To Paraguay and Back (Almost!)

IMG_1655I spent last week in the region of El Chaco, which is located in southern Bolivia on a work related trip to investigate the possibility of implementing a project in the region to provide water using solar pumping systems. It was a very interesting trip. I expected the weather to be very hot (up to 40C), but luckily the days were mostly cloudy and the extreme heat doesn’t start for another month or two. We are working with an NGO called Energetica, which specializes in solar panels, and has done several solar pumping projects.

Solar pumping basically involves a well, a DC pump, solar panels and a storage tank. It is extremely useful for communities where there is no electricity (which encompasses most communities), and where a well is the source of water for the community. The pump runs off of the electricity generated by the solar panels and pumps water to the storage tank. From there, there is generally a distribution system so that everyone in the community benefits from safe drinking water. It’s a very interesting concept, and works well where the well is not extremely deep. Once you reach a certain depth you need so many solar panels that it becomes less economically feasible.

We visited 3 different neighbouring municipalities in 5 days. Within each municipality, we visited several communities, talked to the people who live there and tried to get a general idea of the water situation in each one, and whether or not a solar system would be a feasible alternative. Each municipality was very different from the next in its water problems and landscape. It was really interesting to see the diversity. One municipality has groundwater at a depth of 20m and another at a depth of 400m! On Friday we were 50 km from the border with Paraguay before we headed back to town.

We managed to get stuck on one of the roads we were traveling on. It was quite the adventure. The road crossed several rivers, which were mostly dry. We came out of one and drove up the riverbank, only to have some of the ground under the truck give way and bam!! Stuck! With the help of a local man we managed to place tree trunks under the side of the car that was no longer on anything, and dug out the other side of the truck. After 2 hours of preparation our driver got back in and got the truck out! What a relief that was!!

I’ve posted some pictures of the trip. There are some pictures of pumps and motors and wells and such things, but there are also a lot of pictures of the people, houses and countryside.

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Posted in travel | work Submitted by Meg on Sun, 2007-04-15 15:41

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