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Nalco World Water Corps Volunteer Returns from Bolivia

Rob Henderson, Technical Manager – Global Technical Resource Center, recently returned from his Nalco-sponsored Water For People (WFP) World Water Corps® program in Bolivia. As a World Water Corps volunteer, Rob shared his unique skills and experience in support of the development of sustainable safe drinking water resources, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene education programs in Bolivian rural villages and sub-urban areas. 

“Rob’s experience in Bolivia makes the concept of ‘Living the Nalco Brand’ come to life,” said Chief Marketing Officer, Mary Kay Kaufmann, who serves as a member of the Water For People Board of Directors.  “Our core values of safety, integrity, expertise, innovation, accountability and collaboration transformed from concept into action as Rob provided technical expertise and innovative ways to test for safe drinking water. He collaborated with local people, WFP volunteers, local staff and Nalco suppliers to represent Nalco with integrity and accountability. Rob’s expertise helped assure that the water provided was sustainable and enhances the lives of the Bolivian people served.”

Water For People, an international development organization that focuses on increasing access to safe drinking water and preventing water- and sanitation-related illnesses, relied on 10 North American volunteers with various education and experience in the water-related fields to develop the first thorough water quality assessment of Water for People community water projects, which was piloted in Bolivia.   The objectives of the program were to:

  • Determine the required water quality tests to be performed  
  • Select the equipment and test methods required to build a mobile laboratory
  • Analyze the drinking water quality at 50+ communities
  • Educate and train the WFP and local health care staff on the test procedures 
  • Plot GPS coordinates of each water sampling location for future testing
  • Present the water quality results and recommendation to each community
  • Consolidate all findings and recommendation into a final report
  • Review water quality test methods, analysis equipment and reagents to determine if any changes were required for future water quality monitoring projects

The volunteers were divided into four groups and worked with a local WFP representative and members from the local healthcare community. The water quality testing was conducted during one week in four separate regions of Bolivia, spanning from the Altiplano region of the Andes to the sub-tropic region of Santa Cruz. At each village, water sampling and analysis were conducted at different water sources such as well, natural spring, water storage tank, school and hospital. This on-site approach to water testing was a new venture for Water For People because traditionally samples were collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis, a costly and impractical method for remote locations. The testing included microbiological analysis for E.Coli and fecal/total coliforms and physical parameters such as nitrate, pH and free chlorine. Based on the results of the microbiological testing, the volunteers presented recommendations to each community.

“The most fulfilling experience was to see how thankful the community leaders were for the support of Water For People and the volunteers to help educate and improve the health of their people,” Rob commented. “This was a great opportunity to work with such a motivated and diverse group of people who all donated their time and efforts to improve the lives of others. I also acquired new skills by working closely with the WFP staff and volunteers from start to completion stage of this project, and I made many new friends along the way.”

“Nalco is pleased to provide it’s time, resources and expertise to the outstanding work being accomplished by Water For People,” said Mary Kay.

WFP presented Nalco with a commemorative plate in Bolivia in appreciation for the donation of equipment and supplies for this project.  For more information on the World Water Corps volunteer process, visit the Water For People Web site http://www.waterforpeople.org/worldwatercorps.