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Water Testing Workshop, October 23 and 24 2009, Oaxaca, Mexico

Report from Tom Carter:

In October 2009 I presented a two day workshop in Oaxaca on water testing and water pasteurization to approximately 40 people. Eight different NGO and volunteer organizations were represented, as well as numerous community members and activists. The program was partially funded by Medical Teams International and assisted by staff members of several Mexican organizations including Manos de Vida, Amextra and Friends of Pimpollo.

On Friday, October 23, the program began with a discussion of the prevalence of diarrheal disease and death among children in Mexico and elsewhere using World Health Organization statistics, and their causes. We discussed the reasons people drink contaminated water, including cost and accessibility of safe water and the lack of ability to test for contamination. Newer, easier methods of testing are now available and I gave the participants materials and showed them how to test the drinking water samples they had brought for bacteria. Over one half of the samples tested were contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

In the afternoon I talked about how contaminated water could be made safe to drink and we discussed several techniques. Pasteurization kills all significant pathogens and then I showed how water could be pasteurized using a simple solar reflector oven and a temperature indicator. The participants then spent the last part of the afternoon constructing solar reflector ovens.

On Saturday, October 24, in the morning we discussed the results of our water tests and how they could be used to test other water supplies. Next, Maria Elena Martinez, a nutritionist with the Amextra organization gave a lecture on healthy eating and the use of solar stoves to cook nutritious meals inexpensively. She then demonstrated her work by preparing a meal for the group using the stoves they had made. The workshop concluded with a discussion among the various participants on how they could apply the information they had learned in their own work.

In all, I felt the workshop was successful and I plan to return to Oaxaca frequently to follow up with similar programs.