10 June 2012

The Magic of AguaClara

Alauca residents visiting their water treatment plant
Dan Smith used the phrase, "the magic of AguaClara" in a conversation about design alternatives and the need to keep plant operation simple and easy.I've been reflecting on the essential magic of AguaClara. It is easy to sense that magic when talking with community members or members of the water board. Antonio Andara, president of the water board in Alauca (7th AguaClara plant), eloquently expressed his passion for making the world a better place:
"If we continue to deforest our land, then our children will be forced to farm the desert. We have time to overcome the errors that our grandfathers made. They have passed the bill on to us, and it's our turn to pay it. Now, thanks to God, man has given us this technology, this plant. I feel very proud that I've given something good to my children. They will have clean water, treated water."
-  Antonio Andara
Cornell alumni refer to AguaClara's magic, too:
 "...[AguaClara] was a fantastic example of how developmental work should be done. I have tried to get involved with other programs ... , and they really don't measure up both in terms of what the students are providing the communities and in what the students are learning." 
- Cornell AguaClara alumni
The magic of AguaClara is seen in the successful operation of the AguaClara facilities in stark contrast with the failures in both high tech conventional plants and low tech multiple stage filtration plants. What is the magic of smart tech, of simplicity on the other side of complexity? What is the underlying magic of our design philosophy? I propose that the AguaClara magic begins with

  • empathy for people who live without access to safe drinking water
  • a respect for people's desire and capacity to create a better world for their children. 
  • belief in the the wisdom of a group and the power of collaboration 
  • humility in understanding that it is a short walk to the edge of knowledge and that our partners (plant operators, communities, Agua Para el Pueblo) bring a complementary wealth of knowledge

AguaClara is a people centered Research, Invent, Design, and Empower (RIDE) cycle. It is this respectful cycle of learning that is so magical.

I welcome your comments on the magic of AguaClara!

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