Saturday, July 12, 2008

Clean water for Todos

Today I took my final samples at the Rio Santa in central Huaraz. There are at least a million users of the Rio Santa... with 200,000 of them in the upper basin, which includes Huaraz. This river flows from the Andes down to the Lima coast and is used for bathing, laundry, and agriculture. Our group is sampling the upper reaches of this river and characterizing glacial and groundwater contributions as well as surveying people about their water use and needs. (Specifically, I am researching the metal chemistry of the river including both natural and mine runoff.)
Pictured is something red discharging into the main channel, women doing laundry at a river water station, clothes drying on the bank opposite of my final samples, a kid looking for metal to recycle on the bank, two children and a dog near the river, and my pH and conductivity meters, resting near a bag of toilet paper and a dead pig. I did not see the bloated flush until I started sampling and nearly fell into the water in surprise. Sarah Wright watched me from the bank as I wobbled precariously and clutched my stomach in horror.

The kids made me especially sad. Not knowing what to do, I smiled as earnestly as I could and handed the oldest boy the only candy bar in my bag. He took one small bite and gave the rest to his wide-eyed younger brother. While I sampled, women on the opposite bank stripped down to their underlayers. They vigorously lathered themselves in the same water that flowed through heaps of human and animal waste. I am testing the quality of this water. But this is not enough.


Anonymous said...

So sad about the water and how the people must die a little inside too -- having to survive and bathe and exist with no assistance, systems, and training from their government or the world to keep it clean and sweet for them.

Sarah said...

OK, that day was so disgusting. I still feel dirty when I think about it. Especially when I realize that our clothes are probably washed by those women, with river water. You know, sometimes I am surprised that we don't get sick more often while we're here.