Volunteer Leah Hughes in Cusco | Part IV
Week Four: Water
My big accomplishment this week was to purchase a water filter for Casa Mosqoy! As anybody who’s spent some time with me lately knows, I was very excited about this project and talked about it incessantly all week long. Well ok, I’m still telling anybody who will listen all about it. Clean, pure drinking water is something to talk about here. It’s not every house that has easy access to potable water. In fact most don’t. People here have to buy bottled water or boil the water they get from a tap, stream or aquifer. For these reasons, most people don’t seem to drink that much water, and if they do drink the boiled stuff it’s usually in the form of tea or juice.
At home, I’m used to having my reusable water bottle or water glass nearby at all times and I drink continuously throughout the day. My current roommate and fellow volunteer Johanna can attest to the fact that I drink a lot of the old H2O. We’ve been buying water these past weeks and my row of empty 7L bottles outnumbers hers two to one. And as friends of mine from home know, bottled water is a major pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand the thought of all those plastic bottles when it’s absolutely unnecessary. I cringe when I see somebody throwing a plastic water bottle in the garbage in Canada. But here, I confess, I have done the same. Only for absolute lack of any better option, I swear!
So you can imagine how delighted I was to find out about ceramic water filters. The design was developed to treat water in areas hit by natural disasters. Undrinkable water is filtered through a ceramic basin that sits inside a plastic jug with a spout. When it comes out, the water is clean! So simple and so brilliant. Ceramic water filters are approved by the World Health Organization and are distributed by the Red Cross. The one I bought is made by an organization called ProWorld, which manufactures the filters in the nearby town of Urubamba!
ProWorld’s filters are tested and approved by the Peruvian Ministry of Health. The ceramic component is pressed in a mold and fired. After firing, it is painted with an antibacterial solution of colloidal silver. The finished product is over 98% effective in preventing bacteria like E.coli, cholera and giardia. Water that passes through these filters also has less fecal coliform per unit than boiled water. Each filter has a lifespan of two years, and not only does it cut down on plastic but it is also much more cost effective than buying bottles for the same amount of time. Worth every cent, I’d say. You can check out the ProWorld report on their filters here: http://www.proworldvolunteers.org/sites/default/files/pw_waterfilter.pdf
Now Mosqoy students (and fellow residents of the house) have easy access to drinking water. When I brought the filter home I was really excited by the students’ interest and level of enthusiasm. I gave a little presentation on our new water filter after dinner, and everyone was supportive. One student even suggested we get another filter for upstairs, all before we’d even tried the first sip! We have long-term dreams of presenting these water filters to the weaving communities. Maybe one day residents in the communities Q’ente works with will simply open the spout on their ceramic filters when they’re thirsty…
Clean drinking water is a perfect example of something we take for granted at home. Having potable water right in your kitchen is actually an extraordinary event for so many people around the world. Before I spent some time living outside of Canada I never thought about the fact that I turn on the tap and expect to have instant access to some of the freshest, tastiest drinking water in the world. At home the idea of consciously keeping your mouth closed in the shower so you don’t swallow any water is unthinkable. But those who have grown up in Peru have an entirely different experience. So I am overjoyed to have found a way to make drinking water accessible in Casa Mosqoy. For those of you at home, next time you enjoy a cool glass of water straight from the tap please consider how lucky you are. And remember everybody– stay hydrated!