Locating Shallow Water Using Satellite Imagery

Since deep drilling is expensive and NGO resources limited, a shallow well approach was considered. Free satellite imagery is coupled with simple hand augers plus local labor to produce many shallow (less than 50 feet) boreholes. Shallow wells are replenished by rainwater faster than deep wells (200 to 600 feet), which can take centuries to recharge. 

The method used to find shallow water from satellite imagery was developed by Robert K. Vincent of Bowling Green State University. AWP provided 21 locations which produced from 2 to 6 potential sites in a 2 square mile scan. The first location was scanned on 1/21/11 at the Neema House compound in Geita, Tanzania. The most recent location was at Lake of the Woods in Southern California. Other locations were in Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland, and Ghana. The Lodwar, Kenya location had 6 potential sites, four of which already had active wells. But all the other locations have either not been pursued by local NGO’s, not been reported, or failed to produce water for other reasons. Even though a 50 foot hand dug well only takes 1 or 2 days to auger with favorable ground conditions, it has been difficult to get the digging started without being on-site.

Validation of the method has been the main goal, with beneficial shallow wells being secondary.  Once validated, the approach is easily replicated locally, since the hand augers can easily be manufactured locally, and a smart phone application could simplify the imagery process. AWP, while still pursuing the locations already mapped, is considering a scan in Niger which has already been analyzed extensively by Desert Research Institute and World Vision. If Dr. Vincent’s method spots the same shallow locations as a blind test, then a reverse validation would be made. Inexpensive grass roots well digging might spread faster than the conventional NGO driven deep well approach.