Kintamani Region is the epitome of rural Bali. Highly elevated on Mount Batur in the north of Bali, it is isolated with very steep roads.
Most communities around Mount Batur earn just $US5 a day. People commonly collect rainwater to use but face challenges storing sufficient amounts of water throughout the year.
Sekolah Dasar Negeri 4 Songon (Songan Elementary School), a typical Kintamani school, knows these challenges all too well. It has limited access to clean water resources due to its mountainous terrain. The school’s rainwater harvesting system was broken and too small. They could not afford to make repairs.
During the dry season, the school often had to buy water from a private vendor – at about 2 to 3 times the normal price. Water would be delivered by a truck from a contaminated borewell. Students would get sick and the school principal didn’t know what to do.
Some students – only those who could afford them – would buy their water in single-use plastic water bottles. A basic need, drinkable water was a luxury good for these students.
ENTER GRAVITY WATER
Gravity Water, the organization I am a Board Member of in 2019-2020, is a fairly young U.S. nonprofit organization working to help children in schools access clean drinking water.
As the name of the organization suggests, Gravity Water’s solution combines a rainwater harvesting technique with a gravity-fed filtration system. We’ve only just started operating in Indonesia. And in early 2019, we started searching for a Balinese school in need of drinkable water.
Songan Elementary School was a perfect fit between the school needs and system requirements.
THE POWER BEHIND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Local community empowerment is vital to Gravity Water’s approach. With the Gravity Water team’s close supervision, local community members installed a new, cost-effective system.
We fully engaged and trained local community members throughout the building, installation, and management of the Gravity Water system. This helps the community and school teachers to know and understand how to maintain the system daily so that it remains at a good level.
A photo of a Gravity Water system installed from the Gravity Water system at Songan Elementary School.
The Gravity Water system can provide up to 1,400 liters of safe drinking water approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to the three hundred students daily (Gravity Water Kintamani Clean Water Project Impact Report, May 2019).
From one simple solution, there are so many benefits. All 300 young students (aged 4-12) have access to free and reliable clean drinking water. The school doesn’t need to use electricity to run the system.
We also repaired the school’s pre-existing infrastructure – a water-cement storage tank – to use as a backup water source during long dry periods. This creates a sustainable water situation in case of severe drought events.
A photo of a student drinking water from the Gravity Water system.
SEVERAL MONTHS LATER…
In May, we visited the school. I left my villa around 5:30 in the morning, driving for three hours as the sun rose over the beautiful ocean in far north Bali.
At the school, we checked the water system and re-trained the teachers to strengthen their maintenance skills.
It amazes me how simple it is to keep the system in perfect condition. Sometimes we can just apply an innovative approach with existing technology to create a sustainable solution. Gravity Water’s solution can be energy and pump-free, eliminating some of the barriers for water sustainability for students.
This is a photo taken with boys who played soccer during my visit on May 7, 2019.
But alongside the satisfaction of delivering clean water, there’s also the beauty of connecting with the local Balinese. The students were friendly and inquisitive, keen to learn about my life and my work just as much as I was to learn about them.
These interactions made me wonder how we could get a Gravity Water system in every rural Balinese school. How could we make them easily accessible to schools across Indonesia to give more students an awareness of and access to safe drinking water?
I can’t describe how happy the students and teachers were to have drinkable water 24/7. Not all Indonesian children are fortunate like this. Thirty-four percent of Indonesian schools lack access to basic drinking water. And 570 million children globally lack basic drinking water at their schools.
Yet water changes the lives of students. Songan Elementary students don’t have to fetch water from shallow contaminated water anymore. They can now spend much more time concentrating on studies.
It has been about six months since the school has had the Gravity Water system. This saves the school about $US216 on buying water. The school’s total saving amount to 8% of the cost of Gravity Water system.
The Gravity Water team continues to monitor and assess the impact of its water system on Songan Elementary School students.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BALINESE SCHOOLS?
I hope that all Balinese schools will have clean water if we work together. International and Balinese schools could collaborate to ensure all Balinese students have water to drink.
What would be more powerful than the voice of the students themselves? Nothing, right?
We believe children’s empowerment is as important as the community. Gravity Water created a Youth Initiative where international students will be acting as young water ambassadors to raise funding as well as awareness of the issue.
The initiative has been implemented only in the U.S. But a school here in Bali could be the first outside the States to adopt it. Will any schools want to join?
The Gravity Water system is suitable for almost any school in rural areas in Bali and other Indonesian islands. The Gravity Water team will assess the eligibility of the site if a water system could be installed and will be a sustainable water source.
My determination has never been this strong before. Whether you are living in or visiting Bali, you can help us in our endeavor. Just US$8 will give drinking water to a child.
If you know any rural Balinese schools that don’t have access to clean water, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or if you’d like to have one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life, as I’ve described, we could organize a visit to Kintamani, so you could see the effects of the Gravity Water system.