U.S. club brings safe water to communities in Mexico, Malawi
he Rotary Club of Carpinteria Morning, California, USA, is applying the experience it gained from a water project in Mexico to a new effort halfway around the globe, in Malawi.
The club’s work with water projects began when one of its members attended a meeting of the Rotary Club of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico, in 2005 and learned that nearby villagers drank contaminated water from wells or used their meager wages to buy expensive bottled water. The Carpinteria Morning club decided to get involved.
“We wanted to find filtration systems -- sand, solar, ozone, microfiltration -- that would work best in these five small villages,” explains Larry Siegel, who coordinates water projects for District 5240. “We wanted it to be repeated around the area, so the systems needed to be affordable.”
The club decided to install different systems in different villages. The most successful system was a combination of sand and electric ultraviolet (UV) filtration in La Cienaga. Families had been paying up to a day’s wages for a weekly supply of bottled water because the local water, which was orange, was undrinkable. “Once the sand/UV system was installed, the bottled water purchases stopped, and we saw the health and economic impact from the project,” Siegel says.
Working with the Rotary clubs of Pátzcuaro and Pátzcuaro 2000, the Carpinteria Morning club led a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant project that installed 100-gallon storage tanks and filters in 75 elementary schools to treat contaminated water from the local system.
When club members learned about similar clean water challenges in Malawi, they decided to try to repeat the success of that project, drawing upon their experience in finding water filtration systems and installing them in La Cienaga. District 5240 partnered with District 9210 (Malawi; part of Mozambique; Zambia; Zimbabwe) on a 2007 Matching Grant project that installed large rainwater collection tanks at four AIDS treatment centers in rural Malawi. The project, with local support from the Rotary Club of Lilongwe, also helped supply 30 sand filters for domestic use, which patients took home.
Rotarians are also working with eight rural villages in Malawi to distribute household sand filters, build rainwater collection tanks, and seal and cap wells, which should provide clean water to 5,000 people. A third Malawi project is helping to fund a health worker who will teach villagers about hand washing, food preparation, baby care, and other issues integral to promoting health through the long-term use of the clean water system.
“It’s our way of starting to address the sanitation side,” says Siegel. “We think it’s our best project yet.”