Saturday, January 16, 2016

First Few Days in NSCI

It's been a while since you were last updated on our escapades in Guatemala, for which you can thank a lack of internet access and many hours of hard work. After arriving to NSCI on Sunday evening and unloading at Angel's house, we went straight to the Municipality for a meeting with the new water committee. There we asked the new water committee of their expectations of us and we also had an interactive meeting where the water committee showed us the different locations in the neighborhoods where the water meters would be installed on a map thanks to Sandy's colorful erasable pens. Although we were unable to determine which valves go to which neighborhood in the community we were still able to determine where exactly to install the water meters. The next day, we woke up to a man yelling "queso, queso" out on the streets of NSCI. Once we reached the head tank after getting ready, we finally got to see water meters, which we have been trying to get the community to install for 5 years. When we first opened the pipes at the valves at the head tank, Martin noticed that there was water spurting out from the air valve I was surprised to see how fontaneros of NSCI fix leaks in the pipelines: by putting a stick in the hole.

See the stick in the white tube? That's blocking a hole!

Also, unfortunately, when we opened the pipes from the valves at the head tank, we noticed that those pipes were 3-inch in diameter, and we only had 10 0.5-inch diameter water meters! This completely changed our leak study test since we no longer had a way to determine the flow out from the different valves at the head tank so while half of the travel team went around with the fontaneros to install water meters at different households in the neighborhoods, the other half of the travel team went on a bumpy and twisty drive to Xela to try to find water meters that were 3-inch in diameter. Although this wasn't what we were expecting, we turned a negative into a positive because we now got 10 households in the community to install water meters instead of just 5. Also, although the travel team that went to Xela couldn't find 3-inch water meters, we still found a quote for the galvanized iron pipes that the water committee wanted in order to figure out how much money it would cost them to replace the entire gravity pipeline! Check out the pictures below of some of the highlights at the head tank, and of the installation of the water meters in the households in the community which took up most of Monday.

The whole travel team pictured up at the head tank. Left to right: David Tanzi, Ericka Paredes, Sandra Kutzing, Jaslin Singh, Neha Sikka, Martin Liza, Samantha Hansen, and Austin Hall

The valve boxes next to the head tank.

The surface of the head tank was wet due to overflow of the water.

The first step to install a water meter: identify the pipe. The second step: cut the pipe.

The next day, half of the travel team (Dave, Ericka, Austin, and I) went off to hike to the upper pump station and the lower pump station. It was a very bumpy ride to the top of the hill of where the pumps were located. After we reached the top of the hill, we slipped and slid down the steep and twisty hill to get to the upper pump station. Thankfully it wasn't wet, otherwise it would've became a muddy mess! We even saw a horse tied to a tree on our way down and were debating if we should have it take some of us down the hill. When we finally reached the upper pump station we found out from the fontanero that the kids nearby would throw rocks and such into where the three pumps were located. Therefore, the fontaneros wanted to replace the concrete lid with a metal lid so that they could lock it and easily open it as well. We suggested that the water committee should take out rocks from inside where the pumps are located, and they should also operate the valves that are connected to the pumps so that if in the future they need to replace the pumps with new ones, they won't have trouble turning the valves. The air vents should've also been covered with screens so that bugs don't crawl into the water system.

The concrete lids were huge, and heavy!

We then continued on our hike down to the lower pump station. Here, we encountered crossing a stream of water and luckily no one slipped into the water here. Once we reached the lower pump station we gave similar advice to the water committee and also told them to contact Hidasa for the electricity maintenance as a part of it that was not working was concerning the fontanero. Although we got to the lower pump station safe and sound, the hike back up to the upper pump station and then to the car was very difficult as we couldn't breathe due to the high altitude. Once we reached the upper pump station again, we took a lunch break to catch our breath and recover from the hike up, but we still had a long way to go to get back to the cars. After stopping numerous times on the way and hydrating ourselves with water we finally all made it to the top of the pumps, even if it was to a locked car! Check out some pictures below of our once-in-a-lifetime experience, as stated by Ericka, one of our travel team members.

Part of the travel team (Jaslin, Ericka, Austin, and Dave) pictured with a portion of the Water Committee at the pumps.


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