Villagers get clean water, thanks to Rotarians

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Rotarians in Colorado and Nicaragua joined forces on a project that resulted in placement of clean water filters in 261 homes almost 2,500 miles from Denver in the rural mountain areas of northern Nicaragua.

“Rotarians in Somoto, Nicaragua, talked to me almost a year ago about the program to bring clean, safe drinking water to families living in areas where there is no running water or electricity,” said Bob Moore, a member of Littleton Rotary. “The proposal was to build and install a sand filter system in rural homes. I brought the idea back to our club and we decided to try to help the Somoto club make the project happen.”

The initial challenge was the money to build the filters. Littleton Rotary, the Littleton Sunrise Rotary Club and the Aurora Gateway Rotary Club joined forces to work on the project. They raised $8,000, and those funds along with money from district and Rotary International covered the entire cost of the $21,000 project.

Moore made a two-week trip to Nicaragua in April where he, Somoto Rotarians and local workmen began building the filter systems.

A filter system is needed because safe drinking water is not available in most mountain villages. Families get contaminated stream or river water that also contains intestinal parasites that cause stomach ailments and other health problem.

Because most rural mountain villages are isolated and without electricity, the Rotarians decided to build and install the self-contained sand filter systems that are operated manually.

The filter system is a plastic tank holding 2-inch layers of coarse gravel and pea gravel, which is then filled with special volcanic black sand. The filter immediately makes stream water safe to drink. But it takes about two weeks to create the bacteria layer that helps purify the water so it is as clean and safe as most municipal water supplies in the United States. When the filter system is completed, it will yield 12 to 15 gallons of clean water a day. The sand and gravel material usually lasts about 18 months.

The initial design for the filter was to encase the gravel and sand in a concrete container. But that is heavy and water eventually begins to leach materials from the concrete. The solution was to encase the sand and gravel in a container made from 10-inch-diameter plastic pipe.

Since the April trip, the Somoto Rotarians have completed and delivered the 261 filters included in the original plan.

The tanks, along with gravel and sand, are trucked to remote villages like San Luis and Trapagas where they are installed in homes.

“One issue we ran into is the sand as it comes from the quarry and clean water must be used to wash away all the dirt and debris mixed in with the sand,” Moore said. “That takes a lot of water and some villages don’t have access to that much water. So, because we got very good prices on the materials for our sand filters, we agreed to use the remaining funds to buy a ceramic filter system that will be installed in about 50 more homes in the next two months. However, the word about the project has spread and I understand there are requests from families and villages for about 300 more filters, so we may begin working to try to deal with those requests in the near future.”