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The WaterBank Project Indonesia

Challenge Detected

The WaterBank Project is situated in the Terban district on the island of Java in Indonesia. A densely populated area, Terban lies approximately one kilometer from the central business district of the city of Yogyakarta. Most of the residents of Terban are economically disadvantaged with an average
income of $5 per day. Clean water is a luxury few can afford in this area.

The discolored Municipal water flows through rusty pipes and is undrinkable due to the amount of chlorine added. This ‘safe’ supply, although free of Coliforms, is prone to breakdown which means delivery is often interrupted.

The WaterBank Project was developed by experts from the University of Buffalo and Universitas Islam Indonesia, who worked together with the local community to build a practical and efficient clean water supply and testing system that was designed to work under constraints of everyday life in Indonesia.

In order to assess and track potential contaminants in the new public water supply, the project needed a way to produce accurate test results quickly, without a lab and a microbiologist, without a consistent power supply, and without a reliable communication network.

Solution Detected

Fitting neatly on a desk, in the local healthcare center partnering with the WaterBank project, the TECTA™ B16 operates on mains power, and the WaterBank also has a back-up battery and a diesel powered generator to cover for the frequent brown outs.

The TECTA™ can provide on the spot test results in 2-18 hours, depending on the level of contamination, much faster than traditional methods – without the need for a lab or a microbiologist.

The TECTA™ B16 was developed by TECTA-PDS to provide accurate and fully automated testing for
E. coli and Total Coliforms, with other tests available. TECTA™ automatically transmits the data through a network connection allowing for immediate notification on electronic devices such as cell phone or laptops as soon as a contamination event is detected.

While the water quality analys is occurs at a government health care center, WaterBank and the day-to-day operation and management of the facility is entrusted to the local community. This means the Terban residents, as opposed to government officials, are in charge of the their own water.

Success Detected

The WaterBank water is free of contamination and provides Terban residents with clean and safe drinking water. Terban residents are invested in the success of WaterBank, and for good reason, as the project has also provided the residents with a series of new opportunities.

WaterBank can produce up to 400 liters of filtered water per day. The residents have set the cost of one canister (19 liters) at 4000 Rupiah, about $0.4, and proceeds from sales now cover the cost of electricity and filter replacements. In addition to the filter process, WaterBank includes a mineralization step that adds select minerals back to the clean water. About 10 canisters of WaterBank water are sold daily. The water is free of contamination and considered by Terban inhabitants to be very tasty, a revitalized Belik Ayu. The WaterBank has regular customers, and a new snack shop, hoping to make use of WaterBank water for specialty drinks, has sprung up a few doors down the road.

Marc Böhlen, Principle Investigator from the University of Buffalo, described the impact the new technologies has had on the area, “WaterBank does more than clean water. WaterBank is a new approach towards water resource care, adapted to the constraints of daily life in Yogyakarta. WaterBank is now part of the Terban urban fabric. It is a new kind of urban intervention; a built response to a new class of sensor data and a process that places the long-term care of a shared resource in the hands of those who depend on it.”

The template developed for WaterBank has facilitated a new process and system of caring for water resources in Terban as well as introducing innovative concepts and new responsibilities. Now water care requires not just the traditionally shared appreciation of a Belik Ayu, but sensor maintenance, sample collection and computer updates. This new way of thinking could be utilized for additional areas and other natural resources. In fact, this project has caught the attention of the local government that has seen the positive influence of both the fresh, clean water and the strengthening of community infrastructure.

Dr. Riska Novriana, MD, one of the physicians at the local health care center who oversees the operation of the TECTA™ system, has a vision of what this technology can achieve, not just for Terban but also for any area with contaminated water supply. “This creates hope for us,” she said, “it can help us solve this enduring problem of compromised water quality. You can see that many people here had become very sick and frail from drinking dirty water. This system opens a door to truly understanding the problem and allowing each town to create their own solution.”

Dr. Ilya Maharika, the project coordinator from the Universitas Islam Indonesia, thinks, “This system could really help improve city planning by speeding up the existing planning process with real-time data.”

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