Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pasmata Water Project - Progress Update 9/3/2011

We had another eventful week--with a few hiccups that set us back a few steps. However, with a project like this, moving through hiccups can almost always be considered steps in the right direction. Similar to past posts, I will start by summarizing our progress with project tasks outlined in the previous weeks post, then explain any progress outside of the scope of these tasks, and end with pending project tasks, to hopefully be accomplished in the upcoming week.

Moving forward with last week’s pending project tasks:

Walking and Marking exact pipe locations with the project teams: We were unable to get out and mark the exact location of the pipes. It was a bit overly ambitious to think that we could both GPS and flag piping locations in two outings. Apparently, based on a few community recommendations, the job of flagging pipe locations will take a team of 10-12 workers with machetes about a day to proceed through the dense foliage to flag piping locations. We did, however, get out and figure where the pipes could be run, and a more exact feasibility map was created (see below). Blogger isn't letting me post this photo correctly, please email me if you want this image.

As you can see, this feasibility map has both an Option A and an Option B (red and yellow respectively). This is because, after doing a complete mapping of the houses that will need water, we found that Las Piedras was not going to provide enough head to households above El Polverin (the sub barrio of Pasmata where the majority of the houses are). In fact there are houses in Pasmata, owned by local farmers at an elevation above Las Piedras, up a road which bisects the carretera. We also found that due to some permitting struggles we’d be having with local land owners (explained later), that locating the source at Las Piedras would require running pipes in locations that we would have a hard time soliciting permission for. That being the case, as seen below, we have a map of two options (actually only one option as we’ll see later), with the new source being upstream, actually above the waterfall nearly 700meters up from Las Piedras. This will offer more than enough head, and should also give us lower fecal coliform counts. There is also a constriction in the stream that looks nearly the same as Las Piedras, and would facilitate in the construction of a dam to capture the necessary water. However, searching deeper, I found out last night, that Option A is the only feasible option (while also using the least amount of total pipe, but most amount of conduction pipe). This is due to the location of the storage tank (yellow and red box on the map), the size of which will depend on the amount of water we have rights to, also explained later. The storage tank for Option B would require getting permission from finca owner, Dona Blanca, who apparently does not approve of the idea. Option A, while also providing the necessary head to upland households, would only need clarification from mysterious finca owner, “Pasmata”, where we are soliciting that they allow us to pass tubes through their land, but not placing a tank. The tank will be placed on a hill slightly Northeast of Pasmata, on the land of Dona Camilla, who we spoke with a couple days ago, and has approved of tank placement on her land.

Therefore, all we are lacking for complete permission of Option A, is permission to pass conduction lines from source through farmer Pasmata’s, land. We have written and sent this letter to Esteli, to “INAA Las Vegas” to solicite approval from farmer Pasmata, and should hear back from him in the next 2 weeks. For Dona Comilla, we will be writing up a contract for proof of land owner approval for the placement of the tank.

Remapping, and redesigning system based on more accurate and detailed set of GPS points, making sure the available head is available at community grids (Feasibility step 1) – This design is currently underway, I have been reading up on a system installed by Peace Corps in Honduras, in a thesis written by Nathan Rents. In his thesis he outlines each step needed both from a feasibility standpoint, as well as from a nuts and bolts, design, materials list, design drawing in AutoCAD standpoint. Plan to go through similar steps as Nathan to design and plan out this project. If I can do even half a good a job as Nathan, this project will be designed very well. I am also using resources from the UFC professors, and hopefully El Porvenir in the near future.

Parasite and Ecoli testing, to ensure water quality is in fact good (Feasibility step 2, but likely should be step 1). I have written up a list of water quality tests we need to prove the new source has quality within allowable health and safety standards from WHO. These are shown below (sorry, left in Spanish, but you can get the idea)


  • Coliformes Fecales/100ml – Si es posible, también:

  • E. Coli – An indicator organism of fecal coliforms that is easy to find, but expensive to test for.

  • Bacterias Termo tolerantes – thermo tolerant bacterias, i.e. bacterias that can exist in temperaturas above 45 C. This is likely to be what is tested for.

  • Coliformes Totales/100ml – Looking over all coliforms, i.e. all bacteria that have the ability to convert lactos into energy within 35 – 45 C.

Parámetros Physicales

  • Temperatura – important to know the behavior of dissolved compounds

  • Turbididad – Turbidity, or cloudiness, which we need to keep low to have an effective residual chlorine dose, since too much stuff in the water (natural organic matter, silts, clays, poop) react with the chlorine and deplete concentrations.

Parámetros Chemicoles

  • pH – affecting the ability to chlorinate (acceptable range 6.5-8.3ish)

  • Conductivida – a great way to see if there are anthropogenic influences, in the form of salts that can be evaluated with how easy electricity is passed through the water.

  • Calcio Carbonate – Hardness, an aesthetic property of water which confound attempts to suds up soap.

  • Nitratos – predictor of fertilizers and pesticides

  • Nitritos - predictor of fertilizers and pesticides

  • Amonio – predictor of low oxygen levels in water, and skunky taste smell

  • Phosphorus (Fosfatos) - predictor of fertilizers and pesticide

  • Iron – Hierro – aesthetic property, could lead to reddening of clothing

  • Sulfates – taste

  • Floridas – teeth decay (if a high enough levels, crazy huh).

  • Arsénica – evidence of pesticides, and just is a nasty compound. Permissible levels in the states are below 5ppb.

Turning in Somoto Document, visiting Somoto Rotary – A document was completed, but not sent due to the uncertainty of the water source and required funding for this project. A new proposal is being put together now and will be sent out early next week to establish much needed contact with the Somoto Rotary.

Utilizing Facebook and Putting the Word out for a 2 yr worker – We absolutely positively need to get someone lined up for 1 to 2 years of work here. I am awaiting approval from FCP to create this site as I know some folks were a bit wary about the idea of creating a facebook account.

Soliciting Jalapa Government Involvement: Reyna has graciously given us a few project design programs designed by engineers in Managua, that will effectively serve as a check for the calculations I run with program from UFC, Goodwater, and with Nathan Rents design in his Thesis. This is great. She has also told us that the Alcaldia is willing to put forth around $2000 for piping within the community, that we will likely need to replace due to their relative ages (nearly 21 year old, from the old project in 1990).

Pending Project Tasks:

Water tests – We hope to run the aforementioned water tests early next week and have results in the next couple of weeks

Permitting Writing up a contract to secure permitting from Dona Comilla. This will be headed by my wife, Jessie, who is a lawyer in Colorado. Sweet.

Community Meeting (soliciting community financial input and manual labor) – Planning of a full community meeting to discuss project details, desired manual labor from each household when the project is underway, and an initial and monthly payment from each household to pay for project upkeep performed by a responsible system operator. I will be meeting with the Pasmata Water Committee on Thursday to go through brainstorming the details of this workshop, which will be held at the community school. This community meeting wouldn’t take place until we have permission to run the pipe, but the farmer Pasmata.

Soliciting 2 year FCP representative – I have started a dialogue with a colleague, named Cole Sigmon, and he has expressed interest in taking the reigns of this water project, which will likely entail supervising project construction, as well as running operation, maintenance and monitoring in evaluation while the project in running its first 2 years. This conversation has been kept very informal (as we don’t know if this is even a possibility with current FCP funding), and I will be waiting the go-ahead from the FCP board before I progress with this conversation beyond the current point of hypothetical consideration.

Project Design: Continuing to work through the design process and have a design to present to the FCP board with a detailed budget.

Report to Somoto: The goal is to have this report turned in early next week.

Further Pipe Mapping: Begin organizing troops to clear a way for the hypothetical pipe route.

That’s it for now, more on how this project is progressing next week. If you have any questions, please email me at!

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