The Water Well Trust, the only national nonprofit helping Americans get access to a clean, safe water supply, has completed 24 water well projects in 10 Arkansas counties funded by a grant from the USDA’s Household Water Well Systems Grant program.
In 2014, the USDA awarded a $140,000 matching grant to the Water Well Trust to increase potable water availability to rural households in five northwest Arkansas counties — Franklin, Benton, Madison, Marion, and Crawford — as well as Sequoyah County in Oklahoma. Five additional Arkansas counties — Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Searcy and Washington — were added in 2015.
A total of 24 water wells were drilled or rehabilitated, providing clean drinking water to 73 Arkansas residents, including 31 minor children and four veterans. One recipient of a new well explained how the project had changed life for his family:
“I’m a 55-year-old man with a wife and five young children. My family and I purchased 40 acres in northern Arkansas in 2009. We made a choice to live on the property even though no one ever had. With no well or water source of any kind on the property, we hauled water with a four-wheel drive suburban for over five years. Pulling a trailer carrying a three hundred gallon cage up a quarter mile long steep washed out dirt driveway after an hour and a half round trip drive wasn’t easy or cheap. The maintenance on the vehicles and trailers alone was hard enough to endure. Foul weather sometimes made ‘water runs’ impossible. I had considered selling family heirlooms, taking on another job, asking my wife to do the same, even giving up and selling out. Making the simple phone call to the Water Well Trust changed our standards of living and overall well being beyond measure. With absolutely no red tape or delay in qualification, we were able to contract the services and submit invoices with no trouble or out of pocket expenses whatsoever. We literally had running water within 30 days of our initial phone call. This opportunity we were blessed with is nothing shy of a miracle to us.”
USDA grant monies are used to provide long-term, low-interest loans to applicants seeking new or improved water wells. Funding is limited to a maximum of $11,000 per household. Loans have an interest rate of 1% with terms of up to 20 years.
In 2015, the WWT received a second USDA grant to drill new water wells or rehabilitate existing wells in 13 Georgia counties, including Colquitt, Grady, Hancock, Hart, Jones, Macon, Monroe, Murray, Twiggs, Warren, Washington, Wilcox and Worth. That grant is being used to fund at least 22 wells.
The Water Well Trust received a third USDA grant in 2016 for water well projects in seven central South Carolina counties, including Darlington, Lee, Marion, Sumter, Clarendon, Williamsburg, and Orangeburg, as well as three New York counties, including Delaware, Rensselaer and Columbia.
The Water Systems Council established the Water Well Trust in 2010 to provide clean, sanitary drinking water to Americans who lack access to a reliable water supply and to construct and document small community water systems using water wells to demonstrate that these systems are a cost effective solution for delivering safe drinking water to rural households.