EWB-UW Ecuador Project Blog: Visit our blog to stay up to date
Aviah Stillman Will Caldwell
Past Project Managers:
Bailey Flannigan Anna Sailor
The community we are working in, Tabuga, is located on the coast of Ecuador due west of Quito. The community of about 500 people does not have access to clean drinking water, and they obtain their water from streams that feed two open cisterns, which are highly contaminated with e-coli and dead animals. Over the next few years, we will be remediating or implementing a water distribution system to bring potable water to their community.
Archived Updates: See our blog for the most recent updates
As of now, the piping of one section of the community has been reworked and replaced with new PVC pipes. Valves and pressure gauges have been installed in key places of the system to allow better monitoring and maintenance of the system and a chlorination system has been installed to disinfect the water from harmful bacteria. Finally, float controls have been placed inside the water storage cistern and wired to the well pump to ensure there is always water in the system.
March 2015 Update
Following our successful assessment trip in January, we are now drafting designs and are planning to travel to implement in August. The current objectives include removing biological and mineral contaminants and improving piping layout
We returned from our second assessment trip in Tabuga, Ecuador in January where we collected water data and finished a site survey of the town. This trip was a crucial step in developing our trustworthy relationship with members of the community and maintaining strong communication with them. We held meetings with the townspeople, and led workshops at both the high school and elementary school. In addition, we suggested immediate changes that the water committee could add that would serve as a short-term improvement of the system before we return in August for a large-scale implementation. This semester we will take the data we collected over the past two years and design a system that will meet the growing needs of the community and provide a clean and reliable source of water.
EWB-Ecuador just got back from their second assessment trip in Tabuga, Ecuador. Overall the trip was a success; our main goals on this trip included creating a complete survey of the town, continuing water data collection, and implementing our education program. We also held important meetings within the community and with local government officials.
As part of our education initiative, we reached out to students and held a workshop at both the elementary and high school for the first time. At the elementary school, students designed their own water filtration system, and performed a hands-on experiment filtering dirty water. With the high school students, we used 3M Petrifilm plates to test water for aerobic, coliform, and E.coli contamination. These workshops were a success, and students were really excited about what we had to show them. We hope this urges students to play a bigger role in the clean water initiative in Tabuga.
With the help of our two professional mentors, Dave and John, we were able to efficiently survey the major roads in Tabuga and determine the factors contributing to the failure of the distribution system in place. In addition to that, we collected water data daily, and sent samples to the State Hygiene Lab.
Before the end of our trip, we left Ingeniero Martinez (our main community contact) recommendations based on our observations of the current system. He accepted and understood everything we had to say, and we will continue to be in close contact to monitor any changes that they may implement before our next trip.
This semester we will take all the data collected on the January 2015 trip and use it to design a system that meets the needs of Tabuga residents and the demands of the growing population. We plan to travel once again in August to implement the updates needed for the distribution system to function properly.
This month has been filled with travel preparations for the upcoming trip in January. The team has recently been writing final design reports, travel protocol documents, and a long-term education initiative focused on working with the elementary and high school kids in the community. We will take 2 professional mentors and 6 students with us to collect water data, survey the community, and implement our education plan in the school system. The rest of this month will be dedicated to collecting materials and practicing for the trip ahead of us!
With our second assessment trip in January fast-approaching, this semester has been packed with preparation. We are currently working toward determining a preliminary design for the system to propose before the community. This design will take into account the surveying data taken on our first assessment trip, the water testing data previously collected, community health statistics from the municipal hospital, population projections, cost projections, and a feasibility analysis of the current system. Additionally, we are working toward launching an educational initiative in Tabuga’s elementary school, which would teach kids about their water system and the importance of clean water. While in-country, we will meet with the kids at the elementary school and talk to them about the project and about ways they can help keep the system sustainable in the future. We hope that including people of all ages in the education of the community on this system will cause this information to trickle into all generations of the community.
Since September, we have been busy organizing our team. We have a huge number of new members this semester, which has been both helpful and challening, and we have re-organized our sub-groups to better-distribute work and more efficiently meet our goals. We now have sub-groups in the category of Water Quality, Education/Communication, Cistern/Water Treatment Design, Distribution System Design, AutoCAD, and Grant Writing. These subgroups work closely together, their leaders meeting once biweekly to receive updates and thinking questions from the Project Managers.
We will be traveling again in early January 2015 on a second assessment trip–we have to take two due to the significant difference between Ecuador’s rainy season and the dry seasons. Before then, we aim to have developed a preliminary design for a system, which will come out of 3 design alternatives proposed by each subgroup. We will then bring this design and present it to the community, get their feedback, and take the measurements necessary to allow us to implement this design in August 2015. Additionally, our subgroups are dedicating time to the consideration of temporary solutions that could be implemented to at least improve water quality until we return later in the year to construct a new system.
The two main Design challenges currently faced are the high mineral content in the water and the faulty piping system currently used in the community. We will so receive water testing results from the state lab, which will let us know what minerals are in the water and causing kidney stones in the community members and solid buildup in the pipes. The faulty piping system delivers water to only a quarter of the community currently due to pressure issues, which is a product of the layout of the system as well as the diameter of the pipes.
Finally, we plan to involve the elementary and high schools in Tabuga in cistern cleaning projects, system education, and water testing. This will allow young community members an opportunity to learn and make a difference in their community, as well as help the system we eventually implement be more sustainable.
This august, five students and two mentors from the Ecuador project traveled to Tabuga for the project’s first site assessment trip. Over the course of our week-long visit, we geographically and chemically assessed Tabuga’s current water system, investigated alternative water sources, and spoke with the municipal government. Most importantly, we also worked to understand the wishes of the community, and we invested much of our time in a door-to-door survey, a community meeting, and multiple community celebrations. This effort was especially crucial in earning the trust of Tabuga’s populace, because, as we learned from the community, many past politicians have run on the platform of bringing Tabuga clean water, but none have followed through.
During our visit, we stayed in an eco-lodge operated by our NGO, the Ceiba Foundation. Although it had no electricity, no cell phone service, and minimal running water, it offered an abundance of hammocks and was surrounded by a beautiful dry forest. We were even treated to the sight of a family of howler monkeys, which took up residence near the lodge!
Overall, the trip was incredibly successful, and we gained valuable data about all aspects of the community and its water system. After seeing firsthand the current water system–a pump which pumps water up a hill to a cistern and then down to the community–it is clear that many changes must be made to the water purification system for the water it supplies to be drinkable. Despite these challenges, however, we feel that our bonds with the community and the municipal government are strong enough that EWB, Ceiba, and Tabuga will be able to work together to surmount these challenges efficiently.
The EWB-Ecuador team submitted the 502 chapter proposal and is waiting to hear back from EWB-USA. In the meantime, we are preparing to travel to Tabuga in August of this year. Our travel team will be collaborating over the summer to prepare to assess the site for the water project we will implement next August. On our trip, we hope to collect extensive data on the water quality and current water distribution system, as well as begin to foster a strong relationship with the community.
Currently, the EWB-Ecuador team is just finishing up the 501 and 502 documentation–we will be submitting our documentation by March 31. Looking ahead, we are beginning to research the topography of the area, different potable water system designs, and the community itself. We are also brainstorming methods of gauging the community’s needs and wants more accurately, given the language barrier and their low rates of literacy.