Villagers in Belize Benefit From Utah Water Drill

Feb 28, 2017

A human powered drill developed in Utah is being used in third world countries to provide access to water.

In February, more than 1,000 residents living in a remote fishing and agricultural village were the first in Belize to benefit from the technology.

Sugar cane fields surround the homes of families living in Chunox, Belize. Located in the Corozal District of the nation, the people there pay on average, $45 USD per month for water. Most families are reported to earn of monthly income of $300 USD. Drinking water is ferried to families by boat or brought to homes by family members who have to travel some distance to the town well. Bottled water is expensive and not always available.

Nibley, Utah humanitarian volunteer Austin Elder is documenting the drilling project.

“Now, with the drill, that’s going be able to cut it down [the cost] to $15 US dollars per month,” said Austin Elder, a filmmaker from Nibley, Utah who is documenting the project. Elder is among a group of volunteers from Utah, Arizona and Washington working to help the nearly 1,000 residents in the area access clean and cheap water.

“The distance is quite a bit closer as well,” he said. “It’s creating jobs and it’s creating purpose. And that’s just one well.”

The Chunox well is the first project of this type to happen in Belize. Two Utah non-profit groups, WhoLives and Going Beyond Borders, are partnering to provide water for the village and it’s 445 school children.

“What we are really trying to work on is creating a self -sustaining opportunity for this village,” Elder said.

The drill was designed and developed by a Utah businessman with help from Brigham Young University engineering students in 2011. The people-powered drill was used in Belize to bore 48 feet deep into an aquifer.

“Seven men and one woman - they are the Belize drilling team,” Elder said. “It has been really cool seeing these local Belizeans take ownership of this. It is now their job, it is now their livelihood. They range in age from 15 years old, the youngest drill member, and the oldest is probably in his 50’s.”

Three members of the drill team spin the wheel that turns the bit, and the fourth member lifts the bit up and down when necessary to punch through tough spots. A water pump system is used to remove the dirt from the six-inch-wide hole.

The drill technology is used to replace open wells where animals and other materials can contaminate the water supply and destroy the acquirer. Underground water sources also prevent the accidental drowning of children.

School children in Utah are raising additional funds to build libraries, science & computer labs, recreation & sports areas, and purchase teaching supplies for the people of Chunox, Belize.