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Clear Water Doesn’t Always Mean Clean

In Kpanayili, this woman collects rainwater the right way! “She doesn’t joke with the clean water” – Peter

Two weeks ago while doing household visits with Wahab in Kpanayili, we entered the compound of a family that had a full safe storage container of clean looking water. We were delighted. “De viele, de viele” or “good, good”, Wahab and I said to Fati, the woman who showed us where her family keeps their drinking water. She smiled, shy but proud of what she had shown us. Upon further questioning, we found out; however, that while the rainwater this woman had collected in her safe storage container looked very clean, it was most likely contaminated and not suitable for drinking. Fati told us that she had used a clay pot to collect this rainwater from the tin roof above her husband’s bedroom, waiting five minutes for the rain to clear off the roof before collecting. She then told us that she had used her Guinea Worm filter, a mesh cloth that was distributed to her household by the Carter foundation to eradicate Guinea Worm (for more info on Guinea Worm click here or here), to filter water as she transferred it from her clay pot into her safe storage container. This clay pot had no lid and most likely stored dugout water (contaminated surface water) in it during the dry season, meaning that if tested in the lab, this water would come back positive for e-coli. Guinea Worm filters do not actually filter the water, they were used back in the day to make sure that these worms would not make it into the garrawas and buckets used for collecting water for household use. This mesh piece of cloth would remove some sediment at best, leaving all bacteria (the good and the bad) to multiply and stew.

It’s groundnut season in Zanzugu! Amin and I were given bags and bags full of groundnuts during household visits. We finally learned to say thank you but no thank you.

Wahab and I explained all of this to Fati, telling her that while her water looked clear, it was actually not clean for reasons X, Y and Z. “Awoomea”, Fati said or “I hear”. But would she actually get the message and follow through by properly collecting rainwater directly from the tin roof using her safe storage container? Wahab and I could only hope. We would not be there with her when the next rain hit. We would not be able to watch to see if she would use her clay pot again to store rainwater for drinking. The decision to make a behavioral change would have to come from Fati.

Amin uses salt-water solution to explain rainwater contamination to Wahab at a weekly office education meeting.

This is a common problem in many of the CWS villages that have tin roofs and collect rainwater during the rainy season. While we inform all of our communities on how to properly harvest rainwater, some people do not see a difference in using their clay pot versus using their safe storage container. After all, the clear rainwater looks so much cleaner than turbid dugout water. But how can we get them to intrinsically understand why this clear looking water is actually not clean? At our last staff meeting, this is a question that Peter, Shak, Amin, Wahab and I all pondered. We realized that we were going to need props if we were going to do this right.

Peter entertains a household in Kagburashe with some proper rainwater collection education! Which one would you choose?
Wahab uses a positive Total Coliform test to explain to a girl in Gariezegu how rainwater can get contaminated when collected in pots that once held dugout water.

 

 

 

 

 

Since then, we have been using water samples of contaminated rainwater that have tested positive for Total Coliform (a sign of contamination, shows up bright yellow in a test tube) and water samples taken from the polytank that have tested negative for e-coli and Total Coliform (shows up clear in a test tube). The CWS field staff has been using these two test tubes as a tangible demonstration given during household visits to show the difference between the clean and clear, the good and the bad. In order to get the children of these villages on board, we have also been conducting taste tests of a salt-water solution versus treated polytank water to show how clear water can have invisible germs inside and that you cannot always see what is in your drinking water. Almost every kid that tries the two spits out the salt-water solution in disgust! Clear does not always mean clean… or tasty.

-Brianan

Updates from the Field: Shout out to the 6 new CWS villages!

After almost a month post-implementation, the new CWS villages (Gbandu, Gariezegu, Djelo, Kpenchila, Jabayili and Yakura) have all hit the ground running for the clean water which they all have access to now! For the first 6 months, the CWS field staff, which includes Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and myself will be visiting each of these villages at least once a week. These visits include monitoring the water treatment centers, meeting with the two women that run the centers and performing 6-10 household visits to check that everyone in the village is indeed getting access to the water that is now available. So far the reports have come back and all of these new villages have really embraced the CWS approach. The two women that run the centers have taken ownership of their businesses, adapting the necessary changes needed to make it work for their communities.

Wahab asking some questions to some women pounding Shea butter during a household visit in Gariezegu!

The rainy season is a busy time for the majority of these villages because everyone is farming! The rain also creates some unique challenges for some of the villages because of flooding and rainwater harvesting. In Gbandu, Mariama and Abiba decided to have opening days at their centers on Mondays and Thursdays to make life easier for themselves and for their village. In Gariezegu, Selamatu and Adamu discussed moving their center into town during the rainy season because the walk to their dugout floods, making the water treatment center inaccessible. They are currently awaiting confirmation from the chairman of their village to build a new stand.

Fati and Mimatu, the fine ladies that run the center in Jabayili, informed us that their small, neighboring village, Korboniyili, uses the same dugout as them. There are only 10 households in Korboniyili. We are currently working with the women on distributing safe storage containers to the people of this village, so that they too can have the opportunity to buy clean water. In Yakura, Ayi and Awabu have been busy busy farming! They have been so busy that we often don’t catch them unless we get to Yakura early enough. Even during these busy times, they still manage to operate the water treatment center. In fact, they say that sales have not really dropped since it started raining.

Thumbs up for clean water in Jabayili!
Dugout water in Djelo

Water sales are high in Kpenchila. Adamu otherwise known as “Jahamah”(a nickname given to her because she has had 2 sets of twins) and Zuira told us that since it has not been consistently raining, most people would rather come to buy water than risk waiting for a storm that they cannot be sure will come. Zelia and Fuseina of Djelo have been demanding for more safe storage containers to sell. Many of the households have been buying a second safe storage container so that their families can have 20 L more water stored in their compounds.  Their polytank tap was leaking but is now fixed! So far these 6 new CWS villages are looking good– more updates to come soon!

-Brianan

Shout out to Shak’s team that implemented in Kpenchila. The woman to his left had a bad cut on her leg when the fellows were here. She wants you to all know that she is making a full recovery!