Water Supply

Water supply and storage capacity, and water purification

The village does not currently have a reliable year-round access to clean water, especially during the dry season (June through to September) where rainfall is not sufficient for the villagers’ needs. Water is currently sourced as follows:

 

Use

Wet Season

Dry Season

Drinking

Rainwater collection *

Stream 1km from village

Cooking

Rainwater collection *

Stream 1km from village

Washing dishes

River / lake adjacent to village

River

Bathing

River / lake adjacent to village

River

* Most houses in the village (but not all) have large (500 litre) tanks to collect rainwater from guttering attached to corrugated metal roofing. However, some of the poorer households do not have such tanks and rely on smaller containers. A communal rainwater collection system has been established using the school roof and four large (1,000 litre) tanks, but this appeared to be out of use during our visit.

The current problems with water supply can be summarized as:

  • The current rainwater collection capacity both communally and at a household level is not sufficient to provide rainwater for the village throughout the dry season, with most families having only one storage tank.
  • Limited amount of guttering is used to collect water in the tanks, so in general the full catchment areas of the houses´ roofs are not being used.
  • During the dry season those with the most limited storage capacity are worse affected; when stored water runs out water must be collected from a stream approximately 1km away and carried to the village. The water quality is poor, with sediment and bacteria present in the stagnant water. The poor quality water often causes health issues, with children worse affected and hospitalization is common.

A number of solutions to the water problems are considered possible:

1.     Installation of a communal well

2.     Increased communal storage capacity

3.     Increased personal storage capacity

4.     Provision of water purification facilities

Further detail is set out below on each of these options.

1.     Communal Well. A communal well would deliver supply of fresh water in quantities that should meet the current needs of the village, and be able to cope with the anticipated population increase. Gustavo has indicated that the flat area of low land beyond his house (close to the river) would be a suitable location for the well. Some points to consider:

  • A well would allow direct access to fresh water, which wouldn’t require further purification
  • Upfront costs are likely to be quite high, but once installed although the well would require some level of maintenance it is unlikely that this would be extensive. (A possibility is for the villagers to be trained in the maintenance of the well, so that maintenance / servicing costs can be kept down).
  • Overall, a low-tech solution (for example, using a hand pump rather than an electric pump) would be preferable to reduce the risk of problems arising that would require external support
  • The location indicated by Gustavo would reportedly require drilling through ~20m of bedrock before reaching the water table
  • Enrique Ares (the translator) has installed a well in his property (on Km21 north of Leticia) – he may be able to provide information on types of wells available, local suppliers and servicers, and costs of installation.
  • Suggested next steps – discuss with Enrique prior to Ben’s visit in July to get his views on (i) costs, (ii) installing a well, (iii) quality / supply of water,  and to line up meetings with potential suppliers

 

2.     Increased communal storage capacity. The village currently has a number of large (1,000l) tanks to collect rain water from the roofs of the school buildings. However, at the time of visiting these tanks appeared to be out of action. Bringing back to use these tanks, and potentially increasing the storage capacity would clearly benefit the village. Some points to consider:

  • Given that the communal storage tanks are already in place, means that bringing these back to working order, and potentially adding new tanks, would be relatively straightforward as the materials and construction required are familiar to the villagers.
  • However, the fact that they are currently off-line raises the question as to the villages dedication to addressing the water supply issue they are facing
  • Contamination in the storage vessels would need to be addressed, especially with an increased capacity (which means large amounts of standing water over long periods of time).
  • The ground around the feeder pipes to the tanks appeared to be very wet indicating that there were some underground leaks that would need fixing.
  • Although the communal water supply would increase the available supply, it would still have a limited capacity. Some organisation is therefore required to fairly distribute the communal water between the families, taking into account who currently has personal water collection tanks. This would require leadership by the Cayuco and agreement within the village.
  • Suggested next steps – discuss reasons for current communal storage system being out of action, and assess costs, feasibility for installing additional tanks and system to prevent recontamination.

 

3.     Increased personal storage capacity. Most houses in the village have tanks to collect and store rainwater for personal use. Additional household storage would provide some level of relief during the dry season. Some points to consider:

  • Similar issues as for the communal storage would need to be addressed (e.g. contamination, limited capacity, and equitable distribution of storage tanks)
  • Providing household storage is likely to be less cost efficient than communal storage. However, this solution would be able to be introduced gradually, as funding becomes available.
  • Also, simply providing additional guttering (used to direct rainwater from roofing to the tanks) would increase the effectiveness of the household water collection systems, so increasing the amount of available supply.
  • Suggested next steps – collection information on costs for personal storage to compare with costs for communal storage.

 

4.     Water purification. During the dry season when water supply is currently extremely limited the only available water is dirty and contaminated. Water purification could help address some of the associated health issues. Some points to consider:

  • Water purification does not address the fundamental issue which is the limited volumes of water available to the villagers
  • However, if progress cannot be made in enhancing water availability, water purification would be extremely beneficial given the poor quality of the water available during the dry season.
  • Numerous water filtration options are available on the market, but there may be limited options that are actually available in Leticia. The affordability of the available options would have to be assessed to determine whether they can be supplied to the village.
  • Suggest next steps – continue research into water purification options and cost / feasibility for each option, but only progress if project to increase water supply is unlikely to be able to be delivered in time for next 2012 dry season
  • Overall, it is considered that all fund raising efforts should be directed toward the resolution of the water issue.