Unfortunately, in many regions of our country, this vital resource for life is scarce, badly distributed, contaminated or there is no easy access.
This project led by Gabriela Delgado and supported by Alimentaris, was developed by the Wichi Integration Group, Faculty of Exact Sciences of La Plata – Waters Workshop, the Biological Institute of La Plata and School No. 4300 of Fortín Belgrano, Salta province.
The beneficiaries are families living in the area known as the Impenetrable, inhabitants of rural areas on the banks of the river Bermejo. These families do not have access to safe water. Water used for consumption is the river water and standing rainwater in Madrejones (type of dry bed of a river where rainwater boards) of on the roadside.
Several studies of water samples were performed by the Biological Institute of La Plata and the Waters Workshop of the Faculty of Exact Sciences of La Plata. They showed the presence of bacteria and probably of parasite due to the water consumed characteristics.
For the population of this area, non-potable water consumption generates multiple health problems such as frequent cases of childhood diarrhoea, which worsen the nutritional status of children.
Objetivo del Proyecto
The main objective of the project was to contribute to 18 to 20 families (approx. 100 individuals including 60 children) of the communities of Fortín Belgrano town and surrounding areas (General Güemes department, Salta province) were able to access water free from bacteria and parasites, through the construction of filter systems installed in their homes, as well as to evaluate the model.
The idea was that a member of each family be trained to perform the filters proper handling and the device periodic maintenance.
Filters, constructed with the beneficiary families, used chlorine to remove bacteria and 1 micron microfilter synthetic meshes to retain parasites. Coconut shell activated carbon was used to remove the chlorine from the filtered water.
This device allows you to filter 1.5 L per hour and provide drinking water for a family of up to 7 people daily consumption. The filter can filter up to 6,500 L of water, by performing only a monthly cleaning of the discs filter of and the drain. This quantity of water is equivalent to the required for the consumption of a family of the area for a period of 6 months. Every six months filters require a maintenance which consists in the replacement of activated carbon, synthetic mesh and PVC hose.
The project has forecast the organization of a workshop with beneficiaries providing them information on the quality of the water consumed by the families and health damages caused by the consumption of contaminated water. And also training the beneficiaries on the construction, use and maintenance of the filters.
The success of this initiative lies especially in the appropriation of the project by the beneficiaries. For this reason it was addressed to families who requested the installation of filters. They were involved in the construction of devices and included a task of information, awareness and education on water and its consumption.
Provided the success of this project is validated and to the extent that the beneficiary families adopt the filter in their water consumption habits, it shall be sought to enlarge the project to benefit more families and create a mechanism that allow long-term filters maintenance.
Results, general conclusions and perspectives
In a trip by Gabriela Delgado in March 2014, it was found that families, who initially had expressed interest in receiving a device, showed no willingness to participate in the project and did not respond to the invitation to meet to arrange the second stage. Therefore, it was decided to redirect the project offering participation to parents of children from school No 4300 Fortín Belgrano.
When this call was made, 10 families of the school expressed interest and registered for the second phase of the project. Likewise, it was decided to install devices in 5 schools and 1 health post of the district Rivadavia Banda Sur, Salta province. A first filter device was constructed and left in use at school No. 4300 of Fortín Belgrano.
At the end of April 2014, during one of the trips, filter systems were constructed and placed in 6 houses of families (and 3 complete materials kits were left for other 3 families to assemble them in a communal way) and in 2 schools. A workshop was organized and 15 individuals attended – all members of the beneficiary families of the project. During the workshop the following was displayed:
- The project and its financial and logistical support.
- The health problems caused by contaminated water.
- The filter system, its operation and water purification procedure, parts and assembly.
- Precautions for use and maintenance recommendations.
- The problems that can arise from the use of the device and relevant solutions.
A person was selected and participated in the training workshop for the management and installation and assembly of the 3 filtering systems in houses located in Fortin Belgrano that could not be installed during the trip.
Verification performed on the filtering system installed in school No. 4300 of Fortín Belgrano, showed problems in the device related to its use and characteristics of the filtered water:
- Drain from the top bucket: A modification could be made on the base of the upper bucket to facilitate its cleaning and maintenance.
- For school use: it has been seen that they extract the water from the filtered bucket and pass it to an open bucket where the water is partially re-contaminated, as each child draws water with a cup by introducing his/her hand inside the bucket. A distribution system separated from the filtering device is required to maintain it protected, because daily use of many children as regards the tap opening and/or closing could result in both bucket and key deterioration. It is also important to maintain cleaning of water for daily use in school. One option could be to transfer the filtered water to liter bottles so that the children can handle them.
- The sediment content of the filtered water was important and generates the internal filters plugging. This problem had not been noted with the devices installed in the Poriajhú cooperative where rainwater and filtering water stored in non-jacketed wells is filtered. In the area of Fortin Belgrano, mostly very turbid river water is consumed, so frequent cleaning is required (at least on a fortnight basis). The addition of another instance of filtering in the system shall be further evaluated.
An additional observation made is that the configuration of some of the houses obliges in some cases to install the equipment outdoors, where it is exposed to the sun and to the wind, thus shortening its useful life.
It is noteworthy that in the implementation area of the project the inhabitants prove to be aware of the importance of drinking “clean” water and consider access to water suitable for consumption as a critical issue in their daily lives.
The participation of beneficiary families in the project was good. All individuals registered, with the exception of one, attended the workshop showing an active participation. The vast majority prepared wood subflooring for the filtering device, set condition for devices to be installed in their homes. Both persons registered and other families expressed their interest in the team and his desire to receive one. The Director for school No. 4300 of Fortín Belgrano, allowed the workshop to be held in school, showed great interest in learning the operation and maintenance of the device, and is committed to ensuring the sustainability of the contribution made through the project in said school.
This project had an ongoing development over the last few years, with the contribution of other organizations to fulfill the installation of the requested equipment and to install more, to carry out trainings, to control the devices already installed, to evaluate their use and adoption, and to deliver didactic material.