Step by Step Guide to our Water Projects

1. Finding a Clean Water Source

The first step in our construction process is to find a natural water source high above human settlements that is free from contamination. The communities we work with normally let us know where this source is located, often several kilometres away from the village. Our Karen team will then visit the source to test the quality of the water.

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2. Preparing the Source

Once identified, part of the natural spring must be dammed in order to channel the water down to the village. Care is taken to leave a flow of water so that the source can continue along its natural path. Villagers collect sand and gravel from river beds and carry boulders and rocks up the mountain to dam the source. Concrete, cement and pipes are also carried by hand from the village. The source is dammed by surrounding the water with boulders and holding them together with concrete and gravel.

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3. Filtering the Water

Once dammed, the water is transported to a twin-tank slow sand filter which is essential for purifying the water. Gauze is used to stop debris entering the pipe system. The filter tanks themselves are made from concrete and covered in cement, measuring approximately 1 square meter. The water passes through a simple yet effective filtration system of sand, gravel and charcoal, which are layered in the bottom of the tank. Although very basic, this system is very economical in terms of maintenance and life span. This improves the physical nature of the water, removing much of the silt and sediment, and is repeated twice as water moves from the first tank to the second.

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4. Getting the Water to the Village

The water is transported by plastic pipes from the filter tanks to the village, which can be anything from one to twelve kilometres away. The terrain is often challenging, and the pipes may need to be laid on the side of steep mountains or across roads and rivers. Trenches are dug into which the pipes are laid, which are then covered with top soil to protect them from the heat of the sun. As gravity fed system, it is dependent on the right pressure existing to allow the water to travel over long distances.

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5. Storing the Water

Once the pipes reach the village, large storage tanks are built which can hold up to 20,000 litres. Each family will use around 500 to 600 litres per day for drinking, cooking and hygiene. As this is a gravity fed system, the tanks have to be built at a strategic height above the village and on sufficiently firm ground to avoid subsidence. A large area is prepared with boulders and cement. Wires are put in place to support the height of the tank and strengthen the concrete. Concrete is poured into ring moulds which makes the cylindrical shape of the storage tanks. Once dry, the ring moulds are placed on top and another layer of concrete is filled in to give it extra height. A lid is made by folding the wires across and concreting over the top. The water enters the tank through a gauze-lined hole which gives an extra form of filtration. This is covered with a small concrete lid to allow access for cleaning.

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6. Turning on the Taps

Pipes take the water from the base of the tank into the village to standpipes, which are placed so that one is available for every three households. The taps can then be turned on, giving clean water to the village. Clean water has a transformative effect forKaren communities, reducing the incidence of preventable diseases and improving productivity during the working day. Our data has demonstrated that typhoid rates can be reduced by up to 98% once there is access to clean drinking water.

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