Damien and I built a water tank in the village of Hilisaloo, in the early months of 2012. Below are some pictures, before, during, and after construction. There are more details after the photos.

  • The original watering hole

Next Water Tank Project

Our next water tank project will be at this site (in the photo) on an offshoot of the village of Bawagosali. Damien’s father-in-law owns the land, and promises to agree (in writing) to free access for the 30 households and 100 people that live nearby.This offshoot is a dauntingly far walk (e.g., 1km) from the water tank in the main village, and water only trickles from the tank, further reducing its appeal. Many villagers visit a nearby stream for water, but this is also used partly for bodily functions, creating all the dangers of mixing drinking water and sewage.

Construction wise, the size of the spring is similar to the water tank we built at Hilisaloo. So we are expecting the cost to be about the same as before–about $5000-5500.

The Water Tank at Hilisaloo

The village has about 70 families and 300 people. Before, their spring was a mud hole some way off by foot from the village center. Which is not very appealing as a water source! In the wet season, the villagers can collect rain water and avoid the walk. In the dry season (six months of the year), the spring is essential, but discouragingly far off, in which case dirty water becomes all too tempting. The tank stabilizes the water supply, keeps the water relatively clean, and offers an attractive place to collect water, bathe, and do laundry. In the dry season the villagers now visit roughly twice per day.

Damien is regularly adding small amounts of bleach to the tank, in order to reduce the risks of water-borne diseases. (By the way, we rich-worlders have the same thing done for us automatically!)


As you can see from the photos, the tank is made of cement. The villagers and chief hate the idea of fiberglass. I confirmed with the Indonesian International Labor Organization office on Nias that cement is a good way to go.

The tank cost was was about $5700. A breakdown of materials and labor costs is here. That was about $500 over our initial budget because of rain delays and erosion–a hazard of construction in the wet season!! We learned various things that we can do in the future to prevent erosion if or when we opt to build in the wet season again.

While we hired skilled and unskilled laborers for the main construction process, the villagers collectively gathered sand, rocks, and gravel from the surrounding area. This significantly reduced the cost of materials and their transportation to the site. Where possible, we will ask for a similar contribution in the future (if only so that the tank is a truly joint project).

Fruits of the Effort

As noted on the blog, here, Damien leveraged the success of this project by getting local officials to give the village electricity! The local officials visited the tank and were impressed. When Damien later pestered and pleaded with them, they put in power lines and made promises (as yet unfulfilled) about construction of a road. Three cheers to Damo the lobbyist!

In general, Damien and I have great relations with local officials. They’ve promised their support for our endeavors, even when they can’t directly help.

Back in Hilisaloo, the chief and elders say that our efforts “opened their eyes” to the importance of water issues. They had a sense of that before, but now see it as of the utmost importance, a matter of life and death. (Which isn’t to say they have the money to do much about it on their own, beyond raising awareness among the villagers.)

Further Needs

After the tank was completed, Damien was visited by five other village chiefs who asked if we would build a water tank for them. There are a lot more similar villages that also need water tanks nearby. Plenty of work to do!

Water Tanks