Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 20 Countdown #18: Started a Water Filter Co-op
Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and Twitter. Help us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.

An amazing man and good friend* developed ceramic water filters here in Nicaragua: Ron Rivera.  These filters are made of porous clay and sit on the rim of plastic buckets with spigots at the bottom of the buckets.  The filters are treated with a high concentration of colloidal silver to kill bacteria and other nasty things that love to live in water.  One can pour river water in the filter and then drink safely from the water that flows out the spigot.  They are truly wonderful…and cheap…about $12 for the bucket, filter, and lid. Ron was a potter, and though based in Nicaragua, he went around the world teaching small groups of potters how to make the filters.  As the demand grew globally for these filters through Oxfam, the group Ron had started in Nicaragua needed some support.  Ron came to Mike and asked if we would take it over.

We work with co-ops, so Mike said if they wanted to be a co-op then we would work with them and they could set up their operations in the Industrial Park, next door… which at that time was a pasture field with huge power lines and two buildings where co-ops were working.  Ron came and helped them build a kiln and set up their operations.

There was an enormous need for water filters after Hurricane Mitch in 1998… the deadliest hurricane in the 20th century.  Even though the filters were affordable, many of the big international groups were not interested.  Mike recruited a woman from MIT and the Center for Disease Control to do a micro-biological study on the filters.   Her conclusion was that they were excellent filters… one of the best.  They were easy to make, cheap, and highly effective to produce potable water… and still there wasn't a large demand for the filters.
Against our advice, the co-op made one of their board members a European who invested money in the co-op.  At one point, this man - citing that it was his money - fired all the original potters and started over.  After a year or so, we asked the business to move.

Now the potters make pots to order and are back in their original location.  We use the filters in our office, the volunteer dorm, our health clinic, and in our home.  We promote the filters as one of the most appropriate technologies we have ever come across, but it is hard to get people to understand that though their water is clear does not mean that it is clean.
  And what happened to the amazing Ron?  He contracted cerebral malaria while working on a filter project in Nigeria; he died here in Nicaragua after coming home to celebrate his 60th birthday.  Clean water was his passion… he, and we, believe that clean water is a basic human right.

Future Projects: 
•    For patients who do not have running water inside their home, we would love to provide these filters to decrease the contamination of water sitting in open buckets in the home… awaiting funding.

*If you have been reading these latest blogs you will note the many friends who have helped this project… many are old friends from before, and many are friends we have made in the past 20 years… good people trying to make the world a better place.  

20 years/20 dollars: help us keep doing more by giving $20. - Kathleen