Joseph McKeen
Center for the Common Good

Clean Drinking Water in Ghana

Story posted February 07, 2011

As a winter fellow for Community Water Solutions (CWS), a Massachusetts-based non-profit, Elsie Thomson '11 spent most of her winter break working to create access to clean drinking water in rural villages of northern Ghana.

Elsie worked with a team of four fellows to implement a water treatment program developed by CWS. The team traveled to the village of Kpalabusi - a large village of about 170 families - located an hour outside of Tamale in Northern Ghana. CWS works with villages in these areas that obtain their drinking water from dugouts, essentially large man-made ponds that fill with water during the rainy season. Water from these dugouts is usually extremely cloudy and contaminated with waterborne disease such as E. coli. Turbid and impure water can simply and inexpensively be cleaned and purified using chlorine and alum, a chemical compound that causes sediment particles to aggregate making them easier to separate out from the water. Using CWS’s model and a lot of help from their translator Peter, Elsie and her team worked with their village to develop an effective water treatment center run by and for their community.

"I was blown away by how positively we were received by our village as well as how quickly our village really took ownership of the project and played an extremely active hand in its development," says Elsie about her experience.

The team performed household visits and distributed a safe storage container, which is used to store clean drinking water purchased from the center in the home, to each family. Five local women were trained to run the water treatment center, which included instruction on purifying the water and managing profits from the business. By charging a small fee for the water the center is self-sustaining. Profits allow the community to purchase supplies needed to continue to treat the water as well as pay the women a small salary.

CWS will be hosting another fellowship program this summer.

Join Elsie and representatives from CWS at an information session on Tuesday, February 15th at 7:30pm in Banister 106.

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