Nov 04, 2019

What Happens When Water Wells Work Together?

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Water Quality Products magazine as "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work."

Industry leaders collaborate with nonprofit to bring safe drinking water to rural communities

Powerful things can happen when the water well industry works together, and this was apparent when the Water Well Trust (WWT) partnered with industry organizations to bring safe water supplies to rural Americans in need.

In the past three years, the WWT has worked with three charitable organizations—Culligan Cares, Pentair Foundation and Xylem Watermark—to rehabilitate old wells and drill new wells for families in New York, Louisiana, Georgia, Montana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas.

Culligan Cares Projects

In August 2017, the WWT completed the first Culligan Cares project to drill a well for a family with five children in Stephentown, N.Y. The family was proud to be the fifth generation of their family living in a home built by the husband’s great-great-grandfather. They did not want to leave their home  but were facing a crisis not of their own making; they had no safe water supply.

The home’s shallow well ran dry several years ago, and the family was getting their water from a nearby neighbor. They also purchased seven cases of water a week for drinking and cooking. While this was a daily hardship, the real adversity they faced was that their children were teased and bullied at school because they were unable to bathe every day. 

“I am forever thankful because I can now tell my kids, ‘Yes, you can wash up in a tub before school just like every other kid and get a drink from the kitchen sink,’” the mother said.

The second Culligan Cares project was completed for a married couple in Lacombe, La., which is on Lake Pontchartrain just north of New Orleans. The husband was forced to retire from the police force after 20 years of service due to a blood disorder. The couple had been living in a mobile home with no access to safe water and could not afford to drill its own well. Work on the new well was completed in December 2018. Now that they have water, the couple also is able to care for the wife’s mother, who is ill and blind, in their home.

The third Culligan Cares project was completed in February 2019 for a single mother in Georgia with four dependent children, ages 8 to 17. The family had been living without access to water for more than a year. 

“Feb. 5, 2019, is the day I watched the company dig a brand new well for my family,” the mother said. “I was so excited and watched them dig the well until water came. My children and I want to thank you all so much for your amazing gift!”

In August 2017, WWT completed its first Culligan Cares project in Stephentown, N.Y., drilling a well for a multi-generational family home.
In August 2017, WWT completed its first Culligan Cares project in Stephentown, N.Y., drilling a well for a multi-generational family home.

Pentair Foundation Projects

The first Pentair Foundation grant project was completed for a married couple in Helena, Mont., who are both disabled U.S. Army veterans. Frozen pipes flooded their home in early 2018, and the water well equipment was damaged. The well was not covered by the couples’ insurance, and they could not afford to pay for a new well.

“My family has been on a fixed income for years, and there was just no way we could come up with that amount to get our water well fixed in a short period,” said Rodney Bright, who spent 20 years serving in the U.S. Army. “We had to also pay to stay in a hotel for the next year until our house was repaired. My wife searched online to try to find a way to get financial assistance for water wells and found the Water Well Trust. That was the luckiest day of our lives because if it wasn’t for the Trust and the Pentair Foundation, we would not be living in our home again with running water.”

The second Pentair Foundation project was completed in the fall of 2018 in El Dorado, Ark., for a family of five that had been depending on a hand-dug well for their water. 

“Due to limited income, we were forced to hand drill our own well. Being only 72 ft deep, the water it provided was muddy and not suitable to wash clothes or dishes; it had an odor and was unsafe to drink,” said homeowner Jarrod Daniels. “Then the well ran dry and the pump went out, leaving us with no water supply at all. In addition, our youngest child tested positive for high lead levels that could have been caused from our poor/unsafe water supply. My pregnant wife had numerous illnesses, which doctors said could have been caused by the water we had. We were in desperate need for a safe/healthy water supply for us and our children. Now, after a solid year with no water, we are finally able to drink from our own faucets, and the kids can fill the bathtub.”

Xylem Watermark Projects

The Xylem Watermark Project in Holly Ridge, N.C., helped restore water to a subdivision serving 45 adults and 18 minor children
The Xylem Watermark Project in Holly Ridge, N.C., helped restore water to a subdivision serving 45 adults and 18 minor children.

In 2018, the WWT partnered with Xylem Watermark, a nonprofit program administered by Xylem Inc., to tackle a project in the Holly Ridge subdivision of Candler, N.C. The subdivision was developed in 1990 in three phases with four wells serving 29 lots. Over the years, the well houses and well equipment fell into severe disrepair, and the 24 households served by these wells—including 45 adults and 18 minor children—were unable to pay for replacement well systems. 

Xylem provided all the materials to rehabilitate the Holly Ridge wells. Merrill Well Drilling performed the well drilling work, and Xylem employees from the company’s Charlotte office rebuilt the well houses.

The second Xylem Watermark project was completed for a family of four in Bulverde, Texas, near San Antonio in July 2019. The family, which includes a 27-year-old disabled daughter, had been sharing water with the wife’s parents who now are in their 90s and moving from their home. Sharing water with family members was no longer possible, so the family applied to the Water Well Trust for its own well.

The Bulverde, Texas, project brought water to a family of four that had been living without a reliable water source for 24 years.
The Bulverde, Texas, project brought water to a family of four that had been living without a reliable water source for 24 years. 

Through Goulds Water Technology, Watermark provided a $5,000 grant for the project as well as the pump, tank, control box and volunteer labor. Goulds Professional Dealers Assn. (GPDA) members donated additional funds for the project, as well. Other contributions to the project came from Austin Pump, which coordinated the project with drilling company H.W. Schwope & Sons and provided additional materials for the new well. H.W. Schwope & Sons provided a 30% discount on labor, and other donations were received from Southwire, Simmons Mfg. and Jet Stream.

After living in the home for 24 years without their own water supply, the delighted homeowner wrote:

“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for providing the water well for our family. Everyone that came was so kind and served us so well. We now have our own water well running water to our house. You can’t imagine how awesome that feels. We have been sitting outside just staring at our new well. We are going to celebrate with a cookout while we savor the beautiful sight of our new well. Thank you so much for fighting hard for waterless people.”

Currently, the WWT is wrapping up projects in Arkansas and New Mexico that were funded by USDA Household Water Well System grants and matching funds from Water Systems Council member companies. 

Since its inception in 2012, the WWT has completed more than 140 water wells for Americans without access to a safe drinking water supply. The WWT provides low-interest loans for wells for impoverished households where the cost to local governments to supply water to these households is prohibitive. Funding is limited to a maximum of $11,000 per household. Loans have an interest rate of 1% with terms of up to 20 years. 

For more information, visit waterwelltrust.org.  

About the author

Margaret Martens is program director for the Water Well Trust. Martens can be reached at [email protected] or 202.625.4387.

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