The opportunity to purchase deep well drilling equipment in 2018 made it possible for Mano a Mano to respond to urgent requests from communities such as San Benito. Its residents, like those of many similar communities throughout Bolivia’s Andean region, have been plagued by drought for the past several years. Those who live in these communities eke out a meager living as subsistence farmers, earning an average annual family income of about $400. In recent years, many communities in these areas had no local access to drinking water during the months of August through November.

In order to continue living in their communities, families had to purchase trucked-in water at an average cost of $170.00 per family for the four-month period ($42.50 per month). “Water is life”, they said. “We have no choice. Without water we cannot live”.

Photo of parched field taken near the Laguna Sulti area in 2017.

More that 30 of these communities have approached Mano a Mano with requests that we drill deep wells in partnership with them, so they could access water for drinking, watering their few domestic animals, and for family gardens.

2 Newly Completed Wells in Cliza (Late 2022)

The rural town of Cliza lies in the Andean Valley of Cochabamba, an area traditionally named the “bread basket” of Bolivia, producer of corn, wheat, potatoes and quinoa. Over 80% of its 24,000 residents are subsistence farmers who cultivate 1-2 acres and raise a few domestic animals. Increasingly dry years during the past decade have resulted in their determination to locate water that they hope will save the communities of the Cochabamba Valley.

Mano a Mano has recently completed 2 new deep wells in the community of Cliza:

  1. Lavenderia
  2. Cancha Municipal

Lavenderia Deep Water Well

The 280-foot deep well drilled in the “Lavanderia” area of Cliza in October 2022.

Cliza’s “Lavanderia” (the Spanish word for laundry), located in the town center, has an open space in which women have gathered to wash clothes for many years. As plans for the new well developed, the mayor’s office built laundry tubs into which water can be pumped. Now over 1,000 Cliza families access water from the “Lavanderia” well for drinking, watering their animals and gardens, and washing their clothes.

The location for the well site is more centrally located and it is right next to the community laundry facility built by the municipality of Cliza.

Cancha Municipal Deep Water Well in Cliza

Location of the recently completed well in the Cancha Municipal zone of the rural town of Cliza

Nuevo Mundo completed drilling a second well in Cliza in December. This 300-foot deep water well also serves about 1,000 families. Cancha (Spanish word for court) refers to the town’s public basketball court.

Drilling the deep well in Cancha Municipal, Cliza.

Every Mano a Mano Project Belongs to the Community

As with all Mano a Mano projects, the wells belong to the communities themselves. Essentially all Bolivian Andean communities have long-standing communal processes for making decisions related to access to and use of water.

The Well Drilling Process

To successfully drill a well in these rocky regions, a drill must have capacity to not only bore to the depth of the water table but also to flush broken rock and heavy sludge up to the surface. Our Bolivian counterpart organization Nuevo Mundo followed these steps to complete the well:

  1. Mano a Mano geologist and engineer determined the geological make-up of the site, depth and amount of water available in the area (the point at which they feel confident that sufficient water is available).
  2. Municipal engineer completed an environmental impact study and gave permission to proceed.
  3. Nuevo Mundo machine operators drove the drill machine and support trucks to the site and set them up.
  4. Once positioned and set up, operators drilled a permanent bore hole of 8 – 12” in diameter, taking into account underground storage capacity of the gravel/rock that will surround the casing within the bore hole.
  5. When the boring was complete, operators, with assistance from community residents, installed the casing, piping and pump.
  6. Together, they then filled the bore hole with selected gravel, thus protecting the casing and the walls of the bore hole and keeping the submersible pump free from of dirt.
  7. Gradually, water seeps into the gravel area, which serves as a filter as well as additional water storage capacity.
  8. Community residents established water distribution norms.

Drilling a Mano a Mano well, step by step.

Heavy Equipment & Repairs

One component that makes much of this work possible is the heavy equipment that we own. We are able to better partner with communities because we have well-trained staff and the equipment needed to complete water reservoirs, water wells, roads, airstrips, and other large-scale infrastructure projects. This video looks at the importance of our heavy equipment with our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo:

This is a “tricone 8.5-inch” drill bit. This bit pictured here has drilled 1.5 Mano a Mano deep wells, and our engineer estimates that it will be able to drill 2 more wells before it needs to be replaced. Drill bits do not last long drilling in the rocky mountainous regions our projects are located (and are not cheap either!).

The Well Drilling Process: Step By Step in Pictures

Not pictured below are the regular community meetings; Mano a Mano’s engineer determining the geological make-up of the site, depth and amount of water available in the area (the point at which they feel confident that sufficient water is available); the municipal engineer completing an environmental impact study and giving permission to proceed; securing sufficient funding in the US for the project; community residents establishing water distribution norms; or the many repairs and purchases needed to support Mano a Mano’s equipment and staff that make these projects possible.

Transporting our well drilling equipment from Mano a Mano’s Cochabamba warehouse to the well drilling site.

Equipment set up and leveled at well site.

Driller and assistant unload bentonite and prepare to begin drilling.

Adjusting the drilling rig.

Preparing bentonite mix.

Cutting water filtering slots into pipes.

Drilling the well.

Delivering the pre-selected gravel.

Filling the bore hole with gravel around the pipe.

Widening the bore hole.

Flushing the new well.

Training from Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA)

Students from Cochabamba’s Universidad Mayor de San Simon in collaboration with Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture, rode buses to Laguna Sulti, carrying different species of plants selected for their minimal use of water. Along with local volunteers, they planted their selections along the banks of the reservoir.

The benefiting families receive training from our Center for Ecological Agriculture on:

  • Maintaining the wells
  • Farming practices that maximize efficient use of water
  • How to plant and care for family gardens
  • Raising healthy livestock
  • Good nutrition and hygiene

Farmers Throughout the Cochabamba Valley Pray for Rain

Praying for rain in San Pedro Parrish, Aiquile, Cochabamba Valley. Photo from Los Tiempos – November 2022.

Laguna Sulti farmers scan the sky daily, searching for hints of rain clouds…and they too pray for rain. These farmers drew most of their reservoir’s water to irrigate last year’s crops while the reservoir was being expanded. Past experience led them to be confident that, even in an unusually dry year, seasonal rains would replenish it. Traditionally, their rainy season begins in November, or at least by December. This year, now nearing the end of January, not a drop of rain has fallen.

Top: the Laguna Sulti reservoir currently, with no rain having fallen this season yet.
Bottom: the Laguna Sulti reservoir one year ago.

Mano a Mano is expanding its training on efficient use of the Cochabamba Valley’s most precious natural resource: its water.

How Mano a Mano Partners With Bolivian Communities to Provide Access to Water

Learn More About Mano a Mano Water Projects