On the first day in Zabalo we got up early but Ruben and Walter from AgroConsultares were already up and had started assembling the water filtration system.
This particular system sits under the water tower and comprises a large sand filter with a fitting for back cleaning the sand. A large particulate filter is also fitted before the water pipe splits into parallel streams.
Each has a set of three filters, one smaller particulate filter, one activated carbon filter for hydrocarbon contamination, and one chlorine filter to treat the water for any bacteria.
We headed into the forest to investigate the clean water supply identified by the villagers, about 400m north of the water tower. Two rivers met near the village, the Rio Negro and the Rio Blanco, and the latter was the clean water source.
We had to cross the Rio Negro to start the water testing for hydrocarbons in the Rio Blanco so Andreas, the son of the village chief, used a machete to cut down a tree so that we could cross. Unfortunately, the tree wasn’t quite big enough, so Beth and I canoed across.
All the tests found that the water in both rivers was clear of contamination. We sited a stable, clear area for the position of the water tank and petrol pump next to the Rio Blanco, and a path for the water pipe to the water tower.
By the time we had finished and made it back to the village, the Cofan had mustered a team of 12 strong men to start digging the trench for the pipe, and assembly of the filtration system was almost complete. By mid afternoon we were checking the distribution pipes to the village, school and Eco huts. Unfortunately the main line for the distribution system had been installed with the wrong size joints and was leaking so we had to dig this up and replace them before the system would work.
We finished replacing the joints early on the second day and with a lot of hard work the filtration and distribution systems were in by 7.30am. The rest of the day was spent installing the tank and pump next to the Rio Blanco water source and running the pipe to the tower.
While we were doing this, the skies opened and it started raining torrentially. However, this didn’t deter the Cofan, Ruben or Walter, and by the end of the day the water system was technically installed, the water tank was being filled from the river and water was being supplied to people’s homes. We still had work to do building shelters for the pump and filtration system and support for the water tank by the river, but the hardest part was done!
Before we arrived in Zabalo, the village water came from a borehole and needed treating. It was very iron rich and gave people stomach problems. Now each house could drink clean, clear water straight from the tap. We were very happy that it had come together so quickly, and the villagers were pretty happy too - that night they came specially to thank us for our efforts.