Six families in Rogers, Arkansas now have access to safe drinking water in their homes for the first time thanks to the financial assistance of the Water Well Trust. This national non-profit, created by the Water Systems Council, helps low income families who need safe drinking water to get wells. The drilling of four individual wells and one shared well was completed the beginning of June.
The six families have been hauling water to use in their homes and buying bottled water for drinking and cooking for over 15 years. This posed both a physical and financial hardship for the families. They originally believed their homes would have access to a public water supply but the lines were never built. The cost for extending public water service, an estimated $1.2 million, was prohibitive for both the families and water suppliers.
According to James Holland, pictured above, “Hauling water is dangerous. The weight of the tank can shift and easily cause a wreck. My family no longer has to worry and my children and their children will now have water, even after I am gone. This is a dream come true!” In the seventeen years Holland has been without access to safe water, he has hauled over 1.1 million gallons, has driven close to 32,000 miles to get the water and has spent nearly $31,000 on paying for the water, the gas, and the trucks it has taken to haul these heavy loads.
Rogers, Arkansas is located just outside of Bentonville, home of the Walmart corporate headquarters. According to Caroline Eastman of the Arkansas Department of Health, “Being out in what many consider to be affluent Benton County, it amazes me that there are still so many pockets of population that do not have access to clean water, either because they have contaminated wells, no wells, or no access to public water. I still have a lot of people who use spring water for their water supply, which may be contaminated.”
Marge Frazee, one of the homeowners benefiting from the new wells, decided there had to be an answer to the lack of a safe water supply for her family. In the summer of 2010, Frazee contacted Senator John Boozman’s office asking for assistance. Senator Boozman’s office in turn told Frazee to contact the free wellcare® Hotline operated by the Water Systems Council that offers answers to questions about wells, well water, and source water protection.
At the time Frazee contacted the wellcare® Hotline, the Water Systems Council was developing the new non-profit, the Water Well Trust. Frazee and her neighbors were just the kind of people the Water Systems Council had envisioned working with through the new non-profit.
Frazee was patient but persistent. She continued to bring the plight of her family and her neighbors to the attention of the Water Well Trust and Senator Boozman’s office. Finally last August, a representative from the Water Well Trust visited Rogers and met with Frazee, her neighbors, Caroline Eastman, and Kathryn Gough from Sen. Boozman’s Lowell office.
“Having access to a safe, clean and affordable supply of water is vital to maintaining our quality of life. These efforts provide citizens of Northwest Arkansas with a reliable source of water. I applaud Water Well Trust for its interest and commitment to pursing this initiative and delivering this basic need,” Sen. Boozman said.
It took another nine months to secure sufficient funding to get this project off the ground. This funding came from generous contributions from Water Systems Council members. The recipients qualified for loans and or loan/grant combinations to finance their new wells and drilling began. One grateful family put it this way “Thank you for all your hard work, time, and endless effort to get us water. This is amazing and truly life changing.”
Today there is clean, safe drinking water flowing in Frazee’s house. A jubilant Frazee explains “I thank God for the Water Well Trust. I truly believe this is part of God’s plan and an answer to prayer! Thank you for all your effort in helping us and others in this area.”
The work of the Water Well Trust has just begun. There are hundreds of households in this area of Arkansas living without access to safe drinking water. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1 million households, or 1.7 million Americans, that have inadequate or no safe water supply.