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Water hunters drill deep into island

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Wet mud around a drilling machine at the head of a valley on St Helena
Mud lark: drilling for water for St Helena’s airport

Building St Helena’s first airport is evidently thirsty work. Quite apart from what the workers might drink, there’s the small matter of three MILLION litres of water that the airport itself is expected to consume during construction.

drill at work in woods
SHG’s trailer-based drill can work in hard-to-reach places

Crews are drilling boreholes to supply the airport and also the island’s own future need for fresh water. The island is said to have adequate supply for the next ten years, but new sources are likely to be be needed after that.

It’s been frustrating work for the team brought in by St Helena Government (SHG).

The first borehole at Ladies’ Bath, next to Plantation House, was unstable and abandoned. A second one in Harper’s Valley was drilled to 92.5 metres, but had too little water. The third, at Willowbank, reached 70 metres and is “very promising”.

A contractor for the airport project has been drilling boreholes in Rupert’s Valley, Fisher’s Valley and Prosperous Bay Plain, with plans to move into Dry Gut in August. It is hoped that 20 boreholes will be enough to supply the airport’s needs.

Water spurts from a new bore hole
There she blows: 20 boreholes are being drilled for the airport work

If not, a desalination plant will have to be set up on the island so that airport construction firm Basil Read can use sea water instead.

Deon De Jager, the company’s island director, said: “So far we have found water in most of the boreholes but we have not done any yield testing.

“The contract makes provision to use sea water in the inner core of the fill – and the balance will come from desalination.”

A management plan should avoid too much water being taken out of the ground.

(All information and images supplied by St Helena Government)

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