Monday, January 18, 2010

Water Quality Summary

During our stay at Hope Integrated Academy, we collected samples for water quality analysis. We tested groundwater for hardness, alkalinity, nitrate, nitrite, pH, and arsenic. The groundwater is very hard and quite alkaline, but no nitrate, nitrite, or arsenic was present in the water. Moreen, the director of women's empowerment at URF, also helped us with the water quality testing.

Both groundwater and surface water sources were analyzed for bacterial contamination. Unfortunately, most sources tested positive for fecal coliform and e.Coli which indicates the water may make people ill. One of the most contaminated sources in the area is a pond in a community called Gankanga. During the dry season, up to 300 people utilize this pond as a primary source of water. Below is a picture of the pond and the bacterial test of the pond. In the second photo, fecal coliform is indicated by the pink spots and e.Coli is indicated by the blue spots.

One of the treatment options being considered for the future implementation is a product called WaterGuard. WaterGuard is a sodium hypochlorite solution similar to what is used to treat water in the United States. Residents of Gankanga used to use WaterGuard regularly, but the supply chain in the region has been disrupted. If URF were able to establish a supply chain for the region, many people expressed a willingness to pay to use the product. WaterGuard was added to the sample of the Gankanga pond, and the subsequent bacterial sample showed the water had become safe to consume. Compare the picture below to the picture above to see the effect of WaterGuard.

We also investigated the possibilities of implementing modified biosand filters on future trips. We washed sand and gravel and placed it in a 60 liter container purchased in Masaka (see the former post). The biofilm which removes contamination requires two weeks to grow so we were unable to conduct accurate testing on the filter. Nonetheless, we taught volunteers at URF to use the filter and conduct bacteria tests on the water once the biolfilm has grown. The biosand filter was presented to women from surrounding communities, and they expressed an interest in the filter. The amount of water needed to wash the sand may be a limiting factor, but we plan to continue investigation into the biosand filter when we return to the United States.
Again, most of the drinking water sources in the area are contaminated with bacteria which is making the community members ill. As a result, the EWB-UMN design team will be working closely with URF to determine the best alternative(s) for future implantation trips. Although the project will be challenging, the community members are very open to the different ideas which is very encouraging.


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  2. Wow, that first plate is just filled with bacteria!! What a difference to the second one. How did you incubate the plates to get the bacteria to grow?

  3. Cool to read about your trip and see pics from the villages - and the stoves. Looking forward to chatting about your findings upon return to Minnesota. Thanks for everything. JM

  4. We incubated the plates by keeping them in a money belt worn by various members. The money belt kept the plates near body temperature for a 24 hour period. Although this method is not ideal, it proved to be very effective.

  5. hahah!! that is a VERY innovative way. I like it.