18 April 2016

Sustainability Workshop in Honduras

AguaClara and Agua Para el Pueblo (APP), our implementation partner in Honduras, are working to strengthen our network of treatment plants in Honduras. This past week, from April 14-16, we hosted a workshop for the water board leaders and plant operators from all of the communities with AguaClara plants. The workshop had several objectives: review and standardize operation and maintenance procedures, motivate capital improvements to outdated plants, strengthen water quality monitoring and communication, invigorate the water board association "Asociación Comunitaria de AguaClara en Honduras" (ACACH), and promote collaboration with public health entities. APP organized and financed the workshop, with contributions from Mexichem plastics suppliers and Solquin chemical suppliers. Click here to see more pictures from the workshop.

As an iterative design program, AguaClara is continually improving its water treatment technologies, and every AguaClara plant includes new innovations. Consequently, every cohort of plant operators has an experience particular to their plant. We want to empower plant operators from different communities to share these experiences with each other and with APP staff to collectively improve and standardize our operation and maintenance procedures, ensuring all plants constructed since 2006 are operating optimally. This workshop was a good first step, which already generated a novel filter backwash technique, and we hope to use social media to maintain communication between operators and water boards.

Another continuous effort of APP and water board leaders is water quality monitoring, in which we hope to coordinate with the ministry of health. Systematic monitoring is mandated by Honduran law but is often poorly enforced and shared between the service provider, government, and the public. Successful monitoring also helps operators improve their practices, builds confidence in the water's safety, justifies the water tariff, assists APP technicians identify problems, and is crucial to Cornell researchers for technology improvement. AguaClara currently supports two data reporting and publication platforms: a text message system administered by Wash 4 All, and a pilot smartphone application "POST" being developed by students at Cornell. These systems allow plant operators to remotely report operation data that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. Crucial to ensuring water quality, we also want to improve the frequency of bacteriological analyses by making available CBT kits which can estimate E. coli MPN in the field, and asking support from public health technicians to collect and transport samples to local laboratories.

To better coordinate and sustain these activities, we are strengthening the AguaClara water board association, "Asociación Comunitaria de AguaClara en Honduras" (ACACH). As we build more plants in Honduras, the need for a coordinating body which can sustain continuous technical support for the plants becomes more and more critical. During the workshop, water board members reviewed the statutes, objectives, and plans of the association, and re-elected its executive board from among the local water board leaders. The association will negotiate reduced group rates for chemicals used in the plants, one of their principal expenses, and will meet again in May and June to continue defining their objectives and expanding their capacity.

To keep up the positive energy from the workshop, APP's Antonio Elvir will make follow-up technical visits to all of the plants in the coming month. He will complete pending maintenance, identify and review budgets for capital improvements that can be made to outdated plants, collect water samples for analysis, and build water board administrative capacity. This will be a key step to improving communication between all players in the AguaClara program, from APP and local water boards to the ministry of health and community members. Sustaining our water treatment plants is a continuous challenge, and we are inspired by the enthusiasm we see in our plant operators and water board leaders!

28 February 2016

Breaking Ground in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara

We are very excited to announce the beginning of construction of the newest AguaClara plant in Honduras. Located in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, the country's 13th AguaClara plant in its 12th community represents a large step and unique challenge for AguaClara and Agua Para el Pueblo. Las Vegas has two water sources, one much dirtier than the other. The high turbidity water will be treated by flocculation and sedimentation before mixing with lower turbidity raw water and entering the filters. The capacity of the flocculation and sedimentation processes is 44 Liters per second, and the filters will be able to treat 70 Liters per second, treating not only the flocculated and settled water, but also the low turbidity raw water from the community's second water source. In all, the plant will supply clean water to a future population of over 30,000 people. This will be by far the largest capacity AguaClara plant to date!
Las Vegas also represents a unique challenge as the first community to use an AguaClara plant to address water hardness and scaling in the city's water pipes. Currently, the water's high pH, high calcium and magnesium levels, and increasing temperature throughout the distribution system cause calcium carbonate to build up in the drinking water pipes, obstructing the flow of water. Frequently replacing these pipes throughout town is a large expense for the municipal government as well as a regular complaint for the entire town. Alongside the normal dosing of coagulant and chlorine, hydrochloric acid will be dosed in the plant to combat the scaling issue.

German Castejon, pictured here with APP Civil Engineer Aminta Nunez, is the foreman on the construction site. German has worked on many projects with APP in the past, and this will be his fifth AguaClara plant as a foreman. Construction of the plant should last nine months and is planned to finish in November of this year.

01 February 2016

Call for Applications - AguaClara Engineer in Honduras

Now accepting applications for AguaClara Engineers with Agua Para el Pueblo in Honduras to begin in Summer 2016! To learn more, please click on the link below. The application form will be open until 11:59 PM EST on Feb. 29, 2016.

15 October 2015

First Month of Operation in San Matías, El Paraíso

Operation of AguaClara's twelfth water treatment plant in Honduras began in the last week of September, 2015. The plant treats 14 L/s and serves about 700 households spread across four communities in the department of El Paraíso: San Matías, Robledal, Corral Falso, and San Francisco. Six operator candidates have been operating the plant for the past few weeks under the supervision of an AguaClara technician and engineer from Agua Para el Pueblo. They will be supervised for two months as a practical training period, after which the local water board will select three of them to be permanent operators.

The San Matías plant includes a number of innovations. The most visibly obvious is an elevated entrance tank which stores a reserve of water used to increase the flow through the plant when the operator needs to backwash the filter during the dry season. The reserve has already been tested successfully several times, and backwash frequency has been estimated at 30 hours. However, this value was estimated during a period of high influent turbidity, and will be less frequent during periods of low influent turbidity and as operators refine their coagulant dosing.

Another innovation hidden in the sand bend of the stacked rapid sand filter is a new injection system. Instead of the expensive, imported, easily-clogged slotted pipes used as previous entrance module branches, the new branches have orifices and wings which were fabricated locally by plant operators. The orifices cannot be clogged, and the wings prevent sand reentry during a brief period of back-flow at the end of the backwash cycle. Researchers at Cornell are working on a similar extraction system to eliminate the use of slotted pipes in the filter altogether.

The communities served by the plant have shown a strong commitment to its success, adopting a household monthly water tariff of 100 lempiras (about $5) - the highest water tariff of any community served by an AguaClara plant to date. Roughly half of this tariff will cover the expenses of the plant (operator salaries and chemicals), while the other half will cover general maintenance expenses for the network and plumber and accountant salaries. Considering that families often spend 200 lempiras a month on bottled water, our plant is going to provide a lot of savings!