PROTECTED WATER SOURCE PROJECT
Visit the following link for an inside look at the protected water sources constructed by Omni Med:
We base our efforts around the concept that water must be safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established guidelines for drinking water quality that include criteria for determining the safety of a drinking water source using microbial content of fecal origin as its primary reference. An integral part of the Omni Med PWS initiative is evaluating the quality and safety of the protected water sources we help to construct. This evaluation is performed via microbiological assays which are performed prior to and post-construction, as well as on a regular, ongoing basis to monitor water quality for the long-term. The criteria used to determine the water quality in Omni Med's testing system is based on the presence and amount of fecal contamination (a standard indicator of water quality). Omni Med retains a stock supply of testing equipment that specifically measures the
amounts of E.coli and general coliform bacteria. The frequency of PWS construction projects varies according to budget, time, and appropriate locations. We strive to build at least 1-2 every year. Our studies show that the process of re-routing water through a series of clay, sand, porous rock and then out a clean pipe makes the water fifty times cleaner. This means that kids are far less likely to contract diarrheal illness, which is the second leading killer of kids in Uganda. Each source thus far provides far cleaner drinking water for 30-300 households, or 180-1800 people. Our individual studies have shown that our protected water sources have 1/50th the coliform bacteria of the open sites that preceded them. There are seven different components to this project:
I. Pre-Construction Water Quality Assessment
All water source(s) used by the community are tested using the PWS
Microbiological Testing Protocols. The results are in terms of quantitative levels of total coliforms and E. coli per mL of water and include qualitative descriptions of the pre-construction state of the water source. The GPS coordinates must also be obtained for the site(s) tested.
II. Community Mobilization
Discussion must first occur with the LC1 and will be followed by broader discussion with the community and election of community officials who will oversee the construction process and permanently manage and safeguard the PWS. These meetings led by Mwebe Edward, it is stressed that it is the responsibility of the community itself to complete the construction. Omni Med simply provides supplies as well as oversight and expertise. Able-bodied people from the community must be recruited to do the work of construction.
III. Planning Construction
The plans of construction are carefully made and explained to those community members with chief responsibility for the project. This task primarily falls to Mwebe Edward and Mugabi Henry, but all short- and long-term volunteers familiarize themselves with this portion of the process.
IV. The Construction Process
Mugabi Henry is responsible for contacting suppliers for raw materials needed: gravel, sand, concrete, and bricks. The construction process usually takes 1-2 weeks, and the water becomes usable approximately 2-3 weeks after construction is complete. Upon completion, we hold a ceremony officially opening the well for the community’s use. This ceremony involves leaders from the parish, sub-county, and even district levels.
V. Post-Construction Water Quality Assessment
2-3 weeks after construction has been completed, another water quality assessment is performed using the same protocols used in the pre-construction assessment. The GPS coordinates must also be obtained for the location of the new protected water source. In every PWS there remains a small amount of fecal contamination which is unavoidable. Therefore it must be emphasized to the community that the water from the PWS must still be boiled before drinking.
VI. Ongoing Water Quality Assessment
The same microbiological protocols used in pre- and post-construction assessment must be regularly applied to all Omni Med protected water sources.These tests are performed at all sites at least once a year, depending on volunteer availability and supply of testing materials.
VII. Mapping and Summarizing of PWS Locations using BaseCampTM Software
The Garmin® mapping application, BaseCamp TM, shows the locations of the most recently mapped PWS locations and the assessments. This database is updated regularly with the completed construction of every water source.
We are currently looking to measure the morality impact of our Protected Water Sources program and evaluate the efficacy in saving lives while analyzing how many people have benefited. The graphic below details just how these protected water sources are constructed. We have no affiliation with the clear Water Initiative, but our process is similar. Unlike in their approach, our average cost per new protected water source construction is US $500.
Dedication to Harry Barnes
Harry Barnes was many things to many people: US Ambassador, Kellogg Advisor, advocate for social justice, mentor, husband, father and friend. I first met Harry Barnes during my orientation as a Kellogg National Leadership Program fellow in 1993. He became a friend, mentor, and someone whom I relied on for so many years. He joined Omni Med's board early on. Given his lifelong struggle for justice for all people, he strongly backed our programs providing training and health resources to some of the world’s poor in Belize, Kenya, Guyana, and Uganda. Harry served as an Omni Med Board member from the organization’s founding in 1998 until his death in 2012. Since each newly constructed water source saves lives through cleaner drinking water and thereby less diarrheal and other illness, we thought it would be a fitting tribute to Harry Barnes to construct a series of protected water sources in his memory—a living testament to a man who cared deeply about the global poor and dedicated his life to securing justice for all people.
Our ultimate goal is to construct protected water sources throughout the Mukono District in Uganda. We constructed 10 protected water sources in Harry’s memory, each complete with a plaque remembering him. Clean water derived from water sources that local villagers construct—with Omni Med’s guidance and financing—will provide a living and lasting testimony to a man we all knew and admired.