Compone, Peru


Compone is a community of 1500 in the Andean Mountains of southern Peru, 16 miles west of the city of Cuzco. It is a traditional Peruvian highlands farming community with grain crops, livestock and dairy products as the main sources of livelihood.

In the spring of 2008, a development engineer working with the Association of Conservation of the Amazon Basin (ACCA) approached EWB-UMCP to propose a water sanitation project in Compone. The community had two water-related issues. First, annual spring output has declined in recent years, causing daily water shortages in the dry season. Secondly, the water is not treated and thus spreads gastro-intestinal illnesses from waterborne viruses, bacteria and cysts. It is believed that the contamination stems from animal waste, which is commonplace in an agricultural community such as Compone.

The Need

Compone's drinking water is currently supplied by numerous springs located in the adjacent mountains. Since 1997 a total of five gravity-fed systems have been built to supply water from these springs to the 1500 inhabitants of Compone. Each of the five independent systems currently provides water, but lacks adequate treatment to prevent the spread of waterborne illness.

Being a community of subsistence farmers, Compone is also heavily dependent on its water supply for irrigation purposes. In recent years, the community has experienced a decrease in the amount of water available to it for agricultural use. A collection of inefficiencies in their irrigation network is seen as a fixable contributor to their water losses.

EWB Response

Irrigation Channel Improvements
An assessment of Compone's irrigation network in August 2010 found evidence of losses greater than 200,000 liters per day through the soils from which the irrigation channels were constructed. Additional losses occurred through the inefficient breakout system, which involved removing and replacing dirt to control the flow of water from the main channel. The project team designed a solution to better conserve the community's water by improving the efficiency of the irrigation network. The proposed solution involved a soil-cement channel lining and improved breakout gates.

In June 2011, an implementation team from UMCP traveled to Compone to help the community construct the designed improvements for a 30-meter portion of the 1.3km irrigation channel. The community is continuing construction on the remainder of the channel. It is hoped that the skills developed during the implementation trip will be used by the residents of Compone to increase the efficiency of all of their irrigation canals, and to demonstrate the methods to neighboring communities.

Water Tank and Chlorine Dosing
During a design process over the fall 2008 and spring 2009 semesters, a project team reviewed a variety of water purification methods and selected a passive chlorination system as the most feasible treatment option.

Implementation of the treatment solution in June 2009 was focused on adding chlorine to the distribution systems and ensuring that enough time passed before the chlorinated water reached tap stands. Passive chlorine tablet feeders were installed near the spring boxes in each of the five water districts to provide a continuous supply of chlorine. To ensure adequate reaction time between the chlorine and water, baffles were installed in the reservoirs. In the case of one water district, a ferrocement tank was constructed to provide additional retention time. While the infrastructure for treatment systems has been installed in Compone, compatibility difficulties between locally available chlorine and the chlorine feeders have prevented the systems from becoming operational.

Building upon the infrastructure constructed the previous June, a January 2010 trip looked to further assess the feasibility of a tablet chlorination system. The team was able to successfully construct a tablet press in country with local materials, and pressed tablets from powder chlorine for in-country testing. These tablets, though, were not entirely compatible with the existing tablet doser, and so the team was required to develop alternative solutions to the problem.

In January 2013, a team travelled for an assessment trip that was intended to provide the team with a fresh outlook on the most feasible approach to Compone’s water disinfection problem. During the trip, students, faculty and professionals worked to collect water quality data, develop contacts within the community, and reexamine work that the chapter had previously done.

After the success of the assessment trip, the team returned and began planning for a chlorine water disinfection system unit for the community. Towards the final stages of the design, a prototype was created on campus to give the team a better sense of the challenges they would face in country, and become more familiar with the process of building the system. After a year of designing and testing, a group returned in January 2014 to implement the system they had built. The group included two sub-teams: an engineering team and a public health team. During the three week trip, the engineering team constructed a system that would drip concentrated chlorine at a controlled rate into the community's water supply to disinfect the water. The public health team focused on educating the community on water-related health issues that would compliment the building of the chlorination system. They accomplished this by running several workshops over the course of the trip for children and adults that covered topics such as hand washing and brushing of teeth. The public health team also interviewed community members to gain additional information about how the community interacted. By the time the group left, the community was left with a water disinfection system that is functional, and community members that are trained in properly operating the system, and ensure that the water is being chlorinated consistently.

Moving Forward

After the success of the most recent implementation, the team is in constant communication with the community to ensure the system continues to work properly, and to help with any problems that may arise.