Water is Life


 Desperate stories abound about the need for clean, safe water in rural areas. In a year of extreme drought starving Kenyans in the north were unable to cook the grain they received because they had no water. Maasai cattle died and fathers negotiated bride prices for their pre-teen daughters in order to receive cows. The first kids from the goat project supported by Victoria Rotary clubs are suffering because the water supply has dwindled, largely due to deforestation.  Even in areas such as Western Province, that receive rainfall, the water supply is often sparse and contaminated.

Because we are resident in Kenya for six months of the year working on community and educational projects, we were asked by District 5020 Clean Water committee to submit ten sites and oversee the work once they were sponsored. Three clubs donated money: one in New York, one in Seattle and one in Nanaimo. We used a pump that requires less maintenance and is cheaper than the model estimated and were able, with the agreement of the three clubs, to install an additional well. Since then we have installed twenty wells and protected four springs. We have a long list of requests which we will evaluate when we return to Kenya. How many we can do will depend on the amounts donated. It costs just over $2,000 to dig a well that brings enormous benefit to a community, especially to women and children.  Protected springs will serve about 400 people a day.

Kegoye well, 2007

Although most wells are sponsored by Rotary Clubs, we have completed water projects financed by individuals or groups. Contact me at patricia(at)patriciacrossley(dot)com or at kenyatembo(at) gmail.com  for details.


The simple rope and washer pumps, made largely from recycled materials, make it possible to install a well at a reasonable cost

Elwakana’s water supply 2005                                   Elwakana’s water supply 2006



In each location a community committee is formed to be responsible for security, maintenance and financing. It is recommended to each community that they charge at least a registration fee per family in order to ensure maintenance costs will be covered. In most cases there will be extra money to stock a Health Centre with drugs, to pay a nurse, or to replace cow dung floors in a primary school with cement. Typically, the committees grow enthusiastic about the accessibility of clean water, the reduction in water born diseases and the possibility of funding other community projects. 

Our Kenyan Advisory Committee is assisting us to assess needs and to ensure that land used for a well will continue to be for community use.

 Elwakana well serves a large community and a health centre under construction. Previously women had to walk at least 1 km to a muddy pool for water. Musanda and Namulungu  wells also serve a Health Centre and a nearby market where there was no water supply. In each case we were able to pipe water directly into the Health Unit as well as provide a tap for the community. Shisalachi was the additional site where the people had formed their committee and put everything in place to receive a well before we even began to talk. This well is on the grounds of a primary school with mud walls and cow dung floors. Shitoli is a community a long way from the main road and has a Polytechnic school as well as other schools serving a large scattered community.

 Ivakale well is helping a women’s self-help group that feeds orphans daily in the local school. They also have a home visiting programme for AIDS patients and grow vegetables and grains for income. Their water supply now also goes into their kitchen and they can tap into it for irrigation of vegetables.

We work with the local Rotary clubs and representatives have been present at many ‘hand over’ ceremonies. Members of the local clubs have been asked to oversee the community committees as follow up and to offer management expertise and assistance if necessary.

 We receive many requests to install wells, but we adhere to the following criteria:

-the proposed site must be on  land available tot he community in perpetuity.

-the community must form a committee

-there must be an extensive community to be served

-the community must agree to feed and house the well diggers as their non-monetary contribution 

 Although not a cited criteria we also like to work with groups who have shown initiative and enthusiasm for self–help projects

Click to enlarge the pictures

Digging is by hand The committee selects the site We check progress during construction         And the water flows The community celebrates


In 2007 we opened the following wells: (click to enlarge the picture)

  1. Emmaloba:

There are 3 schools with a total population of about 2100 located within a radius of 500M-1Km. This will increase in the near future as the school is in the process of building more classrooms.  The nearest alternative source of water is a very small stream of poor reliability and water quality during the dry season (two periods of 2-3 months) located about 150 M from the school buildings. A river of equally poor water quality but good reliability is about 500 M away. The surrounding land slopes down to a church and the school grounds that form part of a short promontory at the end of which are the school buildings.  Since the church is closer to the general population of the area and it is also slightly higher up than the school buildings, the proposed location of the pump and local outlet is at the end of the school grounds close to the church. Piping would carry water to a storage tank at the school 100 M from the pump for use by the school. As at most schools in the area, there is a night watchman who would ensure security for the water system in addition to his other duties. With subsistence farming on less than 1 acre of land per family, an anticipated population of more than 4000 would have access to the well. 

2. Butobe 

The Health Unit is intended to be upgraded to Hospital status in the near future and is adjacent to a Primary School. The nearest water at present was a protected spring 2 ½ Km from the H.U. and of fair reliability. An alternative supply is available from the river 5 Km away. At one time there was a 9 M deep well on the school grounds but this failed in the dry season (two periods of 2-3 months). Attempts to deepen the well were abandoned and it became unusable when the sides of the deepened section collapsed.  The doctor at the H.U. and the minister at the church, which shares the grounds,  selected a suitable spot for a community well. A well was dug quickly and easily and offered three outlets: one for the community, one for the health unit, and one for the local elementary school.

 3. Emuhaya

This area is a densely populated rural area with 4 primary and 2 secondary schools within a radius of 1 Km (about 0.64 miles). The Chief’s Office is located close by, as is a small post-office and a dispensary which serves the special needs of the handicapped population. The Learning Centre is organized by volunteers for the benefit of the local mentally and physically handicapped, provides a workshop, therapy sessions (OT, epilepsy clinic, cerebral palsy clinic) and a feeding program. The volunteers appear well organized and the center is supported through small shops selling stationery, grocery etc.  With subsistence farming on less than 1 acre of land per family, an anticipated population of more than 3500 would have access to the well. Currently (dry season) the only water supply is a spring with very low flow in the valley about 500m away. A storage tank at the center collects rainwater from the metal roof in the wet season. All these are inadequate to fully meet the needs of the Centre or to serve the general population.

The dedication of the group and their initiative in providing resources for a severely disadvantaged population are commendable. The prevailing culture regards disabilities as shameful and something to be hidden. This group of people are working to change attitudes and show that disabled children can be educated and strengthened. The well was installed and the reliable supply of clean water will greatly improve health and service to the surrounding population.

 4. Eshikulu

This site is a secondary day school situated on solid rock and they were  hauling water by donkey from the river at great cost. The school is situated in a village and next to a market. Children had to find water in the shale near the school by scooping laboriously with plastic plates into small jerry cans. It did not prove possible to pierce the rock to reach water, but we were able to access a supply through a fissure and install an electric pump to direct water to a large storage tank.

5. Ekwanda;
This well was finished and handed over tot he community

6. Ebusiratsi;  Junction of Special School and Primary School The Special School collects and stores rainwater for its own use which lasts approximately 3 weeks during the dry season at the current consumption rate. The nearest alternative water supply comes from the river approximately 900M away. The river water is reliable but dirty, however the children cannot be allowed out of the grounds to collect it as they are deaf, mentally challenged or otherwise handicapped. Consumption at the school during 2005 will increase considerably as the school expands and boarders will be accommodated during the school year. Plans are afoot to add a training facility for Special Education teachers.In addition to the Special School and the Primary School, there is a third school within a radius of 0.5-1 Km making a total school population of about 1200. Based on the number of school children, there would be an estimated local population of 3000-4000 in this subsistence farming community who would benefit from this project.

7. Kegoye (Private funding. Picture at top of page)

In 2008, 2009 amd 2010 we continued to install water in rural areas up to a total of twenty wells.

In addition we began to protect springs. This has the advantage of being cheaper and not requiring a management committee to be formed.

Click to enlarge pictures

Bukhatse received two outlets and safe steps

Mvilingi and Mwituha

Although most wells are sponsored by Rotary Clubs, we have completed water projects financed by individuals or groups. Contact me at patricia(at)patriciacrossley(dot)com for details.