Alex Wann in Honduras
Project location was in Jayacayan, Honduras, located in southern Honduras in the Choluteca Province and east of the regional city of Choluteca. This is a rural, mountainous area where Mission Lazarus headquarters and the project research site are located. It is predominantly an agrarian economy, based upon beef, dairy, corn, and coffee production. Here is where I began a rainwater catchment project.
Mission Lazarus helped establish several shallow wells. While beneficial for the recipient communities, due to economic and topographic limitations, such wells are not widespread or readily available to rural, undeveloped areas.
However, utilizing natural resources like rainwater and sun can provide viable opportunities for these areas to have clean drinking water via a simple, affordable method. Research has determined that collected rainwater subjected to a simple solar purification method, can realistically supply potable water.
This critical need for potable water in these rural, undeveloped areas of southern Honduras and similar undeveloped areas of the world identifies the need for further research, development and education regarding comprehensive rainwater collection and solar purification projects.
- Collect rainwater during the Honduran rainy season (May - October) from two different residential roof types commonly used in the area, clay tile and metal. Both of the rainwater collection systems are located on Mission Lazarus property.
- Test the quality of the rainwater for bacteria using the Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Test Kit.
- Using the Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Test Kits, tests were initiated at three stages of the rainwater collection process:
- Water collected in the first flush diverter.
- Water collected in the storage tank and before the solar purification process.
- Water after the solar purification process.
Once the rainwater was collected and both test samples 1 &2 were taken, the water was then placed in clear plastic bottles under direct sunlight for over six hours. This method of water purification is called the SODIS method (solar disinfection), developed initially in the early 1990’s by The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. (www.sodis.ch) After completion of the SODIS method, a final Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Test was conducted to analyze the bacterial content of the SODIS purified water.
Due to unforeseen political unrest in Honduras, and my resultant early departure from the country, I was only able to complete one series of tests. Nonetheless, I was able to confirm the solar purification process was successful in 2 out of 3 bottles tested.
However, it’s possible that an error occurred in the bottle preparation of the example that returned contaminated. Therefore the project was designed to have five tests at each of the three stages in the water collection process to account for possible human error. The Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Test provided a clear visual result of the bacterial quality of the rainwater tested and consequently the effectiveness of the SODIS purification process. This indicator test can be universally applied to any solar water purification project. It is easy to use and understand both essential qualities in displaying the bacteriological condition of the water samples.
THE NEXT STEP: THE RESEARCH CONTINUES
I will continue this project on the site of ACU’s Rhoden Farm working under the direction of the Abilene Christian University Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The Rhoden Farm is used as an educational facility for the department, and includes a fully operational rainwater collection system with the capacity to store 6,000 gallons of water. I will continue the research upon returning for the Fall 2009 semester with the same goal to incorporate rainwater collection and the SODIS method to achieve a simple, economical means of providing clean drinking water. The Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Test Kits are an essential component of the study for testing the bacteriological condition of the water. Following the first round of testing in Honduras, I have 385 Hach Co. Whirl-Pak® Tests remaining to continue research in Abilene, Texas. The research results will be presented at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists Convention in Orlando, Florida, February 2010 and the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival, April 2010.
by Alex Wann
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