The next two weeks went by slowly as the drillers dug inch-by-inch. The plan was for them to reach a depth of 100m, which was the estimation given to us by the surveys.
One minute, the sun beat down relentlessly on our heads, and the next, we were getting pummelled with rain. When it wasn’t raining, the women walked back and forth 2km from the Bubu river to bring water to the drillers to pour over the drill to keep it from overheating. The drilling turned rock to dust, and we watched the slow and mechanical process like it was a show.
The dust from the machine changed colour as they went deeper. Every ten feet, they added a long drill bit to extend the arm.
We waited and watched.
One day at the drilling site, the drillers had gone out to get more diesel, and while they were away, some of the younger boys showed up and started to fill a wagon attached to a motorcycle with sand from around the borehole site, which would then be used to make bricks. The drillers, however, were using the sand to make the cement that would be used in the construction of the tower, so when they showed up and found a bunch of it missing, they were furious and forced the boys to bring the sand back.
With the sand returned and fuel replenished, drilling started again. At a depth of 90m, the dust was wet and dark and water trickled to the surface. The drillers guessed that at this depth, in the worst case scenario, the well might produce 5000 litres/hour at the agreed 100m. In an eight hour day, that would be about 40,000 litres of water, or around twenty litres per person. Going deeper would produce more but, of course, cost more, so we had to get approval from Innovation: Africa. It didn’t take long for them to give us the go ahead to drill down another twenty meters.
The drillers went another ten meters the next day and water shot straight into the sky from the hole.
That evening, after the sun went down, and we were near 120 meters, the water streamed steadily out of the hole, and under the stars in the middle of a small village in Tanzania, the lives of a small group of people got a lot easier. I looked up at the night sky. The cicadas sang their songs while the moonlight reflected off the drilling rig like it was smiling back at me.
We were at the final depth of 120m and there was water.
A lot of water.