Gravity-fed water system

7th August 2013

“Gravity-fed water system”. The clue is in the name really: gravity. That word which explains how the water gets from one place to another. The word that you could easily take for granted but which tells you everything you need to know about what to expect from a project of this type: hills - steep hills!

And yet it is only as you are faced with climbing those hills, laden down with a bag of sand, tools or breeze-blocks for the water tank at the top that you truly come to appreciate the relevance of the word!

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We joined X-Ray 5 in Monte Frio for a day of work on the water management project there. The locals spent the day working on the water tank at the top of the hill, plastering it with cement made from the bags of sand carried up to them by some of the Raleigh volunteers.

Meanwhile the rest of the volunteers were busy expanding the network of trenches from the water tank down into the village. We joined in with a morning of pick-axing and shovelling the ground where the water pipes will be laid later on in the project.

As the trench neared the school - one of the places which will benefit from running water once the project is complete - the local children came to watch, lend a hand and offer advice on our building techniques!

This project is one which depends upon support from the local community. As the Raleigh volunteers work on the main trench, the locals create routes which branch off from it to take the water directly into their homes.

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During our day with X-Ray 5, we also saw how easy it is to take another thing for granted: water. And what it means to have easy access to it, or not.

At the start of the day, we pumped 25 litres of water from one of the existing wells in the village and between the venturers, it was carried 50 metres to the work-site. 25 litres of water weighs 25 kg so it was hard work to carry it just a short distance.

Working in the heat, we quickly drank all the water in a few short hours. Meaning the empty jerry can had to be re-carried to the well, re-filled and then brought back.

At the well, it was the women and children who we met there, filling their buckets with water for the family homes, and carrying them much further than we had to.

In order to have water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing, the grandmothers, mothers and daughters, who have welcomed the venturers into their homes, have to make many trips to the well each day. It is time-consuming and physically demanding work for the women of the village.

At the end of the project they will be able to turn on a tap and have clean running water when they need it. 

This thought is what keeps X-Ray 5 climbing hills and digging trenches every day. That and the thought of being able to cool down in the nearby river at the end of each day!