15 July 2012

AguaClara is like this summer rain

I'm sitting outside on my deck in a long awaited thunderstorm watching a hummingbird feast on our flowers. A few hours earlier I had corn on the cob from a local farm through a connection facilitated by our local grocery store. I'm feeling rather lucky. Perhaps in this game of life where a good summer day is defined by a gentle thunderstorm, a hummingbird, and corn on the cob; I'm winning and as far as I can tell, there are few losers. Of course, there are some in Ithaca who had to adjust their outdoor plans to compensate for the rain. A small "loss" for the good of the parched earth that has been waiting for rain for weeks.
AguaClara is like this summer rain. 1.8 billion are parched for clean, safe water. It has been a long wait for them. AguaClara is about reliably providing that glass of cold, clear water and doing it by creating lots of winners. We are about success through winning with few losers. 
Over the past 7 years we've developed a set of strategies that creates many winners.

  1. Cornell "undergraduates, too, have a wonderful array of international study options, including the award-winning AguaClara program in the College of Engineering, which provides clean drinking water to villages in Honduras and meaningful experiences for budding engineers." --Alice Pell
    Ju Khuan '12 says it well in this summer's Ezra Magazine: "With the AguaClara program, Dr. Monroe Weber-Shirk has demonstrated how engineers can make the world a better place. His passion and drive to create sustainable water treatment technologies that empower poor communities have been absolutely inspirational. Before starting every semester of research, he first humanized our team's engineering challenges by telling us stories about the people we were helping. He taught us to be excited about those challenges, to have fun with the science, and to really love our work."
  2. The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering attracts top undergraduates and graduates who want to participate in the AguaClara program.
  3. Cornell University has an exemplary award winning international program.
  4. Agua Para el Pueblo has an expanded mission to provide access to water AND to provide SAFE water.
  5. The towns of Ojojona, Tamara, Marcala, Cuatro Comunidades, Agalteca, Alauca, and Atima (more than 30,000 people) all have safe drinking water.
  6. Water boards are providing a higher quality product without a significant increase in operating costs and community members are willing to pay more than the incremental cost of treating the water. The water boards are able to invest in other improvements in their water supply systems with the extra revenue they are collecting.
  7. AguaClara plant operators have the satisfaction and pride of running a plant that they can understand and can fix. And they don't have to turn the plant off to save electricity!
  8. Three AguaClara program graduates have won Fulbright Scholarships to work with Agua Para el Pueblo.
  9. AguaClara provides an opportunity for individuals who have benefited from safe drinking water to contribute so that others may have the same experience. 
Over the next few years we will be developing strategies to create even more winners. One goal is to provide meaningful job opportunities for more program graduates where they can provide technical support and engineering services for the global water sector. Another goal is to develop a flexible data acquisition system so that community members can check the status of their water supply from their cell phones while also allowing implementation partners to track performance of the water treatment plants that they are servicing. 

The earth is drinking in this beautiful summer rain. The hummingbird came by again. I'm feeling like a winner.

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