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What would you do if you had no reliable source of drinking water for your family? That is the situation on the outer islands of Chuuk (formally Truk Lagoon) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Rotary clubs from 3 countries decided to team up to complete a World Community Service project to provide safe, clean drinking water. By using a simple solar water distillation process, the project will provide emergency-essential water during times of drought and after typhoons. It will also provide an economical way of purifying water for everyday use.

SEE: The Photos

The Rotary Club of Pearl Harbor (RCPH), District 5000; and the Rotary Club of Hiroshima South East (RCHSE), District 2710, initiated a World Community Service project to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Sister Club status, the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the RCPH and the 45th Anniversary of the founding of the RCHSE. The Sister Clubs have discussed this project for the past two years as part of the annual exchange visit, by phone, and email. The Sister Clubs have been in communication with the Rotary Club of Truk Lagoon (RCTL) District 2750, for the past year to determine the community need. Rotary Club of Pearl Harbor President Bruce Fink and Yasuko Kawakami, the Chair of the Pearl Harbor World Community Service committee, visited the Rotary Club of Truk Lagoon September 6-10, 2004, for the purpose of verifying the need for the project.

President Bruce and Yasuko attended the meeting of the RCTL on Tuesday, September 7 and met the members of the club. The meeting program was a special presentation by District Conservationist Phil Giles assigned to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on Pohnpei, FSM. Phil flew to Chuuk to meet Bruce and Yasuko at the RCTL meeting. Phil has installed over 100 solar water distillation units in FSM, and 20 demonstration units on several islands in Chuuk Lagoon.

On Wednesday, September 8, RCTL member Larry Bruton took Bruce, Yasuko, RCTL President Rex Ray dela Paret, and RCTL President-Elect June to visit Udot Island to observe one of Phil Giles' experimental distiller unit. This system was in the front yard of a private house. We were told the yield is about 5 gallons of water a day. The owner said the source water for the unit is both well water and salt water. On Wednesday night, Bruce and Yasuko helped the RCTL members bag seeds, which were donated by the University of Hawaii specifically for use in tropical environments. These seeds were distributed the next day to farmers on Udot and Fefen Island.

On Thursday, September 9, Larry Bruton took Bruce, and Yasuko, Rex Ray to visit Udot Island again to distribute seeds. Afterwards it was on to Parem Island, to visit another solar water distillation demonstration unit. This one was located near a school and supervised by the teacher. The unit was producing about 1 gallon per day. Bruce and Yasuko tasted the water from this unit, which was distilled from seawater. The next stop was Fefen Island to distribute seeds to farmers on that island. One of the RCTL members, Ichiro Robert is from Fefen Island and hosted the visit. While we were there we observed school desks and chairs donated by a Rotary Club in Australia.

After the visit the three Rotary clubs from Hawaii, Japan, and Chuuk formally committed to complete the project. USDA District Conservationist Phil Giles will visit Hiroshima to help the RCHSE fabricate the units to the proper design specifications. The units will be shipped to Chuuk and installed by the RCTL. The RCPH will continue to supervise the project and may be able to send some members to help install the units. The communities to be assisted have no public water systems or water generation capability. The existing drinking water sources are rainwater and coconuts, since the islands have no groundwater source. The simple solar water distillation units will provide emergency water during droughts and after typhoons. The only alternative way to supply water to these remote islands during these situations is by airdrop, which is unreliable and expensive. The solar water distillation units are truly potential life saving devices.

In addition to providing an emergency water supply, these distiller units will provide an economical way of purifying water for everyday use. The normal means of providing safe drinking water is to boil water, which is using up limited resources for the people of Chuuk. The average wage of a family in Chuuk is less than $2000 per year. This project, which started out to commemorate the anniversary of a sister club relationship, and two club anniversaries; is now a joint venture between three Rotary clubs in three countries to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rotary. Now that is the way to CELEBRATE ROTARY!

SEE: The Photos

Last Modified: 20040711.1309 HST
Copyright 2004 Rotary Club of Pearl Harbor all rights reserved