Pure Water for the World

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One of the Brattleboro Rotary Club's proudest achievements is its Pure Water for the World initiative. Originally an idea to help Salvadoran villagers use solar power to pasteurize water, the idea has evolved to become an even simpler technology with promise for worldwide use. The project has spun off into a non-profit entity of its own with financial support from Rotary International and continued local involvement.

In 1997, a group of Brattleboro Rotarians began discussing the notion of providing clean water for all the world's people. Ten of them traveled to El Salvador to conduct local research. On their way back, tired and a little disheveled - and realizing a great deal of nitty-gritty work was involved - they called themselves the Water Rats. The name stuck throughout the process of gaining support from the Salvadoran capital's Noroeste Rotary club, our District president, and Rotary International. The Water Rats aimed high, hoping their new project, named Pure Water for the World, would someday succeed the worldwide Polio Plus project after that $300 million effort's conclusion.

Local trials of a sophisticated solar-powered system revealed a weakness. Although excellent in concept, the technology was a little too delicate for local conditions. The idea of providing small systems in villages was sound, but a simpler idea was needed. A group of Dartmouth College engineering graduate students found the solution: gravity-fed sand filters encased in locally cast concrete casings. They were light enough to be carried into remote hillside villages on mules and small enough to sit in a kitchen corner. They were so simple they had no moving parts and little likelihood of clogging. The Water Rats had found what they wanted - an uncomplicated, cost-effective technology that could supply any family's needs and which could probably be used and accepted anywhere in the world.

By 1999, the Water Rats had found an executive director to power up a local project in Honduras' dry southern region. Brattleboro club member Tristam Johnson used his bilingual skills and management talents on-site to begin the project. Club member Mara Williams helped secure one of Rotary International's "3-H" grants for health, hunger and humanity in the amount of $300,000.

In 2002, PWW hired former District Governor Carolyn Crowley Meub to organize a nationwide network of support. Since then, several thousand slow-sand filters have been delivered to the poorest and most remote villagers around the regional Honduran city of Danli.

Pure Water for the World continues to push ahead with its ambition to provide clean drinking water throughout the developing world. Thanks to a number of visionary members supported by the club's goodwill and initial contributions, the future of this initiative looks bright indeed.

To learn more about Pure Water for the World, please visit the organization's website.

View an article published in the Rutland Herald on March 18, 2012, about Pure Water for the World.

View an article published in the Brattleboro Reformer on March 21, 2012, about Pure Water for the World.

Read about Pure Water for the World being honored by The White House as a Champion of Change.