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Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Water for Humans Spring Newsletter: May 2013

WFH exists because of you!!! Thank you for your support.

This is what we have been up to since our last newsletter.
THE HUNGER PROJECT - Piedra de la Luz Pilot Project 
Water for Humans was in Mexico in January and February, working with The Hunger Project - Mexico (THP), to bring new technology to the Mazateca region in the northeastern, rural mountains of Oaxaca. We spent February 5 through February 20 in San Jose Tenango working in Piedra de la Luz. The goal was to complete two composting latrines (to stop ground water contamination, to eliminate the spread of disease vectors and to make compost for crops), two clean cook stoves (to reduce deforestation) and one 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting system (to store enough rainwater to last through the dry season) as a pilot project for five communities in the area. THP has been working with these five communities for several years. 

CookStoveThe efficient cook stoves were the most complicated and the most difficult to build. However, they were the most easily accepted new technology by the residents. We are now working on an easier and less expensive way to build them. Over 100 families in the area want one and we will plan workshops for knowledge and skills transfer. 

RainHarvestingThe rain harvesting system was the last thing completed before we left. The first rains (after we were gone) revealed some leaks that we were unaware of. The leaks were fixed locally and the Rotoplas containers are now filling up. We will be working with ATM, THE HUNGER PROJECT's housing contractor, to incorporate rain harvesting into the new housing design they are working on. This will make construction simpler and will reduce the cost. 

CompostingToiletAlthough the latrines were the easiest to build, they were also the most difficult for the residents to accept. Dry, composting latrines are a totally new concept for this population and so far they have not accepted this technology to deal with human waste. The Hunger Project is working on ways to deal with this, either with lots of hand holding to gain acceptance or finding different technology to deal with the problem in a culturally accepted way. 

Currently, we are concentrating our efforts on the cook stoves. We will be working closely with ATM on rain harvesting and, we are working with The Hunger Project to evaluate human waste disposal alternatives. 

Improved Cookstove Program 
As an outgrowth of our work with the hunger project we are launching a new program to further develop our clean cook stove technology. You may ask why is a group focused on water now working on cook stoves? Well, efficient cook stoves reduce deforestation which reduces the impact of climate change and helps the forest produce more clean water. 

The stove boils five liters of water in 15 to 18 minutes with approximately 700 grams of wood. In addition, it uses small sticks that are about the diameter of one’s thumb. For a very hot fire, one adds many small sticks and for a cooler (simmering) fire, one uses less sticks. The use of small sticks eliminates the need to cut down trees because the stove runs on twigs, branches, and crop silage. Using this type of fuel greatly reduces the environmental impact and deforestation. 

Here are some of the advantages of our cookstoves over a single burner bio-char style stove:
  • Much easier to cook meals for six people, three times a day
  • Can continuously cook tortillas and three other items simultaneously
  • Has no indoor air pollution because our cookstove exhausts to the outside of the house
This cookstove program is unique for several reasons. The stoves are specifically designed to meet the cultural needs of this population. It gives the household the ability to continuously cook tortillas while keeping a pot of coffee warm and being able to cook with two or three other pots simultaneously. Because of the remoteness of these communities (up to a three-hour hike from the nearest road), these stoves are built onsite with primarily local materials and locally trained labor. 

There are three phases to our stove program:
  1. improve construction tooling to lower the cost and simplify the construction process; launch the initial phase of a social enterprise to deploy the stoves
  2. develop a fully molded design that can be built by a casting method
  3. to deploy the fully castable stove; establish a social enterprise
We foresee these three phases developing over the next 9 months. 

New Board Member - Chair 
We are very pleased to announce and welcome Charlie Cunniff as both a new board member and board chair. Charlie is passionate about both sustainable community led solutions and Oaxaca, Mexico. Charlie has a wealth of experience in growing small organizations into viable enterprises. Charlie is currently working for the City of Seattle in the Office of Economic Development. He focuses his time on green technology development for the city. 

Oaxaca State Finance Minister Update - We give up, Sort of!! 
After way too many months trying to negotiate with the water commission and the finance minister, our potential contract for evaluating the 100+ derelict wastewater treatment plants has been abandoned. 

However, on the upside, there is now a new finance minister and we are just starting negotiations with him and the head of the office of investment to help them evaluate wastewater treatment plant proposals for both their engineering and economic viability. The prior finance Minister, Sr. Cajiga, stepped down last month out of frustration. Adriana, the head of investment is working hard to hire us directly through her office. In addition to analyzing incoming proposals we will recommend a new state policy to have economic analysis (lifecycle costs, return on investment) part of all proposals. Requirements for investment in the water sector will be incorporated into the design. 

In January Rick was invited to Geneva Switzerland to speak at the international patent and trademark office about our work in Oaxaca. It was an interesting conference since from my prior work as an engineer/scientist I hold numerous patents. However, now I find that my work is much more “open source”. The conference was relatively small but had representatives from all over the world. My presentation was rather provocative since I stressed the importance of using technology to enable small communities to export goods and services versus buying goods and services from larger economic centers. I also stressed the importance of culturally appropriate technologies. Due to relationships built at this conference, we are exploring intellectual property and business opportunities with the emerging clean cook stove program with The Hunger Project - Mexico with international patent office representatives in Mexico City. 

GiveBIG - May 15, 2013 
GiveBIGWe're excited that Water for Humans will, again this year, be part of The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG campaign on May 15. GiveBIG is a one-day, online charitable giving event that benefits nonprofits in our community. May 15 is the third annual GiveBIG and donations made midnight to midnight (May 15) through our Seattle Foundation's website will be stretched further thanks to The Seattle Foundation and GiveBIG sponsors, who will match a share of every contribution. Start now by "Liking" us on Facebook

In addition, when you donate through GiveBIG, you could be randomly selected for a Golden Ticket that wins you a $100 Starbucks gift card and gives us an extra $1,000 from The Seattle Foundation & other sponsors! 

For more information, visit http://www.seattlefoundation.org/GiveBIG 


Nelly gives WFH a human face - something difficult to do when an organization is headquartered thousands of miles away.She makes sure that our community partners in Oaxaca - organizations like INSO and our government counterparts - have someone they can talk to. Nelly also provides us with critical, on-the-ground updates about the changing situation in Oaxaca. 

Want to volunteer and help Water for Humans? Just contact Rick RickM@WaterforHumans.org or Stan StanB@WaterForHumans.org 

Thank you!
Your support keeps Water for Humans moving forward. 

PS: You can stay in touch with the Water for Humans team by reading our blog or following us on Facebook - over 400 people already "like" WFH!