A Student-Community Partnership for Clean Water

By: UNIID SEA - 2014-06-26

Project Brief 

The program was initiated in 2008 through a community-based research project involving the students of Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia. Students were dispatched to a rural community near Yogyakarta, with an objective of discovering the needs of communities to develop a sustainable community project that the university will spearhead. At the end of a two-month immersion and through the approval of community leaders and academic supervisors, the students recommended that clean water is the most pressing need that should be addressed immediately. In their experience, access to water required walking long distances; in addition, there was no assurance that the water was safe to drink

A solar-powered water pump was then developed by the University from 2008 to 2009. Building on the trust established in their previous immersion phase, the students participated in introducing these pumps to the community, took part in weekly community meetings which assured that the project continued to be owned by the community

The Process 

Support from iBoP Asia in January 2010 continued the solar-powered water pump program. After an evaluation of the solar-powered water pump system, it was discovered that the water that came from the deep well was not clean; thus, a water filter system was needed. The project was then furthered with the development and installation of water filters. To meet water standards, the project team decided to use charcoal filters which are readily available in the market. The research on locally produced ceramic filters was continued.

In the course of project implementation, however, the research team realized that despite the presence of the solar-powered pumps, the supply and distribution of water to the community remains a continuing concern. The main reservoir resulting from the construction of the solar-powered pumping system was intended to be distributed to six different reservoirs which were placed in strategic areas. Four reservoirs had been built in their previous project, but water distribution was still a problem. Hence, in July and August 2010, the students immersed themselves in an attempt to discover the issues on improving water quality and the appropriate distribution of water. Water filters were installed in three houses as a prototype. 

Several villagers, however, did not immediately appreciate the new filters as they had not experienced problems using water without the filtering system. The implementation was stopped and a series of educational workshops were conducted to explain to the villagers the need for water filters. 

The laboratory research on ceramic filters did not yet result, at the time of grant completion, in a final model that satisfied the flux requirements of the village water system. This research needs to be continued to incorporate needed improvements for the water filter. 

Risks, Problems, and Barriers 

The project faced two major barriers: one on technology and another on implementation. The research on locally produced ceramics as the material for the water filters got off to a good start and the requirements for the effectiveness of cleaning were met. However, the water flux was insufficient for the water system and therefore could not be implemented. A major constraint was the lack of tools at the university laboratory to conduct materials research and fully utilize the ideas on appropriate technology. 

The second problem came out during the implementation phase. The students and the organizers, through past involvement with the village, built positive relationships with the community so the initial project of the solar water pump was very well received and adopted by the community. However, the scientific need for a water filter was less obvious to some of the villagers and was not appreciated as much. The students tried to overcome this challenge by distributing information leaflets to the community. They also installed a water filter system in the house of a community leader who then talked about the benefits of water filtration during the monthly meetings with community members. 

Benefits, Outcomes and Reach 

52 families now fetch water from the reservoirs through the installation of the solar-powered water pump. It ended many of the villagers’ drought woes. The solar panels powered the pump to deliver 1,800 liters of water per day to a reservoir located 88 meters up the hill. The water is then distributed to four smaller reservoirs, each with a capacity of 5,000 liters, built in the middle of the village. The system is fully managed by the Kaligede Water Management Organization. Each month, residents pay USD 1.70 to the organization, which is less than the USD 3.80 charged by the state-run tap water company. Should the two new reservoirs be found to be technically feasible and the water distribution concerns fully addressed, the drought woes would be further lessened, if not completely ended.

The expected outcome of the iBoP Asia-supported project was the development of an appropriate water filter system and the dissemination of the technology to the local community. During the project, it became clearer that these required more research before they could be achieved. On the technological side, the development of locally-produced ceramic water filter required more research and industry support. 

Lessons Learned

A major learning is the positive effect that resulted from the methodology of utilizing university students as implementers of the project. The immersion allowed the students to understand the villagers’ issues and concerns. Further, they were able to break the barriers and build relationships with villagers effectively. This community-centered approach also assured that the community was fully involved and took ownership of it.

The support of the local leaders was highly instrumental for the project. They served as the key to the community and their support facilitated the community assessment that led to project implementation 

The Future

The future of the project lies in its expansion to other locations and its continuation with a new batch of students in 2011 in Gunungkidul village. 

The BoP community service program run by Gadjah Mada University, as exemplified in this project, has attracted the attention of other universities interested to adopt this model of using a multi-year approach, studentled technical research, community assessment and implementation. It is expected that partnerships would be forged with these schools to support them in setting up similar projects. Gadjah Mada University plans to continue expanding its partnership with the local government and industry to increase funding and specialist knowledge in furthering technical innovation. 

The Gunungkidul village can expect continued cooperation with the university as a new project team will arrive in 2011 for community assessment that will hopefully build upon the achievements of previous projects. 


About the Author


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UNIID-SEA works with universities and research councils in Southeast Asia to promote action research and facilitate the development of programs that support innovation for inclusive development (IID). Contact Info: Ateneo School of Government Pacifico Ortiz Hall, Fr. Arrupe Road, Social Development Complex, Ateneo De Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines 1108 Tel: +63 2 426 6001 locals 4646, 4639 Telefax: +63 2 929 7035 Email: info@uniid-sea.net Website: www.uniid-sea.net

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