Showcase

Rainwater technology for a community in
La Encañada

The people of Ecuador face the contradictory dilemma of having an abundance of water, but much of it is too contaminated to drink. It was estimated that 88% of the diarrheal disease and resulting deaths in the world could be attributed to drinking unsafe water, inadequate sanitation facilities, and poor hygiene. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible. Improved access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities (WHO, 2009) could prevent many unnecessary deaths.

During IAP '09, Public Service Fellows Kendra Johnson '09 and Fatima Hussain ('11 Course 1) traveled to Santa Ana, Ecuador to continue their work on a potable water project. Kendra had worked on the system in previous years as a Public Service Fellow. “Potable means that the water is drinkable, free of bacteriological and chemical contamination that makes people sick,” stated Kendra. Kendra and Fatima worked in conjunction with the Santa Ana community to bring rainwater harvesting technology to a new community of families in La Encañada, about a two-hour walk from Santa Ana. Fatima surveyed the families of Santa Ana, comparing rainwater systems to community water systems, and assessing the effectiveness of each system. It was decided that individual rainwater tanks would be more beneficial to the residents of La Encañada, in terms of ease of assembly and maintenance. 

Community members of La Encañada decided they would work as a community with the support of Kendra, Fatima, and their community partners in Santa Ana, to build functional rainwater tanks. Basilio, of Santa Ana, led the community of La Encañada through the technical challenges of installing the system since the rainwater test results from his family’s rainwater tank were near perfect. Allowing Basilio to take the lead after being shown the rainwater technology in previous years was a source of pride for Kendra. “Getting to see our community partners taking the project to the next level—sharing their knowledge and expertise with a neighboring community—showed how empowered they were in their understanding of the importance of clean water,” says Kendra. The potable water project is already showing signs of long-term sustainability as the technical team from Santa Ana hope to bring rainwater harvesting technology to other communities in the future.

When asked the question of why she continually returned to Santa Ana, this one being her fifth trip, Kendra said, “Santa Ana is an extremely inspiring community in the way they care for their rainforest, their traditional culture, and the way they dream about giving more opportunities to their children. I have never done something more challenging or satisfying as the work I have done on potable water issues with this amazing rainforest community.”

Read more about students and their public service projects...