Following long and thorough discussions, we (water team) decided to concentrate to build a low-tech filter to reduce water hardness in the village of El20. Making the decision was not easy, but once it was done, it was a relief to have only one thing to focus on. Also, after a while it felt an obvious direction to go for: water softening has been suggested by the previous ALM labbers and it is something the community of El 20 wants. The purpose of the water filter is to soften the ground water from the wells. The filter may remove some of the bacteria, but if the water is used for drinking it should be treated, because of the high coliform bacteria concentration in the water. Softening the extremely hard water may increase inhabitants’ health by reducing risk for bladder and kidney stones. Also, the water could be used for irrigating the crops, which has not been previously possible, because it clogs the pipes and the limestone in it forms a white layer on the plants. The importance of crops is high: it is the main food source of the village. Currently, there is no irrigation system, which means that on dry seasons there is no local food production and all food has to be bought from elsewhere, just as the water.
This is getting exciting! For the following weeks we will get to use some time in the lab, building a prototype that we will bring with us to El 20. The filter materials will be sand, gravel and charcoal, all items that are (hopefully) available also in El 20.
(Photo: Sara Saukkonen, Text: Heidi Konttinen)