Water & Sanitation Project

  • Health
  • Water & Sanitation
  • Vanuatu
This project is led by Louis Gram, a Volunteer from Texas

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The ambitious goal of this project is to empower our small village to take a giant step forward in their access to clean water. A major upgrade of the existing pipelines will greatly increase the flow of water into the community from the spring source. Villagers will then be trained to build individual household plumbing systems that will take families far beyond the common minimum standard of just having a public standpipe within 200 meters of their home. Instead of everyone dipping cups into buckets of water they've carried back to the house, families will be able to draw clean water from a tap right in their kitchen for drinking and cooking. Rather than washing their hands and dishes in basins of water filled from buckets and then hauled outside for dumping, a double-bowl sink, filled from the new kitchen tap, will drain directly to a covered soakaway pit outside. Instead of carrying water to a washroom and ladling water over their heads to bathe, a shower will be available with the turn of a handle. And instead of walking to distant pit latrines, families will have smell-free and insect-free, pour-flush toilets located right beside their homes. Remarkably, members of the community will learn to hand-build these sinks, tanks, showers, and even toilets right there in the village, utilizing designs suited to local cultural practices. Having the know-how to manufacture these plumbing systems themselves will enable villagers to independently expand coverage to additional households and potentially, even to neighboring villages.

With the arrival of the Peace Corps Volunteer, the community re-established a water committee and together with the Volunteer began exploring different options for addressing the chronic shortage of clean water. They surveyed the existing system and also a new potential spring source, more distant but at a much higher elevation, and studied in detail the option of an entirely new water system sourced from that spring. All plans were put on hold however, when a disastrous volcanic eruption on a neighboring island sent some 220 evacuees to live in temporary tent settlements within the community. The water committee worked closely with Vanuatu's government to execute some “quick fixes” to the existing system to provide enough water for basic necessities of both the evacuees and the local community. The water committee organized the labor force to rebuild the intake works at the original spring source and to replace several hundred meters of undersized and leaky piping, utilizing materials provided by the government and other relief agencies. The resulting increase in water flow did address the acute water crisis, providing a few centralized public tapstands where everyone could come to fill water buckets. The increased flow also offered proof of concept for a plan to make additional upgrades to the main pipelines of the original water system so that enough water will be available to service branch lines that can run directly to every household in the village. The volunteer worked with the water committee to plan and carry out an extension of the pipeline with a reservoir tank and that provided four new tapstands to a central area of the village for the first time. The committee solicited surplus materials from the disaster response agencies and raised money locally to pay for additional fittings to carry out the plan. The unqualified success of those initiatives have energized many in the community and inspired the committee to “think big” about what we can accomplish with this project. Prototypes for the pour-flush squat pan, and other proposed plumbing components have already been built and demonstrated and the reaction of the villagers has been very enthusiastic.

The Volunteer will train members of the water committee in the installation, maintenance and repair of gravity-flow pipelines. Participating households will receive training in the maintenance of their individual plumbing systems as well as hygienic practices using their new plumbing installations. The workers trained in the fabrication of plumbing components will master the skills to duplicate these elements to expand the coverage of the plumbing systems to new homes as an independent project of the water committee requiring minimal additional outside resources. The current Volunteer and future Volunteers will monitor the progress of project and train water committee members to check in with community members to see how each household is doing and if any further help is required.

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