Giving Water

Lakeside's Gregg Scott teaches Tanzanian villages how to build and maintain water wells

By Tristan Scott
Courtesy Gregg Scott

The most basic need in life is clean, available water.Gregg Scott, of Lakeside, knows this firsthand. Living beside the largest freshwater body of water west of the Mississippi, beside Flathead Lake, he also spends months out of the year in the East African country of Tanzania, a nation where one-third of the country is arid or semi-arid, making it difficult for its residents to find access to clean, sanitary water.

As a result, Tanzania’s ground water is the major source of water for the nation’s people; however it’s not always clean. Many of these ground water wells are located near or next to toxic drainage systems, which leak into the fresh ground water and contaminate it. Consequently, Tanzanians turn to surface water containing things like bacteria or human waste; and people have no choice but to drink from, bathe in or wash their clothes in these areas.

According to Tanzania National Website, water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera account for over half of the diseases affecting the population, because people don’t have access to sanitary options.

“It’s humbling stuff,” Scott said, having just returned from another stint in Tanzania, where he’s helped the residents of the rural Mwanamonga Village in the southwest corner of the country drill and maintain wells.

Scott has made four trips to the country – first to survey the conditions, then to provide relief, and now to help with development and infrastructure.

“These people are suffering considerably because they don’t have clean water,” he said. “You want to help them and just bring them water, but everything you do is working toward development. I work with them but I’m not there to do it for them. They have to learn the systems otherwise it’s not sustainable. They maintain the units when I go.”

When Scott first arrived in Tanzania, a project he raised money for and embarked on through Mission Builders International, he was struck by the rampant disease, the dearth of resources and the scarcity of clean water.

“It’s just part of life over there, but people die from it every day,” Scott said.

Such conditions are widespread in Tanzania, a country renowned for its wildlife, superb national parks and idyllic beaches but, with a population of more than 40 million, is one of the world’s poorest economies.

Malnutrition is rife, HIV affects 5.5 per cent of the population and diseases such as malaria, typhoid, cholera and bilharzia (caused by parasitic worms) are common.

On his first trip, he drilled four new wells and installed three pumps, including one at the local school, where there was no running water. The 450 students carried their own jugs of water to the school each day to drink and flush the toilets.

He recalls encountering three women carrying containers of water atop their heads, having walked a mile from an open-pit well. He was startled when he saw them smiling and laughing, and was impressed with their resolve.

“That was their third trip of the day. And they were laughing,” said Scott, who is originally from New Zealand. “That was their lot, mate.”

Scott has also collected medical supplies from Kalispell Regional Healthcare, and delivered containers of the supplies to the villages.

He said he intends to continue his work with the Tanzania Water Project, but that he hopes to enlist the interest and help of younger generations to carry on the work.

“I’ve been doing it for 17 years,” he said of the mission work. “It started off part time and it’s become very much full time.”

To contribute, send donations to P.O. Box 406, Lakeside, 59922, c/o Tanzania Water Project.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.