Water Well Project Benefits Texas Family in Need
By Susan O’Grady
Relocating to be closer to relatives, Luis and Nancy Salazar moved their family to a small plot of land in Bulverde, TX, near San Antonio, nearly 25 years ago. Over time, the Salazars made the property their home, but like many low-income, rural Americans, access to a reliable, clean water source eluded the family. Caring for their daughter Nissi (who has cerebral palsy) on the Salazar’s modest income hindered the family’s ability to finance and build a well. For more than two decades, the Salazars made do with sharing water from the well located on the neighboring property owned by Nancy’s parents. “My parents have been gracious,” said Nancy. “But they have their limits.”
Because of the shared well’s limited yield, the idea of a long, hot shower was a luxury. The Salazars could neither plant a garden nor wash their cars. “I’ve never known what it’s like to have really good water pressure,” said Nissi Salazar. “I’ve never known what it’s like to take a nice hot shower—like a really nice, hot shower. It’s just not part of my life.” As Nancy’s parents grew older, they began urging the Salazars to dig their own well, fearing that when they passed away, the family would no longer have a source of water.
In February 2019, Nancy began researching how to finance a private residential well. During a Google search, she came across the website for the Water Well Trust (WWT), a non-profit arm of the Water Systems Council established to provide wells for low-income Americans who do not have a safe drinking-water supply. When Nancy initially called the office, she was told the WWT did not have funding for projects in Texas and she was placed on a waiting list. Around the same time, a major water treatment equipment manufacturer contacted the WWT to express interest in volunteering on a water well project in Texas. The WWT immediately called Nancy, who filled out an online application. Shortly thereafter, the Salazar family qualified for a grant due to their need and income status.
A group effort
The equipment manufacturer enlisted help from an area pump distributor who assembled a team of volunteers and helped coordinate product donations from several manufacturers. A local contractor provided drilling services at a discounted labor rate and additional materials for the new well. An executive for the pump distributor commented on the eagerness of people to donate their time, services or funds. “It was surprising how many people were looking for an opportunity to help,” he said.
In July 2019, a crew from the drilling contractor assessed the Salazar property and identified the best location for the well. Geology and underground water levels ultimately dictated the need for a 500-foot (152-meter) well. Along with product donations secured by the pump distributor, the equipment manufacturer provided the well pump, control box and holding tank for the project and supported the WWT with a $5,000 grant through its corporate citizenship program.
The well was outfitted with a 7-gpm (26-L/m) 1.5-HP, 4-inch (10.16-cm) submersible pump, a control box and an 83.5-gallon (316-liter) tank. Crews also laid down more than 400 feet (121 meters) of new piping and 500 feet of new electrical wiring. To prevent damage to the motor and pump, a pump protection unit was installed to protect against dry well conditions, low and high voltage, over- and under-current, rapid cycling, dead-heading and jammed impeller.
A cost-effective alternative
Overall, with assistance from WWT and the equipment manufacturer, as well as donations of products and services, the final project cost came in around $6,500. In contrast, hooking up to the closest public water supply would have cost nearly $85,000. “This project is a perfect example of why the Water Supply Costs Savings Act is so important,” said Margaret Martens, Executive Director, WWT. “Signed into law in 2016, the act aims to reduce local, state and federal costs of providing high-quality drinking water to millions of Americans in rural communities by increasing the use of cost-effective alternatives such as water well systems.”
Making a lasting impact
Following the installation of the new well system, more than 35 volunteers joined together to clean up the Salazar’s yard and build a chicken coop for the family’s flock of chickens. The cleanup effort involved hauling away scrap metal and bringing other debris to the local dump during a record heat wave with temperatures hovering around 100°F (37°C). After spending five days helping the Salazar family, project volunteers left with a strong sense of fulfillment, having shared their skills and expertise to help a deserving family in need, all the while building relationships and making a meaningful impact on the community.
The Salazar family is beyond grateful to have access to safe, clean water on their property for the first time ever. “Water is freedom, freedom and independence,” said Nancy.
About the author
Susan O’Grady is Director of Marketing at Xylem Inc. and has more than 20 years of experience in the residential and agriculture pump market. She consistently works to make a positive impact on the water quality industry through Watermark, Xylem’s corporate citizen program. O’Grady holds degrees from Pepperdine University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. As an active member of the Water Systems Council, she partnered with Water Well Trust Executive Director Margaret Martens to oversee the Holly Ridge water well project with the help of Xylem’s Goulds Water Technology, Merrill Drilling & Water Resources in Penrose and Hughes Supply in Statesville.
About the company
Xylem (XYL) is a leading global water technology company committed to developing innovative technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. The company’s products and services move, treat, analyze, monitor and return water to the environment in public utility, industrial, residential and commercial building services settings. Xylem also provides a leading portfolio of smart metering, network technologies and advanced infrastructure analytics solutions for water, electric and gas utilities. The company’s more than 16,500 employees bring broad applications expertise with a strong focus on identifying comprehensive, sustainable solutions. Headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, with 2017 revenue of $4.7 billion, Xylem does business in more than 150 countries through a number of market-leading product brands. The name Xylem is derived from classical Greek and is the tissue that transports water in plants, highlighting the engineering efficiency of a water-centric business by linking it with the best water transportation of all: that which occurs in nature. For more information, please visit www.xylem.com.