Friday, December 7, 2012

Preventing Epilepsy in Burkina Faso

Epilepsy has been shown to be nearly 10 times more frequent and remains a highly stigmatized disease in developing countries. In areas where pigs are raised traditionally (i.e., free roaming) and where sanitation is poor, it has been shown that about 29% of people with epilepsy have lesions of neurocysticercosis (NCC) in their brain. NCC is a zoonotic parasitic infection of the brain caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium, which infects both humans and pigs. Humans carry the adult form of the worm which they acquire from eating undercooked contaminated pork meat. Pigs get infected by directly eating feces or food contaminated with human feces. Humans may get NCC when ingesting food (or possibly water) contaminated with human feces. Hélène Carabin, DVM, PhD, a researcher with the OU Health Sciences Center, is pioneering a unique community-based randomized controlled study (60 villages in 30 departments and 3 provinces of Burkina Faso) to assess if an educational package could cut the life cycle of the worm to prevent epilepsy.

Villagers in Burkina Faso raise pigs as part of their household livelihood.
Dr. Carabin's research team in Burkina Faso initially focused on pig management - limiting the movement of pigs to stop them from having access to human feces as a way of curtailing the cycle of transmission. Using focus groups and in-depth interviews, the team realized that improved pig management was not a feasible option, given the community's behaviors, preferences and the difficulty in finding food for the pigs. The participants, however, were knowledgeable about the risks of open defecation and were willing to improve sanitation. The research team then considered community-led total sanitation (CLTS), an innovative methodology for mobilizing communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free). But CLTS is costly and requires extensive support.

And so the team has agreed upon a more successful and sustainable approach, and one that is ingeniously American - make a movie! The group hired a local filmmaker to film an educational comedy that advocates and teaches about the life cycle of the disease and how to prevent it through improved sanitation and pig management. To accompany the movie, they worked with Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) to adapt previously used PHAST (participatory hygiene and sanitation training) tools to emphasize the role of pigs in the disease. They also developed a comic book to accompany the movie. The field team has started the first follow-up visits in September and is offering the intervention to half of the villages. The team is now analyzing the baseline portion of the study.

Dr. Helene Carabin (left) with Dr. Linda Cowan on location in Pabre.
Dr. Carabin is a frequent collaborator with the OU WaTER Center. Her research includes study of infectious diseases, especially zoonotic infections that are transmitted between species of animals, including humans. Many of these diseases are transmitted due to poor sanitation and some are water-borne, water-based; they are significantly more problematic in regions of the world which lack sanitation and clean drinking water. Dr. Carabin wishes to acknowledge her colleagues in Burkina Faso (Rasmané Ganaba DVM PhD, Athanase Millogo MD, Jean-Bosco Ouédraogo PhD, and Zékiba Tarnagda DVM PhD) and in Belgium (Pierre Dorny DVM PhD and Nicolas Praet DVM PhD).
This study is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS) and the Fogarty International Center (FIC) under the BRAIN program.

Spotlight on a Student - Junyi Du

Anyone who is around Junyi Du ("Du") for very long knows that it is not very hard to get Du to laugh. He will laugh at almost anything, from the silly things that people do to difficult research problems that seem so out of reach. Why not laugh about it? He will eventually solve them anyway! Du's research, under Dr. Elizabeth Butler, is to investigate the efficacy of aluminum-based fluoride adsorption materials, especially as amended with coatings of metal oxides and oxyhydroxides. The ultimate goal is to amend natural media to use in fluoride removal and the production of safe drinking water.

Du spends a lot of time in his laboratory, testing the adsorptive properties of various media for arsenic removal.

Du's identity as an environmental engineer is one that has been evolving. He says: "Although I chose the major of environmental engineering when I entered college, I knew almost nothing about the major. With the studies in college, I found it was an interesting and promising major and decided to stay rather than changing my major. In China, the career prospect for environmental engineering students seemed pretty bright because of the rapid development of economy and the exponentially deteriorating environment, although it turned out not so good afterwards. On the other hand, I could learn the knowledge covering a series of majors in environmental engineering, such as principles of electricity, ecology, microbiology, chemical engineering, and even economics. It is very good for me to engage in and take advantage of the multidisciplinary study. Since then, my sophomore year of undergraduate, I began to gear up on the track of being an environmental engineer. Later, I continued my master’s study in the same major, and deepened the understanding of environmental work."

Part of what kept him going in the field is the realization that he could make a difference in the world: "I realized I could do more than only designing, mapping and researching as an environmental engineer. I could and have to expose myself to a bigger stage since it is really a challenging work to solve the environmental issues in real world."
Du practices block construction as part of the Field Methods course, May 2012

Du earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Nanchang University in China. While there, he conducted research on fluoride distribution and migration in carbonate bedrock and fluoride adsorption mechanisms of clay minerals. For enjoyment, Du likes reading history books and poems, cooking, and singing. To improve fitness, he also plays basketball and does some running and hiking.

And Du will always be learning. In his words, "I will keep going and stay thirsty of learning." We hope that that thirst will never fully be quenched.

Marc Parlange Gives NWC Seminar

Marc Parlange, Ph.D., presented a seminar - "Flows over Complex Terrain" - at the National Weather Center (NWC) on September 19. Dr. Parlange, Professor and Dean at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, was here at OU in conjunction with the 2012 WaTER Symposium. He and five other international experts in the fields of water and sanitation, nominated and selected the next International Water Prize winner and then gave talks and answered questions as part of the Symposium.

Dr. Marc Parlange

The NWC seminar presented field micrometeorological observations that were collected in the Swiss alps over steep terrain to understand the patterns of the wind fields which have an important impact on the melting of snow and glaciers in the generation of stream flows.  The talk then focused on ongoing work with colleagues Charles Meneveau and Marc Calaf on the impact of large scale wind turbine farms on these surface fluxes using new generation Large Eddy Simulation.  There is an apparent impact of increasing the fluxes of scalars into the atmosphere of some 10 to 15 percent.

Marc and his students measure and simulate wind fields over the Swiss Alps.

Previously, Parlange served as professor at Johns Hopkins University and UC Davis. He is Editor-in-Chief of Water Resources Research and member of the Division 2 (Engineering and Physical Sciences) of the Swiss National Science Foundation. His research concerns the measurement of and simulation in hydrology, water resources, and the lower atmosphere. In 1997 he was awarded the Macelwane Medal and was made Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and in 2006 he was awarded the Dalton Medal of the European Geosciences Union. He obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. at Cornell University.

Springtime in Oklahoma

Image courtesy of Simon Howden,
The biennial OU International WaTER Conference has been a Fall conference for its first three editions. However, because there are already many worthy water and sanitation conferences in the Fall, we are considering shifting our conference to the Spring semester beginning in 2015.

As a friend of the WaTER Center, you will be sent a separate email soon to ask if this change would be better suited to your schedule or not. Please respond, and help us make the best decision for the most people.


from the OU WaTER Center Directors
 and Staff

Redbud trees, the state tree of Oklahoma, are resplendent in the spring

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ms. Ada Oko-Williams Wins Water Prize!

We are proud to announce that Ms. Ada Oko-Williams was named the 2013 OU International Water Prize winner on Friday, September 21, on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus at the OU WaTER Symposium. Six respected jurors from the water and sanitation field - Rita Colwell, Marc Parlange, Christine Moe, Idrissa Doucoure, Dennis Warner, and Ravi Jayakaran - selected Ada as the top winer among six worthy candidates. 

Ada Oko-Williams is a true WaSH practitioner
with 14 years of hands-on experience in developing countries.
Ms. Oko-Williams is currently the associate director of Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) and has more than a decade of experience in the development sector on that continent. Her significant contributions to WSA include bringing about positive change in the lives of many communities in her native country of Nigeria and the West African region.
Ada is responsible for training hundreds of practitioners in the
CLTS (community-led total sanitation) approach to sanitation improvement in West Africa. 
Oko-Williams has been described as a resourceful and dynamic professional with considerable success managing programs designed to improve standards of water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries, particularly in the West African Region. She is currently engaged in facilitating sanitation strategies, development and programs delivery in seven countries in West Africa.  She is highly experienced in program design and delivery with a special focus on innovation, designing to context and out-of-the-box techniques.
As the recipient of the 2013 OU International Water Prize, Ms. Oko-Williams will deliver the plenary lecture at the 3rd Biennial OU International Water Conference, scheduled for September 23-25, 2013, in Norman, Oklahoma, USA.

Hong Publishes Book and Hosts Workshop in Kenya

CEES faculty and WaTER Center Director Dr. Yang Hong has published a new book titled "Multiscale Hydrologic Remote Sensing: Perspectives and Applications". The book integrates advances in hydrologic science and innovative remote sensing technologies. Raising the visibility of interdisciplinary research on water resources, it offers a suite of tools and platforms for investigating spatially and temporally continuous hydrological variables and processes. Organized into five parts, the book explores hydrologic remote sensing at the local, urban, watershed, and regional scales, as well as the continental and global scale.

The book is a useful reference for students, professionals, scientists, and policy makers involved in the study of global change, hydrologic science, meteorology, climatology, biology, ecology, and the agricultural and forest sciences. It shows how hydrologic remote sensing technologies can be used more effectively to explore global change impacts and improve the design of hydrologic observatories. The book is published by CRC Press and is available from all major retail book outlets. 

Dr. Yang Hong's research has a particular interest in bridging the gap among the
water-weather-climate-human systems across scales in space and time.

Dr. Xianwu Xue, OU Postdoctoral Fellow, is greeted by
Kenyan scientists at the modeling workshop

The National Weather Center's Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing Laboratory (HyDROS), jointly with the NASA-SERVIR Mission, hosted a week-long CREST Hydrological Modeling Workshop in Kenya this year. Dr. Xianwu Xue, a CEES Postdoctoral Fellow working under Dr. Hong, was among representatives from 13 African and Asian countries' Ministries of Hydrometeorology or Disaster Management Agencies in attendance. The goal of the training is to provide technical expertise to participants on CREST- Grid based Distributed Hydrological Model for quantifying stream flow, soil moisture and evapotranspiration by use of NASA satellite rainfall datasets. This is the first workshop of many to transfer NASA and OU jointly developed technology to developing countries.

New Ethiopian Graduate Student

Welcome to Teshome L. Yami, a new graduate student from Ethiopia, who has come to complete his PhD in water treatment in developing countries. His research will center on excess fluoride removal technologies using locally-available materials. Current treatment processes, such as Nalgonda, bone char adsorption, electro-defluoridation, will be compared on the basis of social acceptability and affordability.

Teshome is pictured here with his two daughters, Naty and Melat.
The girls are excited to be enrolled in U.S. schools.
Teshome's undergraduate studies were at the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute in Ethiopia where he earned a B.Sc. He then served the Ethiopian government for 10 years in planning and construction of water supply, irrigation and other rural infrastructure. Then he earned his Master's degree in Hyrdraulics Engineering in corporation with UNESCO - IHE (the Institute for Infrastructure, Hydraulics and Environment) in Delft, Netherlands. 

Teshome show Dr. Lowell Busenitz, OU Business professor, one of the
fluoride treatment tanks set up in a rural village in Ethiopia. 

He then went to work for CARE International in Ethiopia as the Country Coordinator for water and sanitation programs. His valuable experience included coordinating the Milleniam Water Alliance's (MWA) water and sanitation consortium in Ethiopia.

Now Teshome is a full-fledged Sooner!!! His time is currently divided between his family, his research, and "going back to studies" in aquatic chemistry and environmental biology/ecology. His wife's name is Selamawit, and he has three children - daughters Natanim (16 yrs old) and Melat (10 yrs old) and son Daniel (2 1/2 yrs old). The girls are adjusting to life in U.S. public schools, and they especially like music, reading (like their father) and swimming.  Teshome is a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which has an active congregation in nearby Oklahoma City.

Teshome is pictured here on the OU campus with a few of his "bosses" -
Laura Brunson (PhD candidate), Dr. Jim Chamberlain and Dr. David Sabatini

Teshome wishes to express his gratitude to the University, the WaTER Center, and to the Hoving Foundation which is supporting his study in the States. 

Staff Engineer Goes to Drill Camp

Jim Chamberlain, WaTER Staff Research Engineer, attended the 3-day Living Water International drill camp, September 24-26, in Danbury, Texas, south of Houston. Jim and 20 other participants, including some from Tanzania, Guatemala, and Australia, learned the fundamentals of well drilling with the LS100 mud rotary drill rig. Under the expert guidance of their "drill instructor", campers learned how to mobilize and demobilize the rig, how to drill to depths of up to 100 feet, troubleshooting tips and advice, and the essentials of well completion and development. Installation of the hand-operated Bush pump and base assembly followed on the last day.

Chamberlain digs out the mud pit for the circulation of drilling mud.

Jim's team included members from Zimbabwe, Florida and Texas.
The LS100 is the right tool for certain jobs - specifically, drilling a 6-inch borehole at depths of up to 100 feet in soft to medium formations. It will not drill through boulders or loose gravel formations (due to borehole cave-in), and is best utilized in places where people are already using hand-dug wells. Jim quips, with a wink, "Now I can tell people that I have drilled water wells in two emerging regions - Oklahoma and Texas!". But he also looks forward to the day when he can assist or lead a cooperative team of students, volunteers and local villagers in drilling and installing a new well in an area of great need. The LS100 mud rotary rig is a prominent module in the Field Methods course that Jim teaches at the beginning of each summer at the University of Oklahoma.
The finished, installed pump delivers clean water with the stroke of the handle.
Living Water International is a Christian, faith-based NGO that has drilled over 10,000 wells since its founding in 1990.  Their very successful business model is to train, consult, and equip local people in-country to implement sustainable solutions. Their training includes pump repair as well as drill training on three sizes of mud rotary rigs. More information is found here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Symposium and Announcement of Prize Winner

The OU WaTER Center will host its third biennial WaTER Symposium on water and sanitation issues in developing countries. The event will be held Friday, Sept. 21 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on the University of Oklahoma Norman Campus in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom of the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Concluding the Symposium, the 2012 Water Prize winner will be announced!

The distinguished jury panel includes: 
  • Rita Colwell, Ph.D.Chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, former Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and recipient of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize; 
  • Idrissa Doucoure, Director of Water and Sanitation for Africa; 
  • Ravi Jayakaran, Ph.D., Vice President of Global Programs, MAP International; 
  • Christine Moe, Ph.D., Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation and the Director of the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory University; 
  • Marc Parlange, Ph.D., Professor and Dean at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering; and 
  • Dennis Warner, Ph.D., Senior Technical Advisor for water supply, sanitation and water resources development for Catholic Relief Services.

The schedule for the day is as follows:

     1:30-1:45     Overview of Water and Sanitation Issues and Panel Introduction

     1:45-2:45     Opening Statements from Panelists (Jurors)

     2:45-3:00     BREAK

     3:00-4:30     Question and Answer Session with Panelists, Students and Participants - Moderated by Dr. Suzette Grillot (OU College of International Studies)

     4:30-5:00     Announcement of the 2012 University of Oklahoma Water Prize Recipient

This event is free and open to the public. 
Please register here or from the OU WaTER Center website by Thursday, September 20
Free parking is available in the lot east of Sarkeys Energy Center on the corner of Boyd St. and Trout Ave. Overflow parking will be available in the lot south of Sarkeys Energy Center off University Pl.
Concluding the symposium, the 2013 OU International Water Prize Winner will be announced!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sr. Rosemary to Speak on OU Campus

"An Evening with Sister Rosemary" promises to be an inspiring event in which, in addition to viewing the debut of a film on her life, the CNN Hero will speak of her experiences in Uganda on behalf of the orphan girls for whom she has given her life and ministry.  The event will be held on Thursday, August 23, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m., at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the OU campus in Norman, Oklahoma.

Sr. Rosemary has spent her adult life rescuing orphan girls from the ravages of Joseph Kony's army, and then training these girls in beneficial life skills, such as cooking, tailoring, reading, and other matters of education. She was recently honored by the Starkey Hearing Foundation with one of this year's humanitarian awards. The event in Minneapolis (August 4) was filled with stars and honored guests, including President Bill Clinton, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, Maria Bello, and many others. To see more about the lovely event, go to the Starkey Hearing Foundation 12th Annual Awards Gala website.  

Sr. Rosemary is pictured along with Maria Bello (actress), President Bill Clinton,
Forest Whitaker (actor) and Okello Sam (Ugandan artist).
Sr. Rosemary Hyirumbe is a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and founder of St. Monica's Tailoring School in Gulu, Uganda.

Two students from Sooners Without Borders (SWB) traveled to Uganda this summer to work with Sr. Rosemary and, specifically, to help in the building of an ecolatrine for the children at her school. Cate Lynn (see additional information in this newsletter) and Chris Brazile spent several weeks in northern Uganda engaged in some of the many projects that this little dynamo has begun!

Cate Lynn and Chris Breazile pose with Sr. Rosemary
and one of her Ugandan sisters, proudly sporting their "Pros for Africa" t-shirts.
Event details:

Thursday, August 23
6:00 p.m. ……. reception
7:00 p.m. … film / talk / Q&A
Sam Noble Museum of Natural History
University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

The event is being sponsored by Pros for Africa, OU's School of Civil Engineering & Environmental Science, OU's School of Law, Sooners Without Borders (SWB), 
and the WaTER Center. 
The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cate Lynn's Summer in Africa

OU senior microbiology major Cate Lynn spent four weeks this summer in Africa. In June she participated in a Pros for Africa trip to the Saint Monica's Girls School in Gulu, Uganda, which was founded by CNN Hero, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. During her three weeks in Gulu, Cate participated in planning and supervising the building of an ecolatrine and worked in the free clinic at the school. In July, Cate returned to Africa as an intern for the ONE Campaign sponsored by Chegg. That trip took her to Johannesburg, South Africa and Lusaka, Zambia, where she visited several community centers, schools, and HIV clinics. On both trips Cate had the opportunity to interact with development and health professionals invested in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Children playing on a water pump that supplies the a community center's water tower in South Africa.
 In the clinic in Gulu, Cate saw many patients who suffered from malnutrition and skin issues. She also saw many cases of malaria. Sadly many of the illnesses she saw could have been prevented by improved water and sanitation.

According to Cate, the most overwhelming part of her experience was realizing how understaffed free clinics like the one at St. Monica's really are. Given her plans to attend medical school, Cate is considering working in a developing country and donating some of her time to a local free clinic. Cate called the trip a unique opportunity to absorb the culture and the influence of everyday life on health-related behavior.

Cate and OU student Chris Breazile with a novice at St. Monica's and a University of Oregon student.
Unfortunately, Cate also had the opportunity to learn what many people in developing countries already know about the effects of contaminated water. She was sick five days of this three week trip from using tap water to brush her teeth. She learned from tests later that although water directly drawn from the well in Gulu was clean, storing water presented challenges for keeping it clean. She is depicted below testing water from the storage tanks at St. Monica's.

On her July trip to South Africa and Zambia, Cate spent a week traveling with eight other interns with interest in developing country work. During this trip, she was able to see a broad range of development and medical settings that will be very influential in helping her choose the type of work she wants to do after medical school. Of meeting the many HIV patients, Cate said she learned the invaluable lesson of the maintaining humanity, humility, and patience.

In addition to the clinics Cate visited, she also saw many community centers that provide a home for widows, many of whom are HIV positive. The centers often provide schools for the children of the widows. These centers are an impressive example of social entrepreneurship as they are sustained by the sales of craft goods produced by the women.

Cate with women at a mostly-female community center in South Africa. These women make their living by selling crafts like the bracelets Cate is holding.

Save the Date - Conference 2013

The Third Biennial OU International WaTER Conference is set for Monday, Sept. 23 - Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in Norman, Oklahoma. As in past conferences, the conference will be two full days followed by an additional half-full day of workshops.

Participants were treated to a banquet and presentation by the Water Prize winner.
The 2011 opening ceremony included Native American dance and music,
a special Oklahoma treat!

Workshop participants were able to study the construction of an eco-latrine
and learn how to master the art of hand-drilling, among many other things.

Save the date on your busy calendar.
We hope you will join us!

GeoGen2013 International Conference in Ethiopia

GeoGen2013 International Conference - February 5-7, 2013; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The sustainable supply of contaminant-free drinking water requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes an understanding of fate and transport of the contaminant, the importance of diet, and the suitability of alternative water sources. Robust, simple technologies are necessary, but major hurdles are often encountered in the form of economics, logistics, and human preferences and behavior.

The full title of this conference is:
"Toward sustainable safe drinking water supply in developing countries: 
the challenges of geogenic contaminants and mitigation measures"

This 3-day conference will focus on two significant geogenic (originating in the earth) sources of water contamination - arsenic and fluoride.  Experts from diverse settings will discuss technical. social, policy, and economic aspects in a unique interdisciplinary dialogue.

The main topics will be:

  • health challenges for mitigation
  • policy
  • fluoride and arsenic mitigation options
  • behaviour change / acceptance
  • public - private partnerships

Call for abstracts - for oral and poster presentations - is out, and the deadlines for submission are below:

             Abstract deadline…….August 1, 2012
             Notification of acceptance…….September 15, 2012
             Conference…….February 5-7, 2013 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

See the Conference website for more information.

Support Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (S. 641& H.R. 3658) was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 19, 2012. The bill, which would expand existing U.S. programs aimed at improving conditions for those in developing countries who lack access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation, was previously passed in the Senate in 2009 before dying in the House. Having passed committee for a second time, the bill is in position to be passed by the Senate, but needs your support to be successful in the House.

Many people are still forced to use polluted water sources
as there are simply no other options.
Some facts about the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act:
  • The goal of the act is to help 100 million people gain sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation over six years.
  • It is an extension of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which was signed in to law in 2005.
  • It is backed by a bi-partison group of 26 senators.
  • A companion bill is waiting to be voted on in the House Foreign Relations Committee.
  • H.R. 3658 currently has a bi-partisan backing of 61 co-sponsors, including Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole (R).
To learn more about the Act and how you can be involved, visit the Act page on WASH Advocates' website. To find contact information for your local representative, click here.

These boys in Tanzania can collect water from a new well
in their community.

Cambodia in June

Chris Cope and Hayley Ryckman (grad students extraordinaire) and Jim Chamberlain (ordinary research engineer) spent most of the month of June working in the arsenic-impacted areas of Cambodia. Dr. David Sabatini joined the group midway through their time in country, flying over from Thailand where he was teaching a summer course.  
Cambodian boys playing near the bogs, where fishing is a common pastime.
While working in the rural villages, they stayed in a bungalow provided by RDIC (Resource Development International-Cambodia), a non-profit organization that builds local capacity through projects such as ceramic water pot manufacturing, construction of rainwater storage vessels, health education, sustainable farming and agricultural practices, and media production. Their wet chemistry laboratory is the finest in Cambodia, and Chris and Hayley each set up equilibrium tests using various media to treat local well water of high arsenic concentration (as high as 1000 ppb). In addition to laboratory work, the group had meetings and built relationships with Cambodia's Minister of Rural Water Supply, along with representatives of UNICEF, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, IDE-Cambodia, and EWB-Australia. As an added bonus, they had lunch with Joe Brown of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and scientists with WaterSHED-Asia.  

Dr. Sabatini, Jim and Chris are joined by a new Aussie friend for evening drinks and conversation
at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh. 
Chris, Hayley and Jim spent their last week in Cambodia doing household visits in three different villages in the Kandal province, a region heavily affected by naturally-occurring arsenic in the groundwater produced by wells. Our informal survey consisted of finding out what water sources people used for drinking, cooking, and washing during both the dry and the rainy seasons. Typically, Cambodia has abundant rainfall during the months of May through November, and many people use rainwater harvesting in traditional pieng jars and in larger manufactured barrels. During the dry season, families will quickly run out of stored water, and resort to a variety of measures, including consumption of arsenic-laden well water. In the words of several villagers, “We have no other choice.”

Two pictures of villagers showing some of their household necessities - a comfortable hammock and several large pieng jars for collecting and storing rainwater during the wet season.
Our research at the OU WaTER Center is 1) to develop locally-producible adsorption filters that can be appropriately scaled to the household or to the community level to remove arsenic (Chris, Hayley), and 2) to compare best alternatives to using arsenic well water in terms of both cost, effectiveness, and life cycle environmental impacts (Jim). Our work for these three weeks in country have been to support both of these efforts, and the work now continues back in the States.

Monks carry precious water underneath their saffron-coloured robes.
The brilliant orange of the monks' robes still dots the landscape of most rural villages and city streets. 

The OU WaTER Center team, gathered for Sunday Mass at St. Joseph's parish in Phnom Penh.
The group was hosted by the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 
Many more pictures from this trip and the summer trip to Ethiopia are found at OU WaTER Center group Facebook page.

Ethiopia in July

Laura Brunson and Anne Kroeger, grad students in Environmental Engineering and Anthropology, respectively, arrived early June in Ethiopia to do some traveling in the north, get set up in the village of Meki, and begin their PhD research. Laura set up column studies to test the suitability of several different types of media and coatings for fluoride removal. Anne is a medical anthropologist who visited several villages where residents commonly presented with pain and physical symptoms associated with excessive intake of fluoride in their diet and water supply.

The market in the village of Meki is alive with activity on at least three days a week.

Laura looks over her lab notes for her column experiments in her makeshift laboratory in Meki.
Lowell Busenitz (OU College of Business) and Jim Chamberlain (WaTER Research Engineer) arrived several weeks later to being their 2-week sojourn in Ethiopia. Their primary interests were in understanding the small business and entrepreneurship potential in rural Ethiopia, especially as it might allow for a sustainable market for the introduction and adoption of sustainable fluoride mitigation technologies. In addition to meeting with key players in Ethiopia’s water future – Catholic Relief Services, USAID, the University of Addis Ababa, government ministries, etc. – they also visited villages in the affected areas, hoping to understand what makes a small business work in these locales.
Over two million people worldwide are impacted by drinking water that is higher than the WHO recommended limit of 1.5 mg/L, many of these in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Fluoride is an element that is beneficial for preventing tooth decay at low levels, but causes discoloration of teeth (dental fluorosis) and skeletal deformation and brittling (skeletal fluorosis) at very high levels as is found here. While many treatment methods exist for the removal of fluoride, there is still lacking a set of mitigation options that are inexpensive, readily available, easy to maintain and effective. Our researchers are working on these sustainable solutions both in Ethiopia and back in the United States.
Lowell, Teshome and Jim catch a ride on a donkey cart
in order to travel flooded roads back to a water treatment installation.

Lowell demonstrates a public tap that delivers fluoride-safe drinking water
for villagers for a small water tariff.

Many more pictures from this trip and the summer trip to Cambodia are found at OU WaTER Center group Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anne Kroeger Receives Fellowship to Study Fluorosis

Anne Kroeger, a PhD student in Anthropology, has been awarded an NSF Fellowship to study skeletal and dental fluorosis in Ethiopia.  Kroeger did her undergraduate training in chemistry and biology, and focuses on human health in her discipline of Biological Anthropology. Her research involves understanding the progression and health effects of skeletal fluorosis within populations living in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. In the Rift Valley, fluoride levels have been detected as high as 33 mg/l. The WHO recommendation for maximum fluoridation is 1.5 mg/l.   Skeletal fluorosis can develop with chronic exposure to fluoride levels as low as 3 mg/l, and crippling skeletal fluorosis with fluoride levels above 6 mg/l.   

Anne Kroeger has been awarded an NSF Fellowship
to conduct her work in Ethiopia.
Kroeger will travel this summer to Ethiopia's Rift Valley with another graduate student of the WaTER Center, Laura Brunson, and other faculty and staff affiliated with the WaTER Center. These other personnel are exploring research questions concerning locally-available and sustainable technologies for fluoride removal and concerning the business entrepreneurship environment at both the macro- and micro-levels.

Indian woman who suffers from long-term effects of skeletal fluorosis.

Kroeger's research will seek to uncover the physical effects of fluoride consumption, including pain and decreased range of motion. While other WaTER Center students are studying methods of fluoride removal, Kroeger will examine alternative ways to alleviate or reduced the physical effects of fluoride consumption. She is also interested in developing simple and inexpensive ways of measuring / estimating the amount of fluoride being taken up by the the body.

Kroeger is grateful for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work. With this grant, she hopes to emphasize the importance of fluorosis and water quality and also to learn how to mitigate the effects of fluorosis before children develop painful manifestations.  Ultimately, this study will help improve the understanding of how fluoride is metabolized in bone and how the disease progresses through the skeleton.

Field Methods Course Update

The first offering of the first-of-its-kind course, Sustainable Development in Emerging Regions: WaTER Field Methods, has come to a conclusion. Thirteen students from the University of Oklahoma completed the three-week course. Both undergraduates and graduate students participated, with students coming from microbiology, public health, international area studies, and engineering.
This year's Field Methods class consisted of 10 undergraduate and 3 graduate students
from a variety of academic disciplines.
Students learned a wide variety of skills they might be called upon to demonstrate while working in the field. Activities included slab and concrete block construction, water well-drilling by hand and by machine, water quality analysis, topographical surveying with Abney level, soil identification by hand, construction of biosand filters, hydraulics of gravity-flow systems, baseline health surveys, and comparison of common long-term and emergency household water treatment methods. Individual modules were led by the Water4 Foundation, Dr. Paul Weckler and five students from Oklahoma State University, Dr. Helene Carabin of the OU Health Sciences Center, and others.

Ashley Rhone and Stephen Lindstom sip dirty duck pond water
using a LifeStraw water filter.
Anna Humphrey and Amanda Oehlert build and fill a wooden
form for a biosand filter.
William Mwangi sets out the first course for a concrete block wall.

Several students who completed the course are already planning to use their skills in-country this summer. Cate Lynn will be working this summer in Uganda, Seth Gilliam will be traveling to Burma, and Anna Humphrey is dreaming of returning to Cambodia. Many students have future hopes of improving the lives of rural villagers across the world, either as an integral part of their career path or as an avocation. 

Students auger a small-bore hole, develop well logs, and practice
soil identification using standard ASTM field methods.
Dr. Sabatini joins in the fun of hand-drilling a well
using Water4's portable drilling rig.

Junyi Du expériences drilling mud first hand by working on the
diesel-powered LS-100 rig, taught by John Stam of Enid, OK.