Project Statement

Access to clean drinking water is an important issue that needs to be addressed throughout the Mekong Delta region. Drinking water is currently collected from three sources: rainwater, bore wells and surface water. Rainwater is collected in open cement / ceramic jars during the wet season and will typically provide a family water for approximately six months of the year. Impurity build up in the jars is a problem. 85% of rural households have access to borehole wells with a hand pump. Well water often contains heavy metals including arsenic and is often highly saline. Surface water is collected from rivers and ponds and is typically used for drinking and cooking, but is dirty, contaminated with chemicals and has a high salt content.

 

Although the region does not experience severe flooding on the scale of a tsunami, it does experience daily tidal variations of about 7cm. For those living close to the water table these fluctuations present a challenge to the design of effective sanitation systems. Managing this issue is important for preventing break outs of disease due to poor sanitation. Most people in rural areas do not have access to a toilet and go outside directly into the river, pond or field near the house. 

Design Projects

 

EWB and Habitat for Humanity invite you to consider one or more of the following design projects:

  • Develop a simple and affordable water purification system to remove contaminants such as bacteria, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and salt from the surface or borehole well water in the Mekong Delta region to procure drinking water.
  • A method for storing and filtering rainwater. Currently, rainwater is stored for months in ceramic/cement jars and impurities build up.
  • A low-cost, environmentally friendly toilet and sewerage treatment system suitable for a typical household in the Mekong Delta and taking into consideration the rising water levels in the Mekong delta.
  • Household hygiene practices in the Mekong Delta are poor due to little education around sanitation practices and maintenance of sanitation equipment. Develop a training system that can be used as part of Habitat Vietnam current activities to increase communities’ capacity in this area.

 

Design Considerations

 

When designing a solution, the following issues have been identified and should be considered a priority. The proposal should consider:

  • The effect that any chemicals used will have on the environment.
  • Cultural beliefs and practices of the people living in the community.
  • Cost associated with implementing any proposal.
  • Infrastructure already in place for water and sanitation.  
  • Appropriateness to the local environment. Tidal fluctuations and rising water levels should especially be taken into consideration when designing sewerage treatment systems. 

Multimedia

 

Additional Information

Water Sources

Rainwater collection jars - Rainwater harvesting is common throughout the An Minh District. As can be seen in the photos above rainwater is collected from the roof and directed via a gutter system into large, 1m3, cement jars for storage. Each family may have up to five jars, depending on how many they can afford. Five water jars can last a family of four for a year however most families do not have enough jars and consequently enough water to last the whole year. The water collected in these jars is therefore typically used only for drinking. The jars are open and so it is easy for them to become contaminated, impurity buildup is a common problem. Open water jars can also become a breeding ground for mosquitos. There are no first flush systems in the area. Rainwater is typically drunk as is with no treatment. However in some cases families will transfer water from the large cement jars to smaller ones passing it through a cloth filter to remove large particles before drinking. 

Surface water - Surface water is collected from rivers and ponds for drinking and cooking. The water is typically dirty and contaminated and is highly saline. Rivers and ponds are used as waste disposal systems and can therefore be contaminated with everything from human waste to chemicals and rubbish. Some families boil the water and / or let it sit for a few days prior to use to let some of the sediments settle however in most cases the water is not treated prior to use. 

Bore water - 85% of rural households have access to a bore hole well with a hand pump to draw the water. Well water often contains heavy metals including naturally occurring arsenic and is often highly saline making the water undrinkable. Typically the wells are 100+m deep. Habitat for Humanity estimates that in some areas the wells would need to be 250m deep for clean water to be collected. Water quality testing has been completed for multiple bores in the An Minh district. You can download the test results below:

- Water quality test results for various boreholes in the An Minh district

 

Sanitation and Hygiene

The most common sanitation facilities located in the An Minh district is the drop toilet. These toilets typically consist of two planks of wood directly over a water source. The toilets are usually screened for privacy with materials found locally. See the photos in the multimedia section above. The drop toilets are built along the banks of the canals by the local residents and are often used by two or three households if they are in close proximity to each other. It is illegal to build new drop toilets as the government is trying to phase them out. 

There are some ceramic squat toilets connected to septic tanks in wealthier households. Habitat for Humanity Vietnam (HFHV) has a strong focus on improving sanitation. When families approach HFHV for help with household repairs, upgrades or new infrastructure it is HFHV policy that the family must either own a septic toilet or include the addition of a septic toilet in the upgrade. The current septic toilet designs cost approximately $300USD to install. HFHV is open to considering other toilet and waste treatment systems that may be appropriate to the area and culture. 

Household hygiene practices are poor due to little education and lack of infrastructure. Students may wish to consider training and education programs as part of their solutions. Children do receive education in school on hygiene practices, such as the importance of washing hands, however there are typically not enough facilities to cope with the demand in schools and children often do not have access to the required infrastructure at home to put this into practice. Feminine hygiene is another problem as lack of clean water and facilities causes hygiene and gynecological problems. 

 

Water usage

Water is used for drinking, cooking, washing and agriculture. It is estimated that the average water consumption for drinking water is under 2 litres per person per day. The total average Vietnamese standard water useage would be closer to approximately 60 Litres per person per day.