Hope you´ve been enjoying your winter breaks! I´m sitting in the internet cafe right now (Thursday morning) with Julian. Yesterday was extremely eventful. Here´s a summary of what happpened.
We took a shuttle from Xela back to NSCI early in the morning. Then at 10am we split up into groups.
Herbert, Sandy, Dave, and I went to Puwalkox to look at the pipeline from the upper pump station to the distribution tank. Gustavo, who is a student intern for the contractor Alberto, was there and he hiked the entire time with us and answered many of our questions. The pipeline from the upper pump station is existing galvanized iron for about 200m, not new galvanized iron like we recommended. Then, it is new galvanized iron for 85m (14 pieces of pipeline). After this, it is new PVC to the head tank. Sandy and Dave made several recommendations to Gustavo, including installing an air release valve at one high point, adding more anchors, and supporting the existing anchors. Dave prepared a letter with photos, which we also worked on and will be translating, to the Muni and the Water Committee, summarizing our recommendations for the entire pipeline.
While we were at Puwalkox, the rest of the team split into two groups: Nicole and Julian, and Divya and Manika. They went into the town to conduct surveys. Divya has taken a lot of Spanish and speaks very well, so she didn´t need a translator to conduct the surveys. They were all very productive. Divya and Manika ran into Esther, a member of the water committee who read Spanish, and she walked around with them verbally translating the survey into K´iche´. This was an enormous help as it allowed them to reach many more NSCI residents.
At 3pm, Nicole and Manika went to do educational presentations. The students were middle-school aged, so initially they thought they were ¨too cool¨ for the presentation and it was a little difficult. By the end, however, many students answered questions and they all got excited about the activities. During this time, Herbert and I, and Divya and Julian, went out to do more surveys. We also distributed surveys later at the Water Committee meeting. By the end of the day we had about 90 completed surveys!
The Water Committee meeting was at 6pm. Here, we presented the disinfection alternatives that the Technical Team has been working on. The Water Committee was very interested in what we had to say, and gave us a lot of feedback. As we kind of expected, many of them did not like chlorination because they dont like the taste and it is not in their culture (in fact, we even heard earlier from both Carlos and Gustavo that Xela has chlorinated water and most people still boil it anyway!!). However, several of them seemed excited about slow sand filtration, and there was a long discussion about that, with a few very vocal supporters of it. At the end of the meeting, each of them told us which alternative they personally preferred. The results were:
Gas Chlorination: 0
Tablet Chlorination: 0
Drip Chlorination: 1
Slow Sand Filtration: 3
They also told us they would like us to present the disinfection alternatives at the town hall meeting tonight. Although the strong preference for boiling is somewhat disappointing from our perspective, it is more or less what we expected. Also, we thought it was important to consider that those who personally prefer boiling would probably still be totally okay with it if their neighbor had a slow sand filter. Sandy said she thought SSF would be something that might gradually catch on, e.g. if a small minority of people are very enthusiastic about SSF, and we work with them and they get filters, others may see them and eventually want their own filters. So that could still be an option. We are looking forward to getting more feedback at the town hall meeting.