Water for Mount Zion
Written by Mette Bjergbæk Klausen

Plan A, plan B, plan C, and then back to plan A!

Ever since we began looking at the site for Mount Zion, the question on how to get water to the centre has been in focus. It may sound surprising, that water should be an issue, as large parts of Sierra Leone are covered by rainforests, and the annual rainfall is measured in meters. But nevertheless, this is the case. We cannot run a retreat and training centre without providing water, both for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning, and watering the test fields and gardens.

The problem with the Mount Zion site is, as the name should imply, that it is in the mountains. The plot itself is a bit steep, and the ground is full of huge boulders. Well-drillers in Sierra Leone must rely on luck, choose a promising spot, drill and hope for the best. If you hit rock there is no way of knowing if it’s just a boulder and you should try again a few meters away, or if you have hit the bedrock. Well-drilling friends simply advised us. “You will end up with a lot of deep and expensive holes and a with very little chance of finding water”, was the judgment.

So, we continued to … plan B, considering laying pipes from the Congo Dam four kilometres away in a direct line. This would be a rather dubious solution, as the thin plastic pipes run over pathways and roads, – and the many leaking pipes found in the area clearly tells how fragile this system is.

Plan C is even worse, as that would make us dependent on water trucks bringing up a steady supply. My imagination does not allow me to consider all the possible complications that could arise from this. The following two should be enough to highlight the problem.

Freetown is a rapidly growing city, and the demand for water is huge. During the dry season, there is a perpetual water shortage. We would be close enough to Freetown to have to rely on their supply chain, but far enough away to be a less attractive customer for the water companies – unless we would be ready to pay in abundance.

The next big issue is the quality of the water brought, as there is no knowing where it is being collected. A myriad of bacteria is to be expected – but the possibility of a whole arsenal of chemical remnants should not be neglected either. These are not happy thoughts. Even so, we were forced to face the realities. On full capacity, we will have close to 100 residents at the centre, and they need water. All-year-round. So, it must be Congo Dam, supplemented with trucks.
Or that was how it was until a wonderful opportunity suddenly opened: A good friend from the EMI (Engineering Ministries International) came across a man from a well-drilling mission at a conference in New York. They talked, and our friend found out that these people work in Sierra Leone. The introduction was made, and we became familiar with the World Hope International.

Their team came to the site with a truck full of fancy gadgets, did their survey with electrodes spread out on the ground and impulses sent into the depth. This equipment is fairly new and very expensive, and they are the only users in the country. Through this survey, they were able to determine an 80% chance of water in 70 meters depth. They cannot give any guarantee water, nor the amount available, as some sediments can cheat the readings. But the result is very encouraging. Thus, plan A has suddenly opened again!

Better still, they will be able to test the yield of the well when they begin drilling, test that the water quality is in order, chlorinate the shaft, and then seal the well so thoroughly, that we could have clean drinking water for the whole centre, – if all goes well. We could need your prayers here!

In a couple of weeks, the team will be back to examine, if we would get the same reading in the upper corner of the plot, which would be the preferred location for the well, as the risk of contamination from wastewater would be less there. We expect them to begin the construction of the well and installation of the pump in February 2020.

We are so grateful for the immense help of EMI and for World Hope International and all the good work they do.