The State of the Water

Last week, I collected water samples from 5 different sources: an open well, an underground spring, a spring box, a rainwater harvest tank, and a public tap station.

By far, the source that was visibly the dirtiest at its source and on the bacteria culture plate was the open well. It was located in a deep village almost 10km from Kaihura and was dug at the bottom of a hill behind the village leader’s house. On the hill were a bunch of cows, goats, and other farm animals whose feces could be easily washed downhill. To get to the well required a brief hike through a swamp. The path barely kept my shoes dry and I had to tip-toe a lot of it supported by just a few thin branches spread across the shallow water. The grass was taller than me and more than once, I slipped and almost fell in. The well itself was simply a hole dug in the ground. It was only 1.5 feet deep, very brown and murky, and had shiny silver patches that looked suspiciously like oil. I was shocked that this small, dirty water feature, perhaps only a few meters in diameter, supplied water to the whole village of 150 people. And they also told me that sometimes if they found sediment in the water, they simply woudn’t take any until the next time it rained. And only then would they boil their water.

I’m happy to say that the rest of the sources were much cleaner and well cared for. The rainwater tank was somewhat dirty but only because nobody cleaned it out like they were supposed to. The spring and running water system barely had any bacteria colonies in them. Adolf and I also gram stained the samples and found almost all of them were gram positive. This, I have learned, essentially mean that the bacteria have a membrane that makes it harder for things (such as disinfecting agents) to be absorbed. Consequently, it is also harder for the water to be treated.

From all this, I’ve basically concluded that Kaihura itself doesn’t need point-of-use water treatment devices. However, surrounding villages may. But because those villages are not on the main road and are often much poorer, it would be more difficult to obtain and distribute supplies. However, the villagers have told me that one feature they value is having a treatment device that can be available at every household for convenience. As a result, I’m still somewhat toying with the idea of building some type of ceramic water filter factory at Kyongera but thar would be in the very far distant future.

I’m glad that I now have solid results to report. This week I’m planning on going out to a well that BHTF is building in a partner village. I’m excited and I hope it will be much better protected and covered than the one I sampled.

In addition, the DukeEngage team, the Schaads, the Sassers, and a couple other volunteers affiliated with Know Think Act all arrived this last week! It’s cool to see how this Duke team is different and similar to my team and to suddenly have so many mzungus around. One thing I’ve forgotten is how structured and scheduled Americans like to be. We like to make lists and plans and to check off accomplishments so we can ensure we’re making the best of our time. I feel like people who’ve visited Africa often talk about “African time” and how much they appreciate slowing down from their hectic lives. I’ve definitely slowed down but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I’m still in the mindset that a good day is one in which I finish a lot of tasks. Recently, I only feel as if I’m constantly killing time. With my research mostly finished, I hope that that feeling will pass and I’ll have more motivation or a concrete objective to push for here.

The State of the Water

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