The team traveled to Usalama in June 2014 to complete implementation of the project. Here, we describe our activities and findings from the trip over a series of three blog posts. Click here to see our drawings to help you visualize our system.
While we were waiting for the right quantity of water to reach Usalama from the KIMAWASCO supply, we conducted water quality tests to determine the baseline water quality and facilitated community workshops to ensure that the system would maintain a high standard of operation.
As we investigated the mystery of the water supply, we collected water samples from a village kiosk to perform water quality tests and compared results to chlorinated samples. Though we had assessed the quality of water in previous trips, we wanted to run a test again to assess the current water quality and demonstrate to the community the existing contamination in their drinking water. Showing Usalama a visual representation of their water quality would help to drive home the importance of water supply treatment.
With no real flow coming out of the kiosks, the water we sampled had likely been sitting in the spigot for some time. We found low chlorine residuals in the water sample, indicating that either the water being supplied to Usalama by KIMAWASCO had not been treated sufficiently, or that this water had sat in the distribution piping long enough for the chlorine disinfectant to decay. Regardless of the reason, a low chlorine residual allows for recontamination of water within a distribution system through potential leaks, backflow from taps and open valves and biofilms within the piping. The water samples revealed E. coli growth along with other fecal coliform growth – these microorganisms being common causes of waterborne illnesses. In comparison, we also chlorinated some of the kiosk water and tested it. As expected, no coliform growth was shown, indicating the effectiveness of chlorination.
The blue and red dots in the petri dishes are signs of E. Coli and fecal coliform contamination.
We showed these results to Jackson, Usalama’s community leaders and the school teachers, who agreed that chlorination would be a low cost, effective means of disinfecting the water to bring it to a safe, drinkable standard. We also went from classroom to classroom at the local primary and secondary schools to present these samples and engage the students in discussions about water treatment.
The key to sustaining good water quality and a well-maintained system is education, both on the “consumer” end, and on the “supplier” end.
On the “consumer” end, we ran workshops each day with different groups of the community – including school children and their parents – with the help of local Peace Corps volunteer Conor McGee and the Usalama school teachers. We covered water, hygiene, and sanitation, and highlighted the introduction of water treatment by chlorine. Already keen on improving their water quality, the community was receptive and understood the importance of chlorine treatment. We also demonstrated how to construct and use a tippy tap, a very simple hand washing station.
The “suppliers” in this context are the Usalama Water Board (the body responsible for drinking water-related activities in Usalama), the kiosk operators and the water system maintenance workers. Kiosk operators were taught how to safely create chlorine stock solutions and dispense them into customers’ jerricans. Using instructional posters that EWB-NY had created, we explained the necessary safety precautions, and demonstrated the whole process of chlorination. The attendees then practiced creating and dispensing chlorine themselves. In addition to teaching the water treatment process, we discussed the operation and maintenance of the physical infrastructure, including inspections of the pipeline and the tank and methods to troubleshoot the system. We handed off several copies of the instructional posters, the operation and maintenance manual, and the as-built drawings of the water system.
Jack and Priscilla, a teacher at Usalama Primary school, talk about water treatment to the community. Nolan and Priscilla conduct a training workshop for the Usalama Water Board.
Kiosk operators practice handling chlorine stock solution during a training workshop.
To conclude the training workshops, we compiled a memo with Jackson noting what had been taught during the chlorine workshops, and who had been in attendance. The memo established that the workshops were meant as recommendations of best practices, rather than any sort of certification by EWB of the workshop attendees. Responsibility for the operation of the water system, including facilitating water treatment, belongs to the Usalama Water Board.
Overall, the workshops were successful and we felt comfortable with the community’s ability to sustain the system. Now, it would only be a matter of having enough water coming down the pipeline.
- Claire Wang