells.

The placement of the well drilling rig with this cooperative would be a great asset to the community as a whole, providing employment and giving the local distressed economy a much needed helping hand. One rancher stated that if he could afford to irrigate his land, he would need to employ 2 to 3 times his current staff to work on his ranch. This project would create a positive ripple effect that would be very difficult to measure strictly in monetary terms.

Carl Treadway, a past president of the Ohio Water Well Association, had a very successful project similar to this one in Honduras.

Considering the rough terrain and given the narrow and steep roads in this area, we believe that a cable tool rig such as the Bucyrus Erie 22W or a Buckeye Drill 22W would be needed. We would also require 2- or 21⁄2-ton army-style 6-by-6s for rig and equipment. The equipment could be used but must be in good condition. Approximate cost of this equipment and delivery to Nicaragua would be $100,000 to $125,000.

W/NP is in need of monetary or drilling equipment donations for this project. These donations will have tax advantages under the I.R.S. Code 501-C3.

Donations can be sent to:

Well Drilling Fund
Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners for the Americas Inc.
1209 Fremont St.,
Room 215, Nelson Hall, UWSP
Stevens Point, Wis. 54481