Clean Water by the Numbers

By | February 24, 2014

Water is one of the most, if not the most, important molecules for all life as we know it.
Water makes up about 65% of the mass of a human cell, and about 98.73% of the molecules in the human cell.
Water makes up more than 70% of the earth’s surface.
And water played a vital role in the formation of life on earth, both as the media for the primordial soup, and as the nursery and hunting grounds for all life for eons before it began to move to land.

But now, water is endangering the life it should sustain. Potable water is a rarity in many developing countries. Unclean water can cause severe illness and death. According to the World Health Organization, waterborne illnesses cause over 1.8 million deaths a year.

 

Dirty water on the side of a road of the island

Dirty water on the side of a road of the island

In Ecuador, 21.9% of households do not have access to clean drinking water. In rural areas, the percentage is significantly higher, like here on Isla Puná.

In Puná, Ecuador’s 2nd largest island, children and adults stream to the understaffed hospital with diarrhea, vomiting, and rashes and sores on their skin. These are the symptoms of the infections that dirty water has given them. They will be given antibiotics, and told that they need to drink purified water, but soon, sometimes within weeks, they will be sick again.

The problem is as simple as it is difficult. Clean drinking water will save their health, but at $1 for a 3.5 liter bottle, it is too expensive for the ill to afford. Bottled, purified water is just out of reach for these people. Many try, and purchase well-water from purveyors, but this water is often still dangerous.

 

One of the island`s dirty water sources

One of the island`s dirty water sources

When determining if water is safe, we look at several factors. Here in Puná, the factor to look at is the “Colony Forming Units”level or how many clumps of bacteria that can form new colonies are in a volume of water. These colonies could grow in the soil, on fur, or inside the gut of a child, making that child ill. The well-water sold here in Puná has been measured at 1000 CFUs per ml, 2-4 times what is considered safe in the USA. It is not a guarantee that one will get sick from drinking this water; due to the lack of quality control, some batches are safer than others. But we know that innumerable healthy people have gotten sick from this water, and they will continue to get sick from this water.

That’s all about to change.

Due to the hard work and ingenuity of Water Ecuador, a local of Punáwho once sold unclean water will begin selling Azul Pura. This water will be sold at $1.50 for a poma, or 5 gallon jug. This brand was developed by Water Ecuador, and it symbolizes a commitment to the highest quality purified water at an affordable price.

The water sold under the Azul Pura brand has multiple redundant purification and filtration steps to provide the highest quality water. Water is filtered two times through sediment filters and again through an activated carbon filter. After one pass through a water softener, the water’s dissolved magnesium and calcium (Mg2+ and Ca2+) is replaced with sodium or potassium ions (Na+ and K+), making it more palatable. Thanks to the UV purification, light waves at 254nm blast apart the DNA of microorganisms in the water, removing dangers from bacteria and viruses. These are in addition to the reverse osmosis system, which by taking advantage a peculiar thermodynamic principle, removes all particles larger than 0.1 nm. This water truly is Pure Blue.

The truly remarkable part of Azul Pura is not the excellently designed water purification system, but rather that that way the brand expands. The owners of the systems are always locals of the area the system is serving. They also operate the system, and sell the water, and reap all of the profits. All Water Ecuador does is design the system, help in implementation, and assist with upkeep of the system. They also heavily subsidize the system so that locals can afford this expensive equipment, but that is beside the point. Azul Pura is water for the people of an area, purified and sold by people of that area, sourced from that area, and the profits stay in that area. The work Water Ecuador does is not to come in and save a people, nor to reap profits off the impoverished, but rather to help locals help themselves get rid of a serious public health hazard, unclean drinking water. And THAT, is 100% awesome.

The new wall for the Azul Pura building

The new wall for the Azul Pura building


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