Here are 3 lessons that WateROAM founders learnt in bringing water solutions to the rural poor. They are sharing it with us so that we don’t have to make the mistakes that they did and help one another end water poverty.
Keep it light, Make it Portable
Firstly, a rural community takes hours to get to by any vehicle. To make matters worse, some places can only be accessed by foot. This means that all your supplies have to be carried on your back. Imagine carrying a few gallons of water can with your hands and having to walk an hour to the village.
If you are bringing a water filter, make sure that it is light enough to be carried by hand. Many conventional water filters are made for permanent installation and industrial use. This means that they tend to be heavy and immovable.
Once on a humanitarian trip to Indonesia, my team member broke his back while carrying a 40kg water filter to the villages. He had to undergo slip disk surgery when we came back. Bring a lightweight filter for you and your beneficiaries’ welfare!
Simple is always better
The village that you are reaching out to is likely to speak a different language and received little to no education. To ensure that the water keeps flowing, you will have to teach them how to fish before you leave. A system that is complicated in usage and maintenance will not be the easiest to communicate to your foreign, and possibly illiterate audience. Even if you managed to put your idea across and translated the product manual into the local language - they may not be to commit it to memory or be able to read it. Keep in mind that your beneficiaries are unfamiliar to technology and much less the workings of it.
The early iterations of our filters were a lot more complex. After we left, villagers were not able to utilize the systems as effectively as much more time was required for them to clean the filter. This meant that the down time of the system was higher and less users were able to enjoy clean water on a regular basis. Bring the simplest solution that you can find to avoid such hassle.
No Electricity Needed
If there is any electricity at all, they typically come from generators that have limited power output. This means that clean water is subjected to the frequent unavailability of electricity.
In one of our beneficiary villages in Cambodia, the priority goes to powering the lights at night. Find a solution that is independent of external power!
These lessons taught us to design a portable system that is just 2.5kg, which mimics
a bicycle pump – making the system highly-intuitive and easy to use. Even village kids can be managers of the community water filtration system. The hand pump mechanism makes use of kinetic energy that is generated when the system is being pumped. This means that no electricity is needed, and clean water is always available even in power outages.
We are thankful that our water filtration system could bring clean water to over 35,000 people across 14 countries. We hope that these lessons can propel you in your journey to ending rural thirst too.
Image credit: WateROAM
WateROAM are a sponsor of the upcoming AIDF Asia Summit taking place in Bangkok on 20-21 June 2018.