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In Santa Ana, a potable water project was started in 2002 in coordination with the Municipal government and a national program to fund water systems. However the time-frame on both of these sources expired before water ever arrived at the taps, leaving the community on their own. Since 2006, Kendra, Froylan, and another MIT student named Fernando have been working with the community to fix up the water system and build up the technical and administrative capacity that is necessary for the community to operate and maintain their own water system.

During January of 2008, these efforts started to pay off in a big way. Kendra and Fernando saw the community really take ownership of the system, with the whole community applying their creativity and ingenuity to keep the system running. Although the system still has many flaws, the coliform tests Kendra and Fernando conducted at the end of the trip indicated that the community finally had access to a regular supply of clean, potable water.

Now available for download: the Spanish language technical and administrative manuals used in Santa Ana:

Technical manual Admininistrative Manual


The system is run by a 5-member community water board and a community member who serves as the operator. Families pay $5 a month to pay a salary to a member of the community who serves as the operator and to pay for the electricity of the pump.

Here are the components of the water system. See The story of Sacha Yaku for more information about our involvement with the water system.

A River Intake: A concrete structure in the Santander River, a small stream that runs through largely undisturbed forest. The river water is relatively clean compared to the other sources of water available, but still contains coliform bacteria which indicates human and animal fecal contamination and means treatment is required for the water to be safe.
A 2km Conduction Line: essentially brings the water to the treatment center. Has an air valve and a drainage valve along the line.

Slow Sand Filter: the slow sand filter is an amazingly simple and effective water treatment technology (it can remove up to 99.9% of virus, bacteria, and protozoa under ideal conditions). However, the filter built for Santa Ana is rather small for the size of the community and is now clogged to the point where only a fraction of the design flow is able to pass through the filter. Luckily this is still enough water to serve the community, but as more families are added to the distribution network the community will need a long-term solution. Designing and implementing such a solution is one of the main priorities for this coming summer.

Chlorinator: the operator refills the chlorination take every 3 days with a concentrated chlorine solution which then drips in at a steady rate. This system is far from ideal because it does not adjust to changes in flow through the filter. In order to compensate we have developed a simple system for the operator to measure the flow rate every three days and adjust the chlorine dose accordingly. Coliform tests indicate that the chlorine is doing its job – taking almost clean water and disinfecting it completely as well as giving it a residual to ensure that the water arrives clean at the houses.

Pump: although the system was designed with auto sensors to turn it off and on as needed, that system is not currently working. Instead, the operator manually turns on the pump 6 times a week to send water from the treatment center to the elevated water tower. A local engineer told the community that the pump has been sized too small and they should upgrade it to a larger pump.

Elevated water tower: a 20meter tall steel construction that holds 8 cubic meters of water and provides enough pressure to drive the water through the distribution line.

Distribution line: sections are still missing from the distribution line, and it also plagued with many leaks. However the community continues to gain experience in ways to control the leaks.

Water valves/meters: each house has a water meter and valve outside of their home.

Bathrooms: most families chose to have a cinderblock bathroom with a toilet and sink put in next to their homes as part of the water system. However, some of them have not been finished or even started. Most families have chosen to disconnect the bathroom rather than let the potable water constantly leak out of the poorly installed plumbing. Instead, they have a faucet head attached to a hose to get the potable water and use buckets of rain water to flush the toilet.

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