Delivering Wind Power to Produce Water

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Story Updated: Dec 20, 2011

Delivering Wind Power to Produce Water (342)

(NewsUSA) - Open a faucet, and fresh water will quench thirst. Turn a handle, and a shower will invigorate a person. But what if the tap was dry, and bringing water home were your job?

Almost one billion people around the world live this way. One in eight people does not have immediate access to clean water, or "blue gold," and lugging it home for miles often is the only option.

Within the next 10-20 years, worldwide demand for fresh water could outstrip supply by 20 percent. It soon could cost more than oil.

Growing up in Greenwald, Minnesota, Daniel Ohmann was acquainted with pumping water. Windmills were found on most farms. His father installed many windmills to pump water before electricity reached the area.

Years later, as a Maryknoll priest in Tanzania, Father Ohmann thought about the windmills as women carried five-gallon water buckets on their heads six miles from a river. Drought is common in Africa. Villagers often can be seen scooping murky water from makeshift wells in scorched riverbeds.

"You don't need to be here long to see that water is the number-one need in this part of Africa," said Father Ohmann. The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is the overseas mission society of the U.S. Catholic Church founded during 1911.

When Minnesota farmers converted to electricity, many donated their windmills to Father Ohmann. Others were purchased from Nebraska, Australia and South Africa to support Tanzania's initiative to ensure all homes had access to water. Government inefficiencies, though, eventually closed the windmills for 15 years.

Father Ohmann was committed to get them pumping again, and more were installed. Twenty windmills now provide water to 18 villages. Each fills a 2,000-gallon tank, and water can be used to irrigate gardens and orchards. A fully installed system today costs about $20,000.

"People enjoy better health in the villages served by clean water," said Father Ohmann. "Diarrhea and cholera, once common, are now rare."

For more information about the work of Maryknoll missioners such as Father Ohmann, visit http://www.maryknollsociety.org. Follow Maryknoll on Twitter (http://twitter.com/MaryknollNews) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/maryknollsociety).