SolarWorld solar blog

Clean Water Part 1: Water Missions International and the Rotary Club Team Up With SolarWorld to Bring Clean Water to Villagers in Peru

Posted 1 October 2012 12:00 AM by Seth Womble, Engineer, Water Missions International

After a 30-minute boat ride down the Amazon River from the city of Iquitos, Peru, we reached the entrance to a tributary creek that would take us the village of Centro Union Aucayo. During normal times, navigating this winding creek through the Peruvian jungle would be easy, but these were not normal times.

SolarWorld solar panels and Water Missions Internation in Peru
Rotary team member on boat ride along Amazon river to village of Aucayo

The Amazon was at its highest level in 60 years, impacting more than 200,000 people. The water had completely engulfed the natural jungle navigational markers.

It took another 45 minutes of dead ends, back-tracking, and winding through the jungle, before our long wooden boat finally arrived at the village. Three months earlier, this boat ride would have been only a 10-minute motor-bike ride on a dry creek bed.

Our six-member team from South Carolina, made up of a combination of Water Missions International representatives and Rotary Club members, along with our local Iquitos Rotarians, were greeted at the “port” of Centro Union Aucayo by some of the locals. They were excited to see us, given our mission: to kick off a project to bring safe water and sanitation to this community of 600 people.

Villagers collecting water from the creek

We were immediately taken to the local school. Class was in session and the students were surprised to have their studies interrupted by a bunch of Americans with cameras. After snapping a few photos and some poor attempts to speak Spanish, I was called to the corner of the classroom by one of the Rotarians. I was quickly reminded why we were here.

In the corner was a small plastic container with one red cup and a spigot. My first thought was that it was apple juice or some type of tea.

SolarWorld solar panels and Water Missions Internation in Peru
The author, Seth Womble, of Water Missions collects a water sample at the Aucayo school

It was water from the creek. This is the water that these children -- and the rest of this community -- drink every day. I took a sample back for analysis at our Water Missions Peru office that evening.

Testing revealed the presence of E.coli bacteria in their only drinking water. E. coli comes from contact with human or animal feces and can cause debilitating illnesses and even death.