The WFSS drilling team finished the 2014-15 drilling season with 40 new wells. Operating in what continues to be one of the most challenging environments in the world, the team persevered through many obstacles to achieve their goal. They also reached a new milestone as our well number topped 250. WFSS has now drilled 257 wells since 2005.
"When we drilled the first well in my father's village, in 2005, I never dreamed we would drill 100 wells, and now we have drilled over 250," says WFSS Founder Salva Dut. "We have come a long way in ten years."
Our team started drilling in December, 2014, at the beginning of the dry season, when the ground dries out, and our heavy equipment can travel to remote villages in need of fresh water. The first three wells of the season were drilled for the United Peace and Development Project (UPDP), with Omaha, Nebraska-based Aqua-Africa, and also supported by funds from Rotary International. Aqua-Africa is led by Buey Ray Tut, who is originally from South Sudan, and of Nuer heritage. Buey and WFSS Founder Salva Dut, who is of Dinka heritage, have brought their organizations together to drill water wells in different tribal areas of South Sudan.
Salva and Buey are devoted to their homeland, and its people, and see water wells, and development, as pathways to peace. "We are all South Sudanese," says Salva. "Working together will help our new country grow up and take its place in the world."
After drilling the UPDP wells, the team continued, traveling into remote areas to drill borehole wells. WFSS drills deep into the earth to reach a refillable aquifer. The wells drilled this year were, on average, about 60 meters deep, which is almost 200 feet. WFSS is able to drill to such depths because of the heavy duty drilling rig it uses.
Our drilling team typically spends three to four days in each village, drilling the well, installing pipes and a pump, then sealing the top of the borehole by creating a cement platform and trough. The finishing touch is an engraved seal, with the date, and the name of the sponsoring donor. Well sponsorship is available to schools, faith-based organizations, civic groups and individuals who donate at least $5,000. The full cost of a well is $15,000.
The WFSS Hygiene Team, launched in 2014, also traveled with the drilling team to each village this season, training villagers in hygiene education and helping them to improve hygiene practices. Villagers who complete the training are then ready to train others. Improved hygiene helps expand the impact of clean water, and further bolsters the health of a village.
Extreme weather conditions, with temperatures well over 100°, non-existent roads and lack of infrastructure all contribute to the challenges of drilling in South Sudan. Our team must gather all supplies in Uganda before the season starts. Equipment often breaks down in the extreme heat and dust of South Sudan. Getting replacement parts to South Sudan is an additional challenge. We often locate parts in the US and then try to ship them in an economical and timely manner.
"It's always interesting," notes WFSS Chief Operating Officer Don Fairman. "You can never assume anything. We must always be ready with a new contingency plan or alternative approach."
And just as one drilling season ends, the planning for another one begins. Fairman has recently returned from a trip to South Sudan, where he met with Salva, Director of Field Operations Ater "Lion" Thiep, and Assistant Field Operations Supervisor Ajang "AJ" Agok to review equipment, processes and personnel in South Sudan. It was a beneficial trip for WFSS and will be most helpful as we head into the 2015-16 drilling season.
WFSS support continues to grow around the world, with donors now representing all 50 US States and 27 other countries.
Dut is grateful for the support which enables this work.
"Thanks to all the people, all over the world, we are making a difference in South Sudan."