This is the third time this week that we forgot to buy and bring bottled water. It is another day that we leave lunch feeling thirsty.
The water at the Ethiopia lab facilities is non-potable sourced from a borehole. The staff has adapted in various ways. The Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC) office purchased a water purifying dispenser for their office and drive in a few 10L containers of potable water from Addis every day with the staff commute. The water dispenser broke recently, and they got out of the habit of driving in the water. Therefore, National Veterinary Institute (NVI) staff members either bring water from home or visit the veterinary university next door to fill water containers from the Debre Zeit municipal water line. Even the NVI canteen sends a worker to the university to fill and carry a large dispenser of water for the staff to take from the canteen throughout the day. We are thankful for the “tea breaks” twice a day where water is boiled to safely make coffee or tea to quench the thirst.
The Ethiopia lab facilities’ lack of potable water was brought to my attention when I was having a discussing with Mulaw, the organization’s Occupational Health and Safety officer. He asked for my opinion about budgeting for installing some local faucet filters at various locations throughout the facility. That was when an idea struck me that I may be able to help. The VACNADA project was already funding for installing a new reverse osmosis water system at the facility. The system takes water from the borehole and pumps it through multi-stage pre-filters to take out impurities in the water before passing through a reverse osmosis unit, which can produce at a rate of 12m3 /day or 12,000 liters / day. The water purification system was originally proposed to provide better quality water for the vaccine production labs. Past consultants who worked on improving NVI’s vaccine processes had commented that salt fell out of simple buffer solutions because of the hard water piped in the facility.
I contacted the water system supplier immediately and consulted him about tapping into the filtration train to provide potable water from the new installation. He helped to identify a location where a tap can be installed. The modification was simple, did not add to the installation time, and was at no additional cost to the project. The water will be monitored and tested to ensure it meets potable water standards.
The staff now has an alternative source for potable water in their facility.
The time frame for the VACNADA project was coming to an end, so I was not able to dedicate more time to improving the facility access to potable water. Mulaw and I discussed ideas for future improvements to distributing the potable water throughout the facility. One idea was to fill 10L containers with spigots and locating the dispensers in accessible areas where staff is likely to want a water break, such as office areas and production hallways. Further in the future, NVI may decide to invest in routing distribution piping to water bubblers throughout the facility.
Water is important to maintaining everyone’s good health. The staff is likely to drink more water throughout the day with the easier access to potable water in their facility. Healthy staff is more effective and efficient and will result in the production of better quality vaccines.