OHIO — For most people, having safe, clean water running through their homes is as easy as turning on the faucet.
It’s a basic right that can be taken for granted until it becomes unavailable.
It’s estimated that more than 2 million Americans face water insecurity and don’t have a reliable source of clean water.
However, one organization out of Ohio is helping people across the country turn on the faucet again, for free.
It’s estimated that about 40 million Americans rely on private wells for their water.
Many people live in rural or underserved parts of the country.
The cost to repair or replace, or completely dig a new well can be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 and beyond.
Keith Yeager has been drilling wells in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky for a very long time.
“My family has been in the water well industry in the state of Ohio since the 1940s. I’m a fourth-generation well driller. I started working with my dad when I was eleven years old,” Yeager said.
He’s seen it all and said many times people are shocked to find out just how much a new well can cost.
By then, it becomes an emergency,
“Most people have about $1,000 in their bank account and it’s a surprise to them when something from 50 or 60 years ago goes bad,” he said.
Yeager drills wells, but he’s also a pastor and believes in helping people.
He, along with other contractors, scientists and water experts from across the country, is part of the National Groundwater Association.
Headquartered in Ohio, the group helped launch a new program called Water Well Wish.
“It’s not just a helping hand, it’s a hand up,” Yeager said.
CEO Terry Morse heads up the organization in the main office near Columbus, Ohio.
“There’s different government grant programs out there that help individuals, low income, but what we’re wanting to do is take a step below that and help the families that can’t afford those loans that lack the access to clean water,” Morse said.
The new program works with families across the country to repair or replace the wells at zero cost.
Isha Neal and her family live in Polk City, Florida.
She’d lived in the rural community her entire life.
They’re one of the first families on the list to receive a new well.
Since costs are so high, they’ve had to find ways around getting clean water.
“It’s just different than being able to click your faucet on and have the water just running all day, every day. We’ve had to depend on jugs of water. We’re blessed to have good neighbors that help us with water,” Neal said.
Washing dishes, hands, clothes and taking baths should be a little easier now,
“I don’t think we would have been able to do it as fast as we needed. I’m so excited! I’m literally speechless. It feels so good to be getting a well and have running water running through the house,” she said.
It’s a feeling that comes from generosity and people who care.
“We’re doing this all through private donations, corporate, and individual donations. We’re not supported by any type of government grant. So there’s a need out there,” Morse said.
For Yeager, as a pastor and a professional, being able to drill a well for a family in need is a rewarding feeling that never gets old.
“To see that relief on their face and just hear happiness in their voice, it’s a great feeling,” he said.
The National Groundwater Association says they’ll drill as many wells as they can based on the amount of money they can raise.
For a family to qualify for the ‘Water Well Wish’ program, they must own and live in their home, their income must be below the local poverty level, and they must have been denied a low-interest loan through a federal, state or local government rural water program.