Posted by: Wasrag | April 19, 2014

Water Missions International serves as implementation partner with Rotary clubs to bring sustainable safe water solution

After a 30 minute boat ride down the Amazon River from the city of Iquitos, Peru, the six member Rotary GSE Team from South Carolina, along with the local Iquitos Rotarians reached the entrance to a tributary creek that would take them to the village of Centro Union Aucayo. During normal times, navigating this winding creek through the Peruvian Amazon jungle would be easy, but these were not normal times.  The Amazon River was at its highest level in 60 years, around two feet above normal seasonal flood levels affecting an estimated 200,000 people. The water had engulfed the natural jungle navigational markers.

After 45 minutes of winding through the jungle, their wooden boat finally arrived. The team was greeted at the “port” of Centro Union Aucayo by locals who were excited to see them, especially the Iquitos Rotarians. The Iquitos Rotarians, with the help of the Lakewood Ranch Florida Rotarians, and Water Missions International (WMI) were in the implementing stages of a Rotary International Matching Grant Project that was bringing safe water to this community.

The team immediately went to the local community school where class was in session. After some warm greetings the Rotarians pointed the team’s attention to the corner of the classroom and everyone was quickly reminded of the work that they had come to do.

In the corner was a small container with one red cup and a spigot.  The team saw a pitcher of what appeared at first glance to be apple juice or tea. It was water from the creek, the water that these children and the rest of this community drank every day. The team took some of the water back to the WMI Peru office and ran a sample through a membrane filtration test. E.coli bacteria was present.

Centro Union Aucayo had existing infrastructure in place. There was a run-down water tower with a distribution network and tap stands throughout the community constructed by a previous NGO with a diesel powered pump. The NGO had provided filters to clean the water, but no method of disinfection to eliminate micro-biological contaminates. Clear water might have appeared safe to drink, but this community needed their water filtered and disinfected.

This community did not have the financial resources to purchase diesel fuel needed to fuel the pump.  A gallon of diesel fuel could cost as much as seven U.S. dollars. Rotary and WMI knew that the commitment to operate and sustain the water system was present in the community.

There are many different aspects to sustainability including the community’s ability to financially sustain the system. The additional seven dollars of daily diesel fuel cost was more than this community could afford.  A diesel powered solution was not a sustainable one.

Luckily, WMI had experience implementing hundreds of safe water projects using Solar World panels. With SolarWorld, and Grundfos as strategic partners, WMI was able to install Solar World panels and a Grundfos solar powered pump that would keep daily operating costs under three dollars a day, something the community could sustain.

A Rotary International Matching Grant was approved for the implantation of a solar powered safe water project and rehab repairs were done for the old infrastructure.  In addition concentrated community development efforts were initiated.

During the project implementation an issue arose. Although the original scope assumed that the creek would be the raw water source, further analysis revealed it was high in organic matter or tannin, which could lead to difficulties in the treatment process. A new water source was needed. Two US Air Forces officers stationed in Charleston, SC donated the additional funds required to drill a new well in the community.

Kids at pumpR1With funds secured, well drilling was completed and the solar panels and submersible pump were installed.  Water was then piped to the tower.  A Living Water™ Treatment System (LWTS™) essentially a miniature water treatment plant including filtration and chlorine disinfection was installed at the base of the tower, with the community assisting throughout the process.

“Every day, more than 5,000 children around the world die from water-borne disease,” said Ron Myers, member of Lakewood Ranch’s Rotary club. “Our club is driven by human understanding of this global crisis and our desire to help people around the world lead better, healthier lives.” Mr. Myers and fellow Floridian Rotarians visited the project in Peru last year to witness the ongoing operation and report back to their club.

Two years after installation, WMI Peru staff and the Iquitos Rotary Club are in the final stages of a structured monitoring and follow-up period. This phase has allowed for continued support through initial challenges, a necessity for ensuring sustainability.  Dollars collected through water sales have been used for operating expenses and minor repairs and the community currently has money in savings for future repairs.  Quarterly quality tests indicate that the water is free of microbiological containments resulting in a dramatic decrease in diarrhea among children.

The community of Centro Union Aucayo is the perfect example of where an implementation process focusing on community development, education and partnership, combined with technology can achieve sustainable safe water in the most remote regions.

Seth Womble is the VP of Operations for Water Missions International, a non-profit Christian Engineering organization located in Charleston, SC.  Seth can be reached at swomble@watermissions.org or 843-769-7395.

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Responses

  1. well done Dear Rotarian


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