from the office: talking filtration with A Child’s Right.

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The familiar charity: water story comes from the middle of nowhere — from the jungle of Central African Republic or the dry dusty fields of Ethiopia. But we’re well aware that the need for water in urban areas is dire. And that’s where partners like
A Child’s Right come in.

ACR visit

We started working with A Child’s Right this year to fund clean water for more than 18,700 kids in urban Nepal. And this week, ACR founder and director Eric Stowe stopped in the charity: water office to talk about his programs.

A Child’s Right has served more than 250,000 children with clean water since 2007. ACR’s projects are unlike any other that charity: water funds: they use UV (ultraviolet), carbon, UF (ultrafiltration) and other water purification systems to clean available groundwater. And they’re all in urban areas.

They’re also (as their name implies), intently focused on kids. More than 3 million people die from waterborne illness each year and 4,500 deaths each day are to children under five years old. Diarrheal diseases are deadly for young kids, as their bodies can’t withstand the extreme dehydration and debilitation. ACR serves children by installing water systems at schools, orphanages, street shelters, clinics and rescue shelters.

filtration.

ACR’s systems can filter up to 6.5 gallons of water per minute. The filters are often installed with a tap and drainage system for kids to easily fill their glass with water or wash their hands.

“We basically stole the model of McDonald’s and Starbucks, where they maintain safe, clean water in every location they have around the world,” Eric said. “We just took it to urban poor kids.”

what do the filters catch?

ACR 2

“If you think of the smallest bacteria as the size of a basketball, our filters have openings the size of a straw,” Eric explained. “We have a filter robust enough to knock virtually anything out of the water. And there’s not a lot of upkeep or repairs needed to keep it going.”

But to make sure the filters do keep going, ACR builds 10 years of parts and maintenance into the cost of each system they install. Their three-tiered oversight — national staff, local partners and also trained onsite staff — test, maintain and, if necessary, fix filters right away.

red water

Eric showed us a photo of the red-stained drinking water he found at an orphanage in M’Lop Tapang, Cambodia. (ACR has since put in filters here for the 1,200 kids.)

“It was like Fanta coming out of the tap.”

Water that’s discolored like this is easy to pin-point as unsuitable for drinking, but clear water can be just as contaminated. ACR filters a lot of municipal water that looks fresh, but when tested, proves to be infested with deadly bacteria. One Cambodian hospital he found used crystal clear water every day… which tested for E. coli at 6,700 colonies per mL (the EPA water quality standard is 0 col/mL).

Nepal.

An estimated 10 million kids in Nepal suffer with diarrheal diseases each year. Finding water to drink in the Kathmandu Valley is a major challenge — the city is clogged with pollution, trash, industrial runoff and any number of biological matter that contaminates any available groundwater. The filters are a viable force for safe drinking water in Kathmandu.

But ACR hit an unforeseen problem when they started working here — incredibly high iron rates. The iron loads killed two of their filtration systems within one day. They responded by replacing the filters, running tests constantly at each site and keeping an eye on water quality to make sure the filters were still working safely. We love how they were transparent about all of this — they reported the problems to their donors and then worked diligently on a long-term solution to repair the system.

ACR totals

We funded 20 projects earlier this year through ACR, all in Kathmandu Valley. Once completed, each project will have a filtration system and hygiene training from our other local partners, NEWAH, which Eric’s really excited about. “We’re piggy-backing on Nepal’s longest-standing hygiene training,” Eric said. “You required hygiene for your projects — and our working with NEWAH has turned out to be a really great learning opportunity.”

from the field: ACR’s work in action.

We traveled to Nepal in January and Eric took us to this school.

ACR is slated to finish the charity: water projects in Kathmandu by March 2011. We’re excited to see the results and share them here on the blog. Stay tuned.

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