Throughout the day Tiffany has continued to interview villagers about water use and their perceptions of its effects. She has started to come up with very different findings as her sample of villagers expands. Since I talked with her early this afternoon, she has met people who know that unclean drinking water can cause stomach problems, who report episodes of serious stomach upset, and who also boil their drinking water at least some of the time. Possibly her first few interview subjects did not speak frankly, but now the villagers have grown more comfortable with her. We don’t know, although we like the answers she has begun to hear.
Despite their knowledge of the benefits of boiling their drinking water, however, they might not boil it all the time because of the difficulties of doing so. Boiling water takes time. And this goes on top of the time already needed to fetch the water. It also means time to gather extra firewood when, as a given, one must spend a lot of time collecting wood in order to cook. We can easily understand why some of the villagers would prefer to gamble with their stomachs.
However, Tiffany’s mention of solar pasteurization to a cluster of women excited immediate interest. So she explained how it works to them and then, at dinner this evening, she spread the word among our volunteers that we should remember to leave our water bottles behind when we say goodbye to the villagers in six more days. We know that a scarcity of clear plastic bottles could make solar pasteurization unworkable over time, just as we know that the bottles we leave will add to their trash problem. It goes without saying that they have no trash collection service. But we’ve made the judgment that the good of temporary relief from the effects of unclean water will outweigh the bad in this case. In the end, of course, we want a permanent solution.—Don Stoll