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Published on July 26th, 2011 | by Jo Borrás

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BYU’s Human-powered Drill Brings Clean Water to Developing Nations

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July 26th, 2011 by  

A group of engineering students from Utah’s Brigham Young University have developed an inexpensive, portable, human-powered drilling rig capable of helping people in developing nations gain access to clean drinking water.

The human-powered drilling station was designed as part of a BYU “capstone” project that encourages engineering students to solve real engineering problems with real clients (in this case, the World Health Organization), with field tests of the design carried out in remote parts of Tanzania.  “At the end of our trip, it was exciting,” said Nate Toone (a graduate student of engineering at BYU and one of the students involved in the build), “… we were drilling in a farm of sandy soil and 70 feet down.  When we unhooked the pipes, there was a small little geyser (of water).  That was evidence to us we were successful.  It was the payoff moment … we had found clean water.”

BYU’s drill is powered by 4 people, and is capable of drilling wells up to 250 ft deep at a cost of just $2000 (US), compared to conventional well-diggers who charge between $10,000 and 15,000 (US) to do the same job, using petro-powered drillers, making the BYU project an emissions-free piece of tech that’s not only more environmentally responsible than the traditional alternative, but one that may also have the potential to help developing nations like Tanzania join countries like India, which plans to skip fossil fuels altogether.

You can check out the drill in action in the video, below.

Source | PhotosBYU, via LDS Church News.

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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Skype (jo.borras) or Google+.



  • Ajay sant

    Great technology at affordable price this product should be taken up by unicef to sell at even more cheper price into developing nations

  • Frank Hanlan

    One of the limitations that I see to implementing geothermal for individual houses is the cost of drilling. Other than the drilling it is basically plumbing. This looks like a great method for a much lower cost and could provide jobs with a small investment.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Good for Developing countries.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Nellore(AP),India

  • Ara

    Things like this will only worsen one of the problems… In most/all of these countries the groundwater level is already dropping, in some of them very rapidly. Giving easier access to make that happen will not help the situation in the medium-to-long run.

    • Jo Borras

      I’m not sure “groundwater level is low” is a good reason to let innocent children die of dehydration and diseases related to dirty and contaminated water.

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