Safe Water Education and El Niño Drought Initiative
Weno, Yap and Pohnpei, Micronesia; Koror, Palau; Majuro, Marshall Islands
Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) and Water for Life (PREL affiliate)
Scattered across hundreds of low-lying atoll islets and mountainous islands, and home to over 147,000 people, many of these communities have public water supply systems that are unreliable and sometimes not functioning. Major health concerns on the islands are primarily related to waterborne diseases.
PREL is a non-profit organization based in Hawaii with staff working all over the North Pacific. It works with organizations throughout the Pacific region to build strong schools and healthy communities.
PREL’s affiliate, Water for Life, is funded by the National Science Foundation to improve water literacy and access to high quality drinking water in the affiliated Pacific Islands. Teams of educators, environmentalists and water systems staff have overseen a wide variety of projects such as building shelters around groundwater springs, upgrading rainwater catchment systems, protecting streams from pollution, and engaging community members in monitoring and maintaining drinking water sources.
Some communities in the region rely on shallow wells and rainwater catchment for their drinking water. Citizens face increasingly variable weather patterns, with severe droughts, typhoons and storm surges becoming more common. Most streams are seasonal. The 2016 El Niño drought significantly stressed existing water sources, leaving communities with access to much less reliable streams and wells with high levels of pollution and contamination.
When Ethan Allen, PhD, Director of Water for Life, heard about M-Drops, he knew he had uncovered a way to empower families to create safe drinking water. Ming Wei Koh, PhD, PREL’s ecoliteracy specialist, initially tested MadiDrops for personal use. After using the M-Drop for six months, she noted she had ongoing good health attributed directly to safe drinking water.
“Thank you again for saving my gut the past 6 months. Since I got my M-Drop, I’ve not gotten sick in Micronesia. When I first began this job, I lost 10 pounds due to gastrointestinal challenges.”
- Dr. Ming Wei Koh
Initially, PREL and Water for Life purchased M-Drops to be used in Weno, Yap, Koror and Majuro, focusing on educating teachers and school children about safe water practices. Water for Life developed a handbook to train 6th graders to use M-Drops and to be Water Quality Management Leaders in their schools and homes. The project was extended to incorporate more households and to provide students at the College of Micronesia in Chuuk the opportunity to do some testing and evaluation.
Based on the successful adoption of M-Drops in schools and homes across the region, PREL ordered additional M-Drops in Fall 2016 to be immediately deployed to Pohnpei, an area particularly hard-hit by drought. Dr. Allen noted, in drought conditions, families use whatever water is available, regardless of its source or contamination levels.
MadiDrop PBC and Water for Life continue to work together to provide educational support about safe water best practices and additional M-Drop deployments to the region.
“I look forward to continuing to work with MadiDrop PBC and toward building better water security in the Pacific Islands with you."
– Dr. Ethan Allen