Working in Cofán Dureno

Obtaining and drinking safe water can be achieved in a number of ways, but for the people of the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon, rainwater catchment units are the best immediate solution. They are relatively affordable, durable and can be constructed by any trained technician with access to basic tools. In the Pilot project of Dureno, it took 2 technicians less than 30 days to build 51 units – an average of two units per day. The numbered sequence and image below illustrate the various components and the steps required to build the rainwater catchment units. The construction of rainwater catchment unit is generally divided in 7 sequential steps: Construction steps to build a rainwater catchment unit
  1. Construction of the wooden frame that supports the housing of the unit
  2. Installation of the 600l filter tank and the 1100l storage tank
  3. Assembly and installation of the roof water drainage system
  4. Connection of the drainage system with the 600l filtering tank
  5. Connection of filtering tank with storage tank
  6. Installation of the “flute” in the 600l filtering tank (the flute is a congestion proof mechanism that conducts water into the 1100l storage tank)
  7. Pouring of the filtering layers into the 600l filter tank (fine sand from a non-contaminated river, washed quartz, and crushed silex)
If properly assembled and taken care of, these units have the potential to last up to 50 years. But to reach this type of this longevity, the systems must be cared for and maintained by the communities regularly. For example, it is important for users to dispose the water collected after the first 3 rainfalls; this will take care of removing any residues and impurities collected during the construction of the units. It is also important to conduct periodical water tests to ensure that the water is safe and ready for consumption. Water tests will detect potential impurities including heavy metals, nitrates and phosphates, water coliforms, total petroleum hydrocarbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Beneficiary families have been capacitated on how to conduct periodical cleanings of the systems. The rinsing of filters and cleaning of ducts must be performed on a regular basis to avoid the blockage of water circulation or major damage. Finally, it is important for the beneficiary families to use the system as it is instructed and not tamper with the system’s integrity. Such alterations can lead to malfunction or even rupture of the system – problems already recorded in Dureno. To avoid any major problems, the ClearWater project has capacitated technicians and beneficiary families to maintain the units. At the beginning of the project, it was made clear that beneficiary families had the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining their household systems. Occasionally however, families are unable to take care of the problem themselves; this is when local project coordinator and technicians are most useful. Just recently, the respected Cofán leader Emergildo Criollo assumed the role of project coordinator. Emergildo has dedicated his life to improving the lives of the Cofán. Known for his leadership in the legal battle against Chevron/Texaco, Emergildo is now moving forward with a new mission in his life: to bring clear water to the Cofán and the thousands of people affected by Texaco. Watch this video of Emergildo in action:
Technicians Teófilo Mendúa and Gonzalo Criollo take care of the construction and maintenance of all units Dureno. The technical video below shows both technicians in action, explaining how the system works as they conduct maintenance:
From the beginning, this participatory project has trained community technicians to build and service the units, but the capacitation does not end there; as technicians are trained, they themselves will be ready to train neighboring technicians in other communities who will continue the process of bringing safe drinking water into their own communities. Under the coordination of Emergildo Criollo, who will continue to supervise the project during expansion. As the Clearwater project wraps up in Dureno, we look forward to the next phase of the project: expanding to many more communities who are in need of safe drinking water. The neighboring Secoya and Siona indigenous communities in the province of Sucumbios are in need of safe drinking water, just as the Cofán were. This April will mark the beginning of the next leg of the project. 20 more systems will be installed in the Secoya community of San Pablo de Catëtsiaya where preliminary workshops have already taken place. Construction materials will be purchased in the coming week, Secoya technicians will be trained, and the entire community will soon be participating in a series of workshops on proper use and maintenance of their units.