We strive to serve as many people as possible, and so we prioritize building water projects with and in communities (villages) that range in size from as few as 300 to as many as 500 people served by one water project.
One of the most devastating and least-talked about facts in our space is that the Failure Rate of borehole wells implemented by foreign NGO’s just on the continent of Africa alone (not counting Southeast Asia, South or Central America) is upwards of 50% within the first year! This is beyond alarming, and largely is due to a lack of community engagement, sweat equity,
ownership, training, and technical processes that are overlooked and left out of the well building process by many groups. Because of this, we have worked tirelessly with our Water Project Technical Committee to establish incredibly stringent Standards for Sustainability that govern HOW we build wells to ensure that our wells last. Obviously we only have so many years of data to draw on, but if our processes & systems are followed, our wells should last more than 40+ years at least. *Data sourced from UN
Anyone who fully funds at least one or more wells is welcome to join Thirst Project Staff on any of our Documenting/Reporting trips! On these trips, you will spend time in the villages/communities where we work and see the wells funded by your support & others like you! Because of the highly technical/dangerous nature of operating large drill rigs, there are not many volunteer opportunities to actually “build” a well with us, but you will get to see firsthand the impact of our work, old water sources that people used to be forced to rely on, completed water projects, serve community members directly, and help document the work we are doing to report back and share with the world. You must fundraise to completely cover your own travel costs. (Costs vary depending on location[s] and time of travel.) Trips are scheduled approximately once per quarter. Schedules change frequently up until Teams are 100% confirmed. For more information on scheduled trips, vaccinations, liability, and costs, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
The water crisis, and poverty, are both relative. Even our homeless in the United States have access to safe, clean water through public amenities like drinking fountains, toilets and sinks. No one dies from cholera or dysentery or diarrhea in the United States. Not even on Native America reservations. We focus our efforts where human life is threatened as a result of waterborne diseases caused by a lack of access to safe, clean water, which, thankfully, no one in the United States TRULY goes without.
69%! Let’s make it 100% by 2025! *Data sourced from UNICEF
Standards for Implementing Water Projects
WATER PROJECT TECHNICAL BOARD
All of Thirst Project’s implementing activity is overseen and managed by the organization’s Water Project Technical Board. This group of five individuals is made up of leading experts in the field of water and sustainability (civil engineers & hydrogeologists). The Water Project Technical Board meets Quarterly to review and approve the selection of upcoming projects to be implemented by the organization in the coming Quarter. The Board reviews and approves Site Assessments, Quotes, and Planned Action before a project is funded. After projects are complete, they review Completed Reports, Pump Tests, and Water Quality Tests for each site.
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability is Thirst Project’s number one core value when it comes to implementing water projects in developing nations. This document outlines how Thirst Project assesses the “sustainability” of the organization’s water wells. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average life span of a water well in Africa is 4 years, and the failure rate of borehole wells implemented by NGO’s on the continent is upwards of 60% within the first 4 years. This is alarmingly high, and entirely unacceptable, as most “failures” are completely preventable if the following sustainability measures and appropriate community engagement are in place. Relatively few organizations build in sustainability measures in their water projects to ensure the long-term benefits and operation of water wells.
Under the direction of the Water Project Technical Board, Thirst Project utilizes a GIS-based Project Management System that allows for the tracking of all completed water well projects, as well as in-process projects that have been approved by the Board and are under development. Thirst Project Team must collect and continually update background information on Water Quality Issues for each country the organization is active in.
When implementing water projects in the field, Thirst Project hires local drilling companies to drill and construct its projects in the developing countries the organization works in. By hiring local contractors and overseeing them with the expertise of our Water Project Technical Board, the organization funds into and supports local economy, while providing the best service to the communities. Thirst Project and its drilling partners sign a contractual document that includes everything contained in these standards to ensure accountability in construction. In vetting the organization’s drilling partners prior to hire, the organization ensures that the typical timeline for project completion that the driller quotes is reasonable and competitive with the market. Thirst Project also establishes a system for reporting progress from the driller to the organization throughout that process. Thirst Project requires that each driller provide an itemized and comprehensive cost breakdown of all Quotes, Estimates, and Supplies for accurate accounting.
The following are the steps in Thirst Project’s life cycle of completing a water project (though the general drilling and construction of the borehole and well are denoted by asterisks, the numbered steps outline only those measures specifically relevant to the value of “sustainability”):
1.) Identify and Qualify a Community in Need
Thirst Project Team employs nationals as “Community Development Officers” on the ground in every country the organization works in to manage relationships with drillers and communities, and to oversee the implementation of all projects. These Community Development Officers collect and compile Assessments on all communities that Thirst Project works in. Assessments must include the following data:
-What is the Community Name?
-What are the GPS Coordinates of the Community?
-What is the Population of the Community?
-How many homesteads in the Community?
-What is the Current Water Source? (ex. Pond? Stream? River?)
-What is the Distance from the Community to the Current Water Source (In either Miles or Kilometers.)
-What Water-Related Illnesses has the Community dealt with in the Past? (Cholera? Schistosomiasis? Extreme/Fatal Diarrhea?)
-Have there been any Water-Related Deaths in the Community in the past 5 years? If yes, how many?
Based on the results of these Assessments, the Water Project Technical Board determines whether a submitted Community qualifies for intervention or not. If they do, the organization proceeds to the next step in the life cycle of completing a water project.
2.) Sample Area Wells
Prior to Surveying approved Communities that qualify for intervention to determine the best location to drill, Thirst Project must sample other existing wells in the areas the organization is contemplating installing a water supply and test those samples for any naturally occurring contaminants (i.e. microorganisms, major ions, fluoride and trace elements) that could cause future health problems for the Communities the organization looks to serve. If there are problematic contaminants discovered, the Water Project Technical Board will determine the best course of action to consider if any modifications need to be made during the construction process, or if any preparations need to be made to have materials on-hand before the new wells are constructed, to treat them when they are.
3.) Complete Hydrogeology Surveys
The Drillers assigned to approved Communities use Hydrogeology Surveys to first assess the water table and aquifer of the region in which the organization looks to build, so as to assure the well installed is appropriate and will not overdraft the aquifer and destroy it before the water table has time to replenish when during rainy times. In addition to protecting the aquifer, this ensures that the Community always has an adequate supply to meet the needs of the population.
***At this point, the drilling team drills the borehole, installs the casings, cements around the casings, and trenches to create the foundation of the base.***
4.) Perform Pump Tests
At this point, the Drilling Team inserts a submergible pump into the freshly drilled borehole and pumps for 8-hours straight. This allows the organization to assess the yield of the borehole to ensure that the water supply is adequate to meet the needs of the Community.
5.) Perform Water Quality Tests
Thirst Project’s Drilling Partners then collect samples from the new borehole and ship them to certified laboratories for “water quality” testing. Clear water is not necessarily safe water. There are many naturally occurring contaminants (i.e. microorganisms, major ions, fluoride and trace elements) that can seriously harm an individual’s health and quality of life. Skeletal fluorosis, for example, is a serious health problem related to excessive accumulation of fluoride in the bones that causes serious deformities in the bone structure and making them extremely weak and brittle.
All projects must meet AWWA A100 Standards. (Some water sometimes might be better than no water.)
***At this point, the drilling team pours the cement to complete the construction of the base, installs the hand pump, installs any necessary filters or treatments based on Water Quality Test Results, and constructs fencing around the well to keep animals away from it.***
6.) Engage the Local Community
Thirst Project must always involve local Communities in its water well projects.
Community involvement is a critical component to well sustainability. If an organization puts a water-well into a village without community participation and contribution (financial or sweat-equity), then sustainability, the effectiveness and the benefit of that water well is highly questionable. Each Community must either contribute financially to the project in some way (feeding drillers/collecting to cover fuel costs, etc.), or they must contribute sweat-equity to the project in some way (clearing the bushes from the Surveyed and selected site, helping the drillers trench and pour concrete, etc.). This is critical, because it creates a sense of ownership over the project, rather than Thirst Project just going into Communities and giving stuff away. (We know this to be one of the most critical component for ensuring that Communities are committed to maintaining wells after Thirst Project has left, because they have a personal investment in them.)
7.) Form Water Committees
Thirst Project must work with community leadership to form “Water Committees” in each Community that they build a well in. Water Committees are vital to effective water projects and Community Development. These Committees are formed to both manage water resources and promote hygiene within the community. Members are trained in business management, pump maintenance and repair, hygiene and sanitation, trachoma control and prevention, environmental and natural resource management. Further, women are represented equally on these committees, which begins to engender a more equitable position for women in their community.
8.) Complete Sanitation & Hygiene Training
The organization pairs sanitation facilities (i.e., latrines) and hygiene education (hand-washing training, etc.) with the provision of clean water. 88% of diseases in the developing world are water-related. The majority of health benefits of clean water (i.e. reduction in diarrheal rates) are only realized with accompanied with good sanitation and hygiene education.
Thirst Project is the world’s leading YOUTH water activism organization. We are a movement of high school and college students who build freshwater wells in developing nations and impoverished communities to provide people with safe, clean water. Thirst Project is a nonprofit organization that travels across the United States speaking at schools to educate students about the global water crisis and challenges them to fundraise to build wells.
That’s easy! We are very proud to say that 100% of all PUBLIC donations go directly to funding our well projects. We operate under a Board of Governors who donate generously every year and cover 100% of the organization’s administration costs (staff, office, travel, etc.) so we can make this guarantee.
We take telling stories seriously. Find our Media Ethics Policy HERE.
The organization was founded on May 9, 2008.
So far, we have given over 500,000 people in 13 countries safe, clean water.
Thirst Project has activated more than 2,500,000 students on 1,100 campuses across the United States.
So far, we have completed over 3,300 water projects.
We are the only water organization who caters exclusively to educating young people about the water crisis & equip them the tools to bring it to an end.
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Please email our head of partnerships firstname.lastname@example.org in regards to this. (We are a YOUTH brand!) We would LOVE to partner with you!
Yes! We would love to keep you informed! Text “THIRST” 97779!
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