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Old 01-18-2014, 08:27 AM   #1
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Calling all engineers

I will go back to Guatemala in the next few weeks to run a free clinic. One of the major problems people experience in Central America (and other parts of the world) is the lack of safe, potable water to drink. Does anyone know a safe, cheap, dependable way to build a water filtration system? There are hundreds of thousands of websites on this topic, therefore I am not sure where to start.

Also anyone has any experience with "engineers without borders"? Thinking of contacting them also.

Thank you for letting me know.
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:37 AM   #2
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Last summer went to Honduras with a group spending Rotary International $ on potable water; included E w/0 Borders as well as other groups.

In this case the three projects evaluated were all what I would call passive, as in finding springs in upper areas of clean water and piping it down to villages that were using poor quality run of river water. The problem with any system in 3rd world is one of maintenance and operation. Saw this with son's Peace Corp work in Africa and now his career that has been in Afghanistan, Mali, Lesotho, and Tanzania. It does no good to provide a system if no one takes responsibility for sustainable operation; someone who understands why filtration or disinfection and has the means to collect the $ to sustain it. The more passive the system the better. In Honduras they had a network of circuit riders who would visit and help keep the systems up, provide rudimentary quality testing.

If you have access to any funds I'd try to connect with an organization (EWOB or the like) who has projects in the vicinity. You can run into all sorts of problems trying get funds where they are needed; government skimming and the like. In the case in Honduras they had a free spectrometer available but the government wanted all kinds of import duties to allow it in. Go figure. It's still in the US.
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:14 AM   #3
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EWOB seems like the obvious starting place - this is exactly what they do.

Based on some articles I've read, I'll echo H2ODude's comments about a system that is understood and can be maintained by the locals. If they don't understand the value, and/or maintenance is difficult for them, the systems typically fall into disuse.

Here's an article about a simple sytem I've read about:

CDC - Solar Disinfection - The Safe Water System

Quote:
Solar disinfection (SODIS) ... Users of SODIS fill 0.3-2.0 liter plastic soda bottles with low-turbidity water, shake them to oxygenate, and place the bottles on a roof or rack for 6 hours (if sunny) or 2 days (if cloudy). The combined effects of ultra-violet light (UV)-induced DNA damage, thermal inactivation, and photo-oxidative destruction inactivate disease-causing organisms.
-ERD50
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Old 01-18-2014, 10:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obgyn65 View Post
I will go back to Guatemala in the next few weeks to run a free clinic. One of the major problems people experience in Central America (and other parts of the world) is the lack of safe, potable water to drink. Does anyone know a safe, cheap, dependable way to build a water filtration system? There are hundreds of thousands of websites on this topic, therefore I am not sure where to start.

Also anyone has any experience with "engineers without borders"? Thinking of contacting them also.

Thank you for letting me know.

Not exactly what you need but this could be a short term personnel fix until you get a much bigger system.

You might give them a call for recommendations on a larger system. They seem to be innovators in this area. Who knows you might get a donation.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006QF3TW4/...l_5or1d26gta_e
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Old 01-18-2014, 12:57 PM   #5
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How exciting and wonderful that you are doing this in your retirement. Please keep us informed about your project. I have traveled quite often in SE Asia and have a doctor friend there who started going there once a year, and eventually decided to stay.

While not a doctor, I am examining what I can do in my retirement to help make a difference. I work with some NGOs, one of which is putting in inexpensive latrines in SE Asia, and doing along with Rotary, inexpensive biological water filtration projects.

One thing that struck me was that there was no follow-up on actually how well the water filtration was performing. I was wondering myself about how to up a water quality testing lab there, employing only locals. Just testing simple things, coliform and enteric coliform bacteria etc.

On my next trip there I plan to talk to the local water departments there to see what they are doing, they have help from Japan, etc, and may have some good ideas themselves of inexpensive easy methods. Thanks for cluing me into "engineers without boarders."

You might try talking to some of the local water departments on your trip there. See what they come up with, and they might have a good idea of what is needed locally.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:30 PM   #6
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a little bit of chlorine bleach and 30 minutes will zap a lot of pathogens, but not all.

Improvements in sanitary waste collection may help as well.

Local water departments? :-)
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Old 01-19-2014, 06:19 AM   #7
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I'm not a water expert, but you should be able to contact someone in / near Guatemala that is. Or you may find someone in your own backyard that can help - the largest capacity filtration plant in the world is in Chicago.

Jardine Water Purification Plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:24 AM   #8
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I know of several systems, and there's some big money working on the issue (Gates, Coke, CGI) but you'd have to give us some scale. Water for one person, a family, a village, a municipality?
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:29 AM   #9
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Thank you. I have heard of Rotary. Maybe I should contact them.

Will contact the Peace Corp also.

I have some funds available but hundreds of people need potable water in each and every community I visit with the mobile clinics. Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable.

Like you, I have experienced major headaches re: transfer of medical supplies from the US. This is why my goal is to teach those in need to build their own community-based filtration systems at the cheapest price. Not easy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by H2ODude View Post
Last summer went to Honduras with a group spending Rotary International $ on potable water; included E w/0 Borders as well as other groups.

In this case the three projects evaluated were all what I would call passive, as in finding springs in upper areas of clean water and piping it down to villages that were using poor quality run of river water. The problem with any system in 3rd world is one of maintenance and operation. Saw this with son's Peace Corp work in Africa and now his career that has been in Afghanistan, Mali, Lesotho, and Tanzania. It does no good to provide a system if no one takes responsibility for sustainable operation; someone who understands why filtration or disinfection and has the means to collect the $ to sustain it. The more passive the system the better. In Honduras they had a network of circuit riders who would visit and help keep the systems up, provide rudimentary quality testing.

If you have access to any funds I'd try to connect with an organization (EWOB or the like) who has projects in the vicinity. You can run into all sorts of problems trying get funds where they are needed; government skimming and the like. In the case in Honduras they had a free spectrometer available but the government wanted all kinds of import duties to allow it in. Go figure. It's still in the US.
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:30 AM   #10
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Good idea, thanks Toolman.
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Originally Posted by TOOLMAN View Post

Not exactly what you need but this could be a short term personnel fix until you get a much bigger system.

You might give them a call for recommendations on a larger system. They seem to be innovators in this area. Who knows you might get a donation.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006QF3TW4/...l_5or1d26gta_e
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:33 AM   #11
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Do you have a link describing this quote below please? Please feel free to PM me, CaliforniaMan. Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaliforniaMan View Post
...and doing along with Rotary, inexpensive biological water filtration projects.

.
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:38 AM   #12
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In my experience, these are non existent in the places I go to. Last time I went to El Salvador in October / November we went to villages with no electricity. No computer, no TV, no fridge (therefore no vaccine, insulin, etc), etc. That's how bad it is. These communities need large scale, cheap, sustainable solutions for thousands of people who usually drink water from the village wells. I have no idea where to begin but I do want to make a difference.

And yes, when I am there I never think of AA or SWR. :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy View Post

Local water departments? :-)
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:39 AM   #13
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Villages, "aldeas", ranging from a couple of hundred people to a few thousand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
I know of several systems, and there's some big money working on the issue (Gates, Coke, CGI) but you'd have to give us some scale. Water for one person, a family, a village, a municipality?
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:47 AM   #14
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You've gotten some good suggestions, here's another Drinking Water Purification Systems | Military Personnel, Missions & Relief Agencies that might be a fit for (sunny) Guatemala.
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Old 01-19-2014, 08:27 AM   #15
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I'd shoot for a low tech solution, i.e. one that can be maintained by the users after you are gone. That would probably be a ground well which uses the soil as a natural filtration system, or water piped from an elevated, unpolluted stream.
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Old 01-19-2014, 03:18 PM   #16
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You may want to contact a group in Guatemala called PAVA. They have experience in this area. Potable Water
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Old 01-22-2014, 07:33 AM   #17
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Yes, this is the type of solution I am trying to find information about. Not easy.
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I'd shoot for a low tech solution, i.e. one that can be maintained by the users after you are gone. That would probably be a ground well which uses the soil as a natural filtration system, or water piped from an elevated, unpolluted stream.
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:39 AM   #18
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ob gyn,

Are you familiar with Dr. Paul Polak, a retired Canadian psychiatrist (and author of "Out of Poverty") who has done a lot of work on helping improve the overall quality of life for people living in poverty around the world thru enabling them access to water for crop irrigation, potable drinking water, etc.?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/he...anted=all&_r=0

Paul Polak - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

His organization has spent a lot of time and effort in working to solve problems of the extreme poor. Perhaps contacting him/them might give you some useful info and leads.

omni
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:42 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by obgyn65 View Post
Yes, this is the type of solution I am trying to find information about. Not easy.
Have you seen these organizations? They might be a good reference or recommend another more appropriate resource.

IWA - IWA Thematic Programmes

http://www.gvsu.edu/haitiwater/susta...r-haiti-13.htm
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:50 AM   #20
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You may want to contact the Gates Foundation. They have worked with other NGOs to find low-tech solutions to potable water. They may be able to put you in touch with some of the organizations they support.
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