By Liz Moody
Until recently on Isla Puná, Ecuador’s second largest island, there were two choices when it came to drinking water: Pay $1 for a 3.5-liter bottle of purified water from the mainland, a price few residents of the rural town can afford, or take a chance with water from one of the local wells. With the cost of bottled water prohibitively high, most opted for well water, which came with its own cost—every week, children and adults flooded the local hospital with diarrhea, vomiting, and rashes and sores on their skin, all symptoms of infections that come from drinking dirty water.
But as of this week, everything changed. The Azul Pura water purification center is complete! This project, a collaboration between Pathfinders Project and Water Ecuador, will sell pure water to residents at $1.50 for a five-gallon jug (a cost of 8¢ per liter, compared to 29¢ per liter for other bottled water).
Sediment filter, activated carbon filter, water softener, another sediment filter. In addition, the water passes through UV purification and a reverse osmosis system.
But it’s more than safe water at a good price—it’s a local institution, run by locals for locals. Water Ecuador provides the design for the system, subsidizes the cost of the equipment, and assists with the installation process, but then backs out, reappearing only to help with occasional maintenance and to perform tests to ensure the continued quality of the water.
Heriberto Napa Tobar, president of Water Ecuador on the Ecuadorian side, tastes the azul pura.
Pathfinders and Water Ecuador created a video about how to maintain the water system.
The day-to-day running of the center—operating the purification system, bottling the water, sales, etc.—is handled entirely by the center owner, a member of the local community. As Pathfinder Ben Blanchard notes, “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.”
Education is also a large part of Water Ecuador’s efforts. While in Puná, Pathfinders gave presentations on water at a local school. The inauguration of the Azul Pura center included a presentation about the water, explanations of the filtration process, and free samples.
The presentation, given several times over the course of the day, proved quite popular.
Congratulations and felicidades to Conor, Wendy, Michelle, and Ben on a job well done.
The Pathfinders will be continuing their work with water in Santa Marta, Colombia. In this coastal Caribbean town in the far Northeast of the country, they will be focusing on water sanitation issues and some natural resources work with Mision Gaia. If you’d like to help support the Pathfinders and their yearlong service trip, click here.