In late 2022, the Engineers Trust awarded the second Engineering Outreach Grant of £5,000 to Just A Drop for an engineering project that contributes to the relief of poverty in Zandonda, Zambia.

The project will utilise the unique drilling method of a rotary mud drill that has a light ecological footprint and is appropriate to the location, an area of high biodiversity and conservation importance, contributing to environmental sustainability.  This will be used to provide safe water all year round to 520 people in the village of Zandonda, which is in the Luangwa Valley and to the neighbouring villages of Esau, Mazikila, George, Kadewele and Shalileni.  The borehole is well-designed and constructed and, on completion, it will be handed over to Local Authority custodianship to ensure that community water supplies are audited and reported. The Grant from the Engineers Trust forms a significant part of the total cost of the project which is expected to be complete by July 2023.  

Borehole Drilling with Rotary Mud Drill

Currently, the community must walk every day to boreholes more than 3km away, or resort to hand-dug wells which provide only dirty water.  Not only is the water itself unsafe, but collecting the water is increasingly dangerous due to conflict caused by overuse of existing water sources and competition with wildlife.

Hand-dug wells in action

In Zambia, 6.4 million people (35%) do not have access to safe water.  This has devastating effects on people’s livelihoods: they face constant illnesses, are less able to work or study and lack opportunities to support themselves.  The links between good education and poverty reduction are well known.  This project will achieve considerable impact: providing water for drinking, cleaning, cooking and watering crops.  Time previously spent collecting water can be put towards working, going to school, and building strong livelihoods, moving out of poverty.  Communities will create vegetable gardens, producing plenty for their own needs, improving nutrition.  Excess is sold providing cash income, adding to food security and further moving people out of poverty.

Borehole drilling with rotary mud drill

This technology is relatively new to Zambia but has been proven to be the most effective and sustainable option here.  Conventional larger rigs use air compression to drill in rock but are entirely unsuitable for use in this alluvial valley in Zambia where the substrates are all sand, clay, mud, gravel and unconsolidated sedimentary layers.  The rotary mud drilling method uses water to wash any spoil out of the hole, allowing the hole to reach depths of 35-50m.  The walls of the hole are kept in place using a special inert polymer called DD2000 and it is then cased with high-quality PVC.  Once in place, a gravel pack is put around the casing.  This enables access to water at a depth of at least 24 metres.  It is at this level and below that the plentiful aquifers of clean fresh, safe water ‘flow’.  Slotted casing is placed low down in the borehole to allow the fresh water to seep in through the gravel pack layer and fill the borehole casing.  Casings at the top of the borehole are solid and there is a sanitary seal inserted above the aquifer level so no water from higher up can access the borehole which would cause contamination.

Completed borehole in use

This engineering method ensures that the lives of those in Zandonda and surrounding villages will have year-round water.  The rig is light and easy to manoeuvre, enabling it to reach remote villages that a conventional drilling rig could not.

At the end of the borehole spillway, Just a Drop construct a ‘garden pond’ to collect the surplus water. This can then be used to water vegetable gardens and water livestock.  This reliable drilling method and project design ensures that the impact of the project is long-lasting.

Diversity and inclusion

Often, remote, rural villages struggle to receive Government funding since they are more difficult and costly to access.  In these areas, families are desperately poor and rely largely on subsistence farming.  With only one rainy season a year and with rainfall being increasingly erratic and frequently failing, this pushes people further into poverty.  The rotary drill method allows Just a Drop to access these rural and remote villages that are often too difficult to reach and which are seen as a low priority for resources.

Training in borehole maintenance and repairs

All Just a Drop projects are community-led.  A Water User Committee is set up and trained and they collect water user fees from the community to pay for maintenance and repairs. This helps to ensure that the community feel ownership of the project.  They are included in every step of the project, important for project sustainability for many years to come. As part of the request for a borehole, bylaws ensure that every person in the village is allowed to use the borehole.

The initial stage of the project is the formation and training of the Water User Committee, with whom the site for the borehole will be agreed, at a location where Just a Drop are confident that water will be found, and which is accessible to all and close to people’s homes.  Once the site is agreed and approved, the drilling stage only takes around a week, They wait for the end of the rains in April when they can start the drilling stage.  The project should be complete by July 2023.