The "Suma Quta" Clean Water Project
Today, many rural communities’ traditional livelihoods in the Lake Titicaca basin are threatened by water scarcity and pollution from mines, urban settlements, and solid waste. Most people today in the lake basin show awareness about pollution and the lake’s much-diminished fisheries, but until this project was initiated, no information about water quality and conservation had been available to the public.
The Suma Quta (pronounced “Sue-muh koh-tuh”) Project began in 2009 and combines the efforts of numerous Peru- and U.S.-based nonprofits and universities, as well as regional government agencies in Puno, Peru, in developing public information about water quality and appropriate technologies and best practices for communities that have water sources that are risky or dangerous for human consumption
Community-Based Water Monitoring Program
Since 2009, The Chijnaya Foundation and the Puno-based nongovernmental action group Suma Marka have worked with Global Water Watch in building Peru’s first comprehensive community-based water monitoring program. Now, 58 monitors–mostly local community leaders and college students at the local National University of the Altiplano– have been trained in 2 or 3 day long courses to do physico-chemical and bacteriological water monitoring using portable kits and incubators built from Styrofoam boxes, 15 watt light bulbs, and thermometers. The information gathered monthly by monitors at a dozen stations around the lake basin is available to the public, and is meant to provide local activists with data that shows where the nature and location of pollution entering surface waters. This is a critical step in being able to press regional and federal agencies to remediate polluted sites and stop new pollution from entering rivers and the lake.
Double Water Supply and Reduced Pathogen Exposure
In June 2011, on the basis of tests that showed dangerous levels of e Coli in the water supply of the rural community of Parina, one of our certified water monitors, Ricardo Quispe, convinced his village government to provide materials and labor to clean up a water source. Working with a visiting Masters in Public Health student from Loma Linda University, community members in Parina built a system that has doubled their water supply and reduced exposure to the pathogens from the spring head. The community now has set its sights on remediating a neighboring well. Seeing how much can be achieved through community-municipality-civic collaboration, neighboring villages are keen to copy this model.
Pilot Project for Constructing Well Filters
In summer and fall of 2011, Suma Marka and The Chijnaya Foundation teamed with the Engineers without Borders chapter at the University of California (EWB-UCB) to initiate a pilot project in constructing filters for wells in the region that have dangerous levels of toxic arsenic in the water. The filters are simple, inexpensive, and can be made by local technicians with basic training. They use perforated ceramic pots filled with layers of broken brick, polyester cloth, fine and course sand, charcoal, and rusty iron scraps. This simple design has proven effective in other parts of the world where arsenic is similarly a significant problem. To carry out the project, the Suma Quta partners entered into an agreement with the Puno Directorate of Public Health (DIRESA) to create a public-private effort that matches community surveys and filter development with outreach and monitoring by DIRESA’s rural doctors and nurses. The EWB-UCB has made a five-year commitment to the project, with stated goals of working with regional health authorities to scale up arsenic sampling in wells in Puno and filter availability for families whose wells exceed health standards.
Ceramic Household Water Filters
In 2012, there are plans to undertake a feasibility study for a small factory that could make ceramic household water filters with colloidal silver paint (a “Potters-for-Peace” innovation used around the world). This filter has low unit cost and has been proven effective in removing bacteria and parasites from contaminated water. A Pomona College senior is preparing to supervise the study in conjunction with leadership from Suma Marka in Puno.
NEEDS of the Suma Quta network include operating expenses for full-time coordinators in Puno, equipment for Total Suspended Solids sampling and metals analysis, equipment and laboratory support for mass arsenic sampling and analysis, equipment for limnological biosampling, GIS training and software licensing for our Peru partners, and a zodiac for deep-water sampling, especially near intake pipes for municipal water systems.