Description of Project:
Our goal is to provide the town of El Cristal, Ecuador with access to pure drinking water. In past trips, we found the drinking water in the small rural town to be contaminated by substantial amounts of bacteria, which adversely affects the health of the community. El Cristal was able to secure funding from the local government to implement slow sand filtration system to purify their water. Throughout the project, Tufts EWB has collaborated with a local NGO, El Cristal’s water board, and community members to ensure that the water flowing out of house taps is pure and drinkable. Tufts EWB will continue to work with El Cristal to improve their water system, provide them with technical support, and maintain the positive relationship we have formed with the community.
The Tufts EWB group began working with the community of El Cristal in Ecuador in 2006. The agricultural community consists of roughly 120 families, relatively spread out in a very rural, mountainous area. The purpose of the first trip was to establish a solid relationship with our NGO contact in the area, Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU), as well as to assess the possibilities of implementing a green building design for future trips. Water quality testing was also conducted on the community’s drinking sources, and community health surveys were conducted with community members.
By 2007, the Ecuador EWB group had identified water as one of the main problems in the community that we would be able to help with. In the summer of 2007, six students, one professor, and his wife returned to Ecuador with a primary goal to develop a relationship with the community, identify its needs, and jointly define a project for the next year. Additionally, the team had designs for a rainwater collection, storage, and a bio-sand filtration system to prototype and use for educational dissemination at FBU’s hacienda. The group was met with welcome arms in El Cristal, and built two prototypes of the household bio-sand filter during their stay. The group again collected water quality tests, and were able to share the results during a community meeting. All of the water sources were seriously contaminated, and the community was able to visibly see the poor quality of their water by the sheer number of bacterial colonies that had grown on the water testing films. These tests were given to the community.
Between our 2007 and 2008 trips, El Cristal, empowered with knowledge and evidence about their water quality, were able to bring these results to their local government in order to improve their water situation. The local government devoted $25,000 to the construction of a large slow sand filter that serves roughly half of the community. By the 2008 trip, the slow sand filter was under construction but had not been completed. The travel team was able to collect water quality data indicative of the rainy season.
The purpose of the 2010 trip was to conduct follow-up community health surveys, water quality testing, and work with the community to ensure the project’s sustainability. This trip served as a post-implementation evaluation of the impact EWB-Tufts had on El Cristal. Community surveys were administered to measure any improvements in the health of the community members as well as to determine any changes in perceptions of the importance of potable water. The effectiveness of the slow sand filters were assessed through water quality testing.
Fall 2011: The Ecuador group has written manuals for chlorination and filter operation for the slow sand filter in El Cristal. These manuals have been sent to the community and the community has reported that they are following the guidelines and that the system is functioning properly. We are now working on finalizing our roughing filter design plans so that the construction can start January 1st (as per the allocated funding.) We are also going to be working on fundraising for a follow up trip to Ecuador.
For more detailed information about each of our trips, please feel free to download any of our trip reports.
If you have any questions about our project please contact Maren Frisell (Maren.Frisell@tufts.edu)