Visit to Water Project Sites in Ecuador
The trip to these two villages (a total of 10 water systems were installed by 6/12, by
clubs in Ecuador, CA and CT) takes about two hours, mostly due to traffic. The road
conditions are poor but improving. Quito is at a higher altitude at 2,850 meters while the
villages are in a subtropic zone at 900 meters. The Quito Norte Club has completed
over 60 water projects in the Pichincha area and has 10 more under contract. They are
now in the position where, despite their expertise in this area, they need to back off of
water projects simply because it is taking them too far out into the mountains and
getting volunteers to support the current effort is becoming a challenge.
There is a Quichua word, "minga", which means to call the community together to work
on an effort that benefits all. These projects utilize this process as we would be unable
to complete them without the communities assistance and commitment. One of the
villagers from Andoas told me with pride that when they call a minga, everyone
responds; men, women, children. "We never disagree when it comes to improving our
community"' she said.
Both of the water systems described below are constructed on remote, elevated sites in
order to use gravity and avoid the need for expensive and more high maintenance
pumping systems. One includes a sand filtration step due to the high content of
sediment and particulate at the source of the water supply. The other only cleans the
intake water as it is at a higher elevation and is much cleaner at the source. To be
eligible for this project, each community needed to have an existing water distribution
system that would get the treated water to most homes and community centers.
Rotarians took a health survey of each family in each town, handed out a one page
sheet which listed tips for appropriate use of clean water and hygiene. In addition, an
educational power point program on health and hygiene was developed for use with
school children. Community members were asked by Gustavo and I, on several
occasions, if these materials were being used. In general, residents appeared to be
familiar with the documents and using them. Rotarians will return to do a follow up
survey within two years to measure progress. In addition, a training session was
conducted by the engineer who installed the systems, for a few key residents in town, in
order to assure regular back flow cleansing and general maintenance. A simple "cheat
sheet" has been laminated and placed in each of the control houses.
Andoas is one of the smaller towns with a population of approximately 2,500 (20+
families - "we are very productive"). Their primary source of income is agriculture;
plantain, yucca, cacao, coffee and dairy farming. Previously, their water was only
filtered to remove larger sediment, through a large, shallow pool with sand at the base.
The water was very dirty and children were often sick and absent from school (see
previous presentation for more detailed data and analysis). Now, two treatment tanks
have been installed; one to treat the water (with aluminum sulfate) so that the process
of filtering sediment is facilitated and another to chlorinate ("clean") the water. While we
were there, they submitted a formal request for two additional projects; one to install a
simple system to clean the sand from the pool that is used for water filtration (currently
they remove all the sand, "wash" it and put it back in the pool on a weekly basis). It is a
very labor intensive process. The sand cleaning process they are recommending would
involve narrow gauge PVC pipe installation at the base of the pool to stir up the water
and allow for easier surface sifting. The other was to replace two toilets (20+ years old)
outside their community center and add more.
After inspecting their new potable water system, a small group of residents took us on a
tour of their town and treated us to Arepas (cheeses filled tortillas) and Quaker, a drink
made of naranjilla, water and oatmeal. The children showed us a project they were
completing using recycled products, the computer/homework "lab" had more broken
computers than usable ones (3). The town wants to add an eighth grade, received
approval, was able to accommodate the addition via a gift from the Japanese
government which allowed them to add a building but is waiting for the Ecuadorian
government to send teachers (not easy in remote areas).
This is a much larger community which is heavily dependent on tourism (river rafting,
hiking, birding, butterflies, chocolate). Their population can shift from 3,500 -
7,000/10,000 depending on tourism. They have two water systems which feed into the
municipal distribution system. The water they use is much cleaner at the source,
eliminating the need for filtration. However the collection/treatment facilities are at a
higher elevation, much more remote and difficult to access.
The needs and solutions related to clean water in poor rural communities are not "one
size fits all". Approaches need to be tailored to the existing distribution systems, quality
of the available water, size of the community and accessibility to the system. The
community must express need, be involved from the earliest stages of planning and
implementation and be trained to insure proper maintenance. Rotarians involved in
water projects should have a basic knowledge of the best and most appropriate
application of these systems. There is considerable knowledge and experience in
country which should be utilized (in particular Gustavo Alzate of the Quito Norte Club).
Emerging needs will likely focus on septic related projects.
For more information contact Cheryl Duey
Click here for a Powerpoint presentation of the project
Click here for an updated Powerpoint presentation including 2014 projects