Millions of people are exposed to arsenic in drinking water in West Bengal, India, and neighboring Bangladesh. Project Well (2001) has developed a sustainable, community-based program to provide arsenic-safe drinking water. Traditional dugwells, modified to reduce potential bacterial contamination, are constructed at carefully selected sites. The shallow dugwells are packed with coarse sand around the annular space to enhance groundwater storage and also act as a filter. The dugwells are fed by rain water and are therefore not contaminated with arsenic. Wells are also protected from external contamination by a net cover and a tin roof. Water is chlorinated regularly and withdrawn via traditional hand-pumps. For pictures, published reports and newsletters, please access www.projectwellusa.org.
Project Well has constructed 112 dugwells and has been monitoring the project, through monthly surveillance, for efficient use of the dug wells. The geology of the arsenic contaminated area is carefully studied and well depth is chosen accordingly. Every year the design is improved based on consumer reports. In 2008, a newly designed dug bore well was introduced with success: it is deeper and provided water to 75 people in May, the driest month of the year. In 2009, 15 additional dug bore wells were constructed.
The new users are trained for a year on dugwell maintenance, including disinfectant application. No reports of diarrheal disease have been received from consumers; on the contrary, there have been reports on improvements in health, and demand of dugwells in some areas have increased.
Project Well helped Blue Planet Run organize the trip for the movie "Water: A Clear Solution" in 2004, and jointly fundraised with BPR through participation in the San Francisco Marathon in 2009.