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Multiple communities, Kenya | Safe Water

In November 2007, Solar Cookers International (SCI) began a two-year pilot project to increase water quality awareness and introduce the Safe Water Package and the Portable Microbiology Laboratory to communities in western Kenya. The effort is led by SCI founder and board member Dr. Bob Metcalf, professor of Biological Sciences at California State University, Sacramento.

Because of acute cooking fuel shortages, water boiling is often impractical in locations where household water sources are heavily contaminated. (It takes approximately one kilogram of firewood to boil one liter of water.) Yet, water must only be heated to 149°F (65°C) to be free from disease-causing microbes. This is called pasteurization.

Metcalf's research on solar water pasteurization has led to use of solar cookers as safe water tools. When used in conjunction with SCI's Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI), simple solar cookers can safely pasteurize drinking water and reduce incidence of waterborne diseases, while saving precious cooking fuel. The Safe Water Package (SWP) that families will receive provides all the necessary tools: a CooKit solar cooker, a black pot, a WAPI, and a water storage container. This safe water method is already integrated into SCI's Sunny Solutions project in western Kenya and has reduced diarrhea among young children by about half.

Most community leaders and consumers are unable to determine the safety of local water sources because traditional testing methods require expensive, sophisticated equipment only available in laboratories. Metcalf's breakthroughs in water testing methods led to the development of the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML), a gallon-sized kit with materials for 25 water tests. Each PML contains Colilert® and Petrifilm™ tests for Escherichia coli contamination, sterile plastic pipettes, collection bags, and a battery-operated UV lamp for reading Colilert® tests. A unique aspect of the PML tests is that they demystify science and microbiology; they are easy to use in rural settings and do not require extensive education or scientific training.

Working with the Kenya Water Resources Management Authority and the Kenya Ministry of Health, SCI hopes to:

  • Train 440 high-level and field staff in use of the PML and the SWP
  • Reduce incidence of waterborne diseases in 20 communities
  • Realize broad community awareness of simple water testing and solar water pasteurization techniques
  • Document demand from neighboring areas to prompt further scaling up

To support this project and other SCI programs, click here. (A mail-in membership form is available in pdf and doc formats.) Major funding for this initiative comes from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, with in-kind support from 3M and IDEXX Laboratories.



Links to articles about these efforts:


Related topics

»   Education resources
»   Humanitarian assistance
»   Advocacy

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