Many women living in villages near Hyderabad, India, walk three to seven kilometers daily to fetch water. And after all that travel, the water they get is not clean. Drinking dirty water poses many health risks for the people in these villages. The water in this area contains high levels of fluoride, which cause bone defects, weakened muscles, and decreased mental development.
When Paul and Bonnie Evensen, LDS Charities representatives, arrived in Hyderabad, they were amazed at the amount of pollutants, which caused foam to gather on the water’s surface. “It looked like the biggest, fullest bubble bath you’ve ever seen,” said Bonnie Evensen. With this type of water pollution, reverse-osmosis units are the most effective tools for cleaning the water.
However, the initial cost to install these reverse-osmosis units was beyond the local communities’ financial capacities. In search of a solution, the Evensens and the community leaders discussed this issue and decided that LDS Charities would pay for the initial installation of these units, while the communities would cover the ongoing maintenance costs by paying for the water. As a result, 27 villages now have a long-term supply of clean water.
The communities and LDS Charities contracted with a local company, Liquid Services, to design, manufacture, and install the reverse-osmosis units. “The partnership with Liquid Services is a real benefit,” said Jay Henrie, a clean water technical specialist for LDS Charities. Not only did Liquid Services create and install the units, but it is also contracted by the communities to repair and maintain the units as needed. Additionally, it will monitor water quality monthly to ensure the units are functioning properly.
Before the water project, villagers had to pay 10 rupees for 20 liters of dirty water. With the reverse-osmosis units in place, 20 liters of clean water will cost them only 3 rupees. These payments make clean water sustainable for the villages—they enable Liquid Services to maintain the units and they pay for replacement units when they are needed in 10 years. Each community’s water committee is responsible for collecting these fees and arranging maintenance and repairs with Liquid Services.
“The village is really responsible for taking care of [the units],” said Henrie. Several communities in the area received reverse-osmosis units over seven years ago, and their units are still functioning well. The success and sustainability of these past LDS Charities water projects show that communities in this area are committed to and capable of maintaining their water units.
This project brought clean water to about 60,000 people, and that’s just the beginning: a follow-up project is now underway to help 40 additional villages obtain reverse-osmosis units.
For years, these villages did not have clean water. One local woman said, “I used to walk five kilometers [for clean water]. I had done it all my life. Thank you, thank you for the water.”