2009 Drilling Season Update

14 new wells mark most productive and challenging season to date

June 2009

Thanks to the generosity and commitment of supporters, this year’s Water for Sudan drilling season in Southern Sudan was the most productive to date. It was marked with several firsts including a new drilling team as well as familiar and new challenges.

The two teams combined to drill 14 new wells, the highest number in a single Water for Sudan season. 2009’s wells bring the total number of successful wells drilled since 2005 to 43. Those wells mean safe, drinkable water is now flowing to tens of thousands of people in remote Southern Sudanese villages.

Ater Thiep continued leading Team A, who overcame early technical issues to drill 13 new wells in the Bahr-al-Ghazal area, in western Southern Sudan. That area is where Water for Sudan has been operating since its initial 2005 drilling season. Later in the season, Ater was joined by Salva Dut who, along with Dep Tuany, assembled and led the new drilling team, Team B.

Early success for new team

Team B became Water for Sudan’s second drilling operation and the first to drill in Southern Sudan's eastern states. Setting up Team B was initiated by Dep with support from Burl Jordan and fellow members of the Rancho Santa Fe Club of Rotary International. The team’s equipment featured a brand-new truck-mounted drilling rig which provides greater drilling power than smaller, towed drill rigs.

This year, the new team’s ultimate operating area was to be Maiwut County, Dep’s birthplace, near the Ethiopian border in Southern Sudan’s Upper Nile state, where many of his family still live.

In early March, working together for the first time to field test equipment, the team completed its first borehole well in Malek, a small village outside of Bor. They then began the 600-mile journey to Maiwut in the northeast.

That arduous journey over nearly impassable rutted dirt roads at an average speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour tested the new team's perseverance and ingenuity. They battled not only the expected challenges but also a range of new obstacles, including support truck breakdowns.

Unexpected obstacles

Ultimately, Team B reached Maiwut, but with limited supplies and drilling rods due to the loss of the largest support truck. The aquifer in that area is at a greater depth than in Bahr-al-Ghazahl, so the lack of sufficient drilling rods, combined with inadequate surface water needed for drilling due to being late in the dry season, meant no wells could be drilled in Maiwut this year. However, Team B’s effort and learning has positioned Water for Sudan to fulfill its commitments to the people in Maiwut. Most necessary supplies and equipment are in place for next year’s season, stored with the local government commissioners and villagers.

Overall, it was another Water for Sudan drilling season that accomplished much. The reach and impact of the organization was expanded as 14 more wells were successfully completed. A new team and area of operation were added. New challenges were confronted and lessons learned by both teams, their leaders, and the entire organization.

The results are a foundation for operations in the upcoming season and the years ahead.