GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404
1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204
It might be rainy and cold, but Water Bureau engineers are hard at work in the Bull Run watershed installing cathodic protection on water conduits #2 and #4 to control corrosion of the pipes. What's a little mud? Our engineers are tough!
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By Casey Short
A couple of years ago my family took a vacation in Africa. The first place we went was Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. While there, we met an English woman, Jane Kaye-Bailey, who had recently started a non-profit called The Butterfly Tree to help the people in Mukuni chiefdom improve access to clean water, health care, and basic education. (See http://www.thebutterflytree.org.uk/.) My wife, Margaret Bax, and I retired from the City within the next year, and in considering what to do with the next phase of life we decided to return to Mukuni Village to volunteer. We spent two months there last year, teaching in the village school and helping a group of women start a chicken-raising operation. We returned this year from late September to mid-November to teach English and start a dairy goat farm.
The purpose of a goat dairy is to provide a nutritious alternative and supplement to formula for babies of HIV-positive mothers. The mothers take government-provided anti-retroviral drugs which have been quite successful in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Babies nurse for the first six months but they have to stop nursing when they get teeth, so they don’t contract the virus if they bite and draw blood. The Butterfly Tree funds a feeding program that provides formula for the babies who have stopped nursing – recent tests showed all of the babies in the feeding program are HIV-negative – but the formula is expensive and they can only support 25 children. Goat milk is very nutritious and more digestible than cow’s milk, which many babies can’t tolerate. Goats are also less expensive and easier to raise than cows. If goat milk can be provided, more babies will be able to get good nutrition after they’re weaned.
Margaret and I had held a fund-raiser among our friends and family before we left, which gave us a fixed amount of money to spend on getting the dairy started. Our goal was to establish a self-sustaining operation that could be run by people in the village without ongoing subsidy. We were introduced to two local groups that wanted to do this project. We helped them organize a three-day workshop to learn about raising dairy goats and running a business, developed a work plan, and started work on a budget. (The budget was my focus, having spent a career as a budget geek. Margaret was the community organizer. She has a long history in community development, and retired from the City as the Housing Policy Manager with what was then the Bureau of Housing & Community Development.) The group was very committed and worked hard – we met nearly every weekday for three or four weeks to hammer out a final budget, research local resources, visit other farms, and begin to build the farm infrastructure.
The Senior Head Man, by the name of Bornface, allotted the group a parcel of land about 3,000 square meters. We spent a couple of days buying materials in the nearby town, Livingstone (yes, it’s named after Dr. Livingstone, I presume), where we stayed. These materials included supplies to connect to the village water supply. About a week before we left, we joined the women to dig a 300-meter trench to put in a water line to the farm site. (Of the 20 people on the project, all but one of them were women.) We got it dug, the flexible pipe went in, and we had water the same afternoon!
By the time we left a few days later, a shelter for the goats was finished and a 120-meter fence put up. There’s still work to do: we heard this week that the group bought five female goats, but the plan is for 15-20 females and a male; there is equipment to buy and a milking parlor to be built. But it was a great start! We got to put in a water line, meet some great people, and do real grassroots community organizing. And we even distributed a few OSHA orange Water Bureau t-shirts we bought for our friends at the backpackers inn where we stayed. It was pretty cool to run into people in town wearing Portland Water Works T-shirts!
As 2010 draws to a close, most Americans continue to enjoy access to clean, low-cost tap water across the country. In fact, many Americans take for granted their reliable supply of high-quality water, and its impact on their daily lives. For a New Year's resolution with lasting impact, American Water (NYSE: AWK) the nation's largest investor-owned water utility, is urging Americans to value and preserve this crucial resource. The company has compiled a list of water-conscious steps that consumers can take to enjoy a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Step # 1: Drink More Tap Water!
The Cornell Medical Center has estimated that as many as 3 out of 4 Americans are chronically dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue and loss of concentration. In addition, proper hydration is crucial for long-term health. Water flushes toxins from vital organs, carries nutrients to cells, and contributes to muscle health – decreasing joint and back pain, among other benefits. The Mayo Clinic cites research from The Institute of Medicine recommending that men consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of water and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of water per day. It's not necessary to turn to bottled water to meet these goals, however. The use of tap water in refillable bottles is inexpensive, safe, and environmentally friendly.
Step # 2: Drink Water Responsibly!
Keep a reusable bottle of water near your desk, during workouts, or near at hand while at home for frequent water breaks. Tap water is inexpensive (typically available from the faucet for less than a penny a gallon as a national average); safe (regulated by the EPA, with tests performed multiple times per day); and environmentally friendly (the majority of plastic disposable water bottles are never recycled). According to the Container Recycling Institute, 85 percent of plastic water bottles end up in the trash even though they are made of recyclable materials. Americans throw away an average of 38 billion water bottles a year.
Step # 3: Check for Leaks
Millions of gallons of water are lost to leaks each year across the country. It is not uncommon to lose more than 100 gallons a week to a single toilet leak, for instance. You can check for toilet leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank, then watching for a few minutes. If the color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that needs to be repaired. Regularly check faucets and pipes for leaks, as well. Look for drips or stains underneath or behind appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. Outdoors, check for damaged sprinkler system heads and system leaks.
Step # 4: Use Water Efficient Fixtures
Advances in plumbing technology and design mean that faucets, showers, and toilets can use significantly less water than standard models while still delivering the rinse, spray, and flush that consumers expect. Look for the EPA's WaterSense label at leading retailers. If one in every 10 American homes upgraded a full bathroom with WaterSense labeled fixtures, combined savings would represent about 74 billion gallons of water per year.
Step # 5: Insulate Pipes for All Seasons
Take steps to prevent water loss and water damage from frozen and burst pipes. Search for pipes that are not insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces such as crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. Consider wrapping pipes with electric heating tape, but follow manufacturer's instructions carefully, and purchase heat tape with a built-in thermostat that only turns heat on when needed. Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations with caulking to keep cold wind from pipes. In addition, wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket. Nearly 15 percent of an average home energy bill goes to heating water.
As you reflect on your new year's resolutions, think about water :)
Natural Resource Educator, Jody Burlin (in the yellow jacket), leads a tour of the Bull Run watershed. Visitors to the watershed get a first hand view of where our water comes from and the vigorous steps we take to protect this incredible resource.
For more information on tours, click here.
Photo by Jay Roberts, Water Bureau engineering division.