A Solar-Powered Drinking Water Supply

Clean Drinking Water for Bahrami
Around 400 families live in the village of Bahrami in Balkh Province. In this rural region, local people’s livelihoods are based around agriculture and livestock, mainly sheep, donkeys and goats. Until late 2012, drinking water came exclusively from the muddy river which wends its sluggish way past the village. Close to the bank, rubbish bobs up and down in the water, along with dung from the animals that the farmers bring to drink here. Village elder Gholam Rasoul has bad memories of the time before 2012: “We had to wade deep into the river to fetch water. People fell sick with cholera and diarrhoea all the time. Once, 30 people died of cholera in a single day. River water is bad for your health.”

The village committee in Bahrami approached the district administration and asked for a well to be built. The administration started to apply for funding from the international community. Support came from the German Government, which provided EUR 25,000 for the construction of a 120 m well and two water tanks. At the first glimmer of sunshine, automatic solar-powered pumps spring into action, feeding clean groundwater into the tanks that now form the basis of the village’s water supply. Gholam Rasoul’s face lights up with pleasure when he looks at the mini pumping system: “The storage tanks hold 12,000 litres – enough to supply the entire village for a day. No one here has to drink the filthy river water anymore.” Depending on the number of family members, the villagers can  refill their canisters with fresh water once, twice or three times a day.

The water is supplied to locals free of charge, but every user has to pay a monthly contribution to the maintenance costs. Within the village community, the families have elected one person to be responsible for repair and maintenance. The system is working perfectly, says Gholam: “Everyone pays their contribution because we are all so pleased to have the well. Our technician replaces broken valves and deals with other minor issues. We haven’t encountered any major faults so far; the system is very robust.”

The incidence of disease in the village has fallen dramatically. In addition to the positive health effects, the clean water supply is particularly benefitting  the women and children. Fetching water for their families is generally their responsibility, and the well has lessened their workload significantly. It is located in the centre of the village, so no one has to walk long distances to fetch this precious resource. Gholam Rasoul explains: “Some of us live near the river – it’s only around 100 yards away – but other families had to walk very long distances to fetch water. The women and children would have to wade into the middle of the river, even when it was cold or the weather was bad, because that was where the cleanest water was to be found. Then they would have to drag the heavy canisters back to the river bank.” That’s all in the past – the families can load the brimming canisters straight onto the donkeys that stand waiting by the well.

The well provides a domestic water supply for cooking, drinking and washing. It’s for the villagers, not their livestock: the animals are still taken down to the river to drink. Residents of other villages may also use the well, but only in exceptional circumstances: “The well is ours. We maintain it and pay for repairs. There’s not enough water to supply other people. We do help out occasionally, but only if there is an acute shortage in one of the nearby villages,” says Gholam Rasoul.

The storage tanks hold 12,000 litres – enough to supply the entire village for a day.
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