SOUTH JORDAN — Anyone visiting the unremarkable backyard of John Renouard is bound to notice a large, steel machine standing at the edge of the flower garden. The machine is painted blue and yellow and lacks any engines or electronic parts.
But what isn’t apparent at first glance are the millions of people across the globe who now have access to clean water, all thanks to this prototype.
The machine is called the “Village Drill,” one of many models envisioned by Renouard and developed by BYU students six years ago.
The drill is human-powered, easy to build and, most importantly, capable of drilling up to 295 feet into the ground. That’s deep enough to reach clean, unpolluted groundwater almost anywhere in the world.
“The idea is to get water to the people,” Renouard said. “Right now, this is the best tool to do that.”
He and his team at WHOlives, a nonprofit group in South Jordan, have built 55 drills in 25 countries over the past six years. They brought a second drill into Renouard’s backyard for a demonstration to media on Friday.
“There’s very few moving parts, and there’s very few things that could break,” Renouard said. “The worst that could happen is it could fall out of the back of a truck and get ran over. But it’s almost all steel, so it would probably still work.”
WHOlives estimates more than 1.2 million people can get clean water through wells dug by the Village Drill.
But Renouard is quick to point out that his teams are not the ones digging the wells. Instead, they train local villagers on how to use the Village Drill so they “create this business and become sustainable.”
“We want to empower the people in these developing countries,” he said. “And they really do come together as a village.”
Dream come true
Renouard describes himself as the “furthest thing from an engineer,” but that “the Lord needed somebody dumb enough not to know that (the Village Drill) wouldn’t work.”
The idea of the drill came to him in a dream after his family visited a poverty-stricken village in Tanzania. He described watching a large group of kids at an orphanage sipping from a single glass of water. Renouard thought the glass might be part of a religious sacrament. Later, he learned that the orphanage could only afford one pitcher of clean water a day.
“The problem was so…