Human-Powered Drill Strikes Water in Tanzania, Offers Hope for Cheaper Wells (Video)

human-powered drill image

image via YouTube video screengrab

When it comes to drilling new wells for water, the cost can be prohibitive as heavy machinery needs to be brought in to do the digging. However, a team of students from Brigham Young University came up with a human-powered solution that can dig wells in villages inexpensively. BYU reports that machinery can bring a well's construction costs to as much as $15,000, and less expensive solutions often can't drill as deep. Their well drill, on the other hand, can go as deep as 150-200 feet -- in only a matter of days!

It works a little like a miniature merry-go-round. Three people stand in a circle and spin a wheel that turns the drill bit, while a fourth person lifts or drops the bit as needed to get through different levels of soil.

The team tested out their drill in Tanzania, and found that it works as planned.

"At the end of our trip, it was exciting, "says Nate Toone, a graduate student of engineering, in the BYU article. "We were drilling in a farm of sandy soil and 70 feet down. When we unhooked the pipes, there was a small little geyser. That was evidence to us we were successful. It was the payoff moment to see that water coming up and see the smiles on everyone's faces and know that we had found clean water."

According to BYU, the drill concept is part of a year-long project that has students solving real engineering problems with real clients -- basically a learn-by-doing strategy that ended up pairing the students with, a non-profit in need of clean water solutions.

may love hearing about this drill concept as well. The non-profit works to provide wells for villages in Africa for about $5,000 each. A solution like this could not only improve the cost of drilling wells or the potential for success in striking water, but also empower the village since they are able to drill their own well.

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