ITHACA – Water is a basic need. Yet, drilling a well to get that water isn’t always easy, especially if that well has to be hand dug.

That’s one of the reasons why engineering minds came together in Ithaca recently to help build solutions.

“We proved it works,” said Dwight Hanson.

The Ithaca man hosted a workshop with other engineers, students and others interested in learning about the resistivity method to help find water sources in the ground.

The workshop was led by Global Hope Network International and offered insight into vertical electrical sounding.

Hanson said he was contacted several years ago by people in this group and he has been working with them since.

Using resistivity was an idea first explored by James Clark at Wheaten College in Wheaten, Ill. Hanson said a paper Clark wrote was discovered several years ago and the notion was that it could maybe help water finding efforts in countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroon.

In these countries, well drilling is usually all done by hand. Using expensive equipment is not an option like it is here in the U.S., he said.

Hanson himself has visited many countries where hand digging wells is the norm.

“I’ve seen them 300 feet deep,” he said.

While that type of effort is quite labor intensive, it can be even more so if multiple attempts have to be made.

Soils in these countries are different than it is here. Hanson described it as being formed from bedrock, versus sedimentary. The problem is that the soil is not only denser, it is also prone to have more rocks.

It takes a large crew of people to hand drill a well.

“Then only about 40 percent of the times you get water,” Hanson said.

The main reasons for that low percentage is either the drilling hits rock or there is a lack of water.

“If you can site it, you can improve that to 85 to 90 percent,” he added.

That is where the Clark’s paper and the idea of resistivity comes in.

Hanson said electromagnetics (EM) is a commonly used method in the U.S. For example, the helicopters contracted by the Lower Platte North Natural Resource district to fly overhead with equipment hanging down below use EM to gather data from underground to help site water.

“This is the opposite of EM,” he said.

Using a common meter that can be purchased at a store and a series of wires into the ground, data is collected about the resistivity in the soil.

“Then, you interpret that and site where you should drill,” Hanson said.

If the interpretations are correct, the chances of a productive drill on the first try dramatically increase.

At the workshop held in Ithaca two weeks ago, the goal was to build a resistivity unit, site a well and then hand dig it.

Hanson said he volunteered to host the workshop because Global Hope Network needed room to try out the vertical electrical sounding and also the opportunity to hand drill a well. His 40 acres near Ithaca fit that need perfectly.

The 12 workshop attendees came from many states and got hands on experience building and using the equipment.

Josh Knight with Global Hope Network had built some units prior to the workshop.

“He was having trouble getting consistent readings,” Hanson said.

That consistency problem wasn’t happening during the workshop and a well was sited and the group did hand dig a well. Hanson said they didn’t end up going as deep as originally planned, but they quickly learned that such a task takes a lot more people to complete the task than they had at the workshop. Plus, there was rain in the forecast.

Still, the project was successful and material costs were under $1,000.

Hanson said that is important because the countries where this technology will be used do not have the funds to pay what could otherwise run anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000. The use of vertical electrical sounding could be a benefit to both villages and farmers that hand dig their wells.

There is still some work to do on fine tuning the interpretation of data gathered from the siting units. But, that is being worked on too.

For example, Hanson said a phone app is being developed to help with that process. While well drilling equipment is not prevalent in some countries, cell phones are pretty much everywhere.

“Everybody has a phone,” he said.

The objective at the workshop was to prove the technology can work, and now that it does Global Hope Network will be finding ways to put it into practice.

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