After completion of the most technically challenging project in Water Mission history, the long-awaited hope of safe water is finally a reality for James Nampushi and his community of Enariboo, Kenya.
For James — a community leader and Clemson PhD graduate — the journey started six years ago when he met George and Molly Greene, founders of Water Mission, and began discussing how we could help the people of Enariboo. A major advocate for education, James knew that safe water would open up doors for his community, not just for physical health but for advancement in other areas as well. His love for the people of Enariboo pushed him to not give up on the pursuit of safe water.
When Water Mission sent a team from their Kenya office to assess the water situation in Enariboo, what they found was not encouraging. The community is situated on a section of the Rift Valley that experiences an intense scarcity of water. During the rainy season, there is a small stream a dusty, two-hour walk from the community. Women and children are seen throughout the day walking alongside their donkeys to and from the stream. For them, it is a daily chore to collect the dirty, brown water from this stream – the same source that they use to water their animals. Those who can’t walk to the stream dig holes in the ground to collect rain water.
Then comes the dry season. Located at the base of a small mountain range, Enariboo is a few miles away from a water rich community called Kipise. In order to reach a dam near Kipise, community members must walk roughly four miles through difficult passes and over the mountain. When the rains stop, the only option is to spend an average of eight hours a day guiding their cattle, goats, and donkeys to the distant water source.
“We wanted to provide water to the entire community of Enariboo – 2,000 people. We faced a lot of challenges in this project: elevation, water pressure, community and cultural issues, even finding a viable water source. But these are all issues we’ve faced on other projects, just never all together at one time. We knew it would be difficult, but this is what we do.”
– Will Furlong, Water Mission Director of Africa Programs (below)
While assessing the community, Water Mission Kenya discovered that a previous organization had attempted to drill a well, only to come up dry. Trying to avoid that fate, we sought the expertise of John Lane, PhD, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Office of Groundwater, Branch of Geophysics. Dr. Lane volunteered his time by flying down to Kenya to perform tests and recommend the best place for a well. After multiple tests, the team drilled a well. We reached an incredible depth of 1,000 feet and still couldn’t find water.
James, the people of Enariboo, and our staff turned to prayer. Despite the disappointment, we never gave up hope for we know God is bigger than any setback we may experience. The team re-assessed, spent time seeking the Lord, and came up with a second, quite audacious, plan: pipe in water from the source on the other side of the mountain. The most exciting part? This new plan would end up serving two communities, Enariboo and Kipise, impacting twice the number of people originally estimated.
For the communities, the new shared water project would require them to put aside cultural differences and long-held tensions. For Water Mission, the project would prove to be one of the most technically complicated systems we have ever built. It would require digging another deep well, pretreating the water to remove iron, and a massive amount of pumping to get the treated water up to storage tanks. To distribute the water, our team had to trench for 11 kilometers of pipe, build pressure breakers to perfectly account for the 1,000-foot drop in elevation, and install six tap stands throughout the community of Enariboo.
For months, Water Mission Kenya staff worked in Enariboo without ceasing or complaint. They had a plan, and though it was tough, they trusted that it would work. After their tireless work, the first signs of safe water brought exuberant joy to the people they were serving.
While implementation was in process, our community development staff spent time working to teach the people of Enariboo the importance of safe water and proper WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) practices. It was vital that the people understood all that safe water could bring to their lives – improved health, finances, education, family time, relationships – endless opportunities waiting to be built on the foundation of safe and Living Water.
As Water Mission worked out the last few details of the treatment system, the team could finally take a deep breath. God had been faithful. The road had been hard, and at times the project didn’t seem possible, but our team and the people of Enariboo never gave up hope. As the communities of Enariboo and Kipise danced and sang together to celebrate the gift of safe water, it became clear that the hope of these people had brought more than water – it had brought reconciliation and new life. For James, his long-awaited hope had been realized.
This year, we have the opportunity to provide hope to people all over the world. Join us as we work to change lives forever through the power of safe water. Give Safe Water