SAWA speaker addresses clean water initiatives
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Nov 13, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

SAWA speaker addresses clean water initiatives

Stratford Gazette

Chet Greason

At a fundraising dinner held in support of the Stratford and Area World Aid organization on Thursday, Nov. 7, over $6,500 was raised towards digging a well in the Ethiopian village of Dalota.

The tables were set with centrepieces filled with water straight from the Avon River meant to convey the quality of drinking water Dalotans currently have access to. A second jug at each table, filled with brightly dyed liquids of various colours, represented the chemical run-off from factories that all too often seeps into local rivers and streams.

After enjoying an Ethiopian meal, attendees listened to a presentation by Kitchener/Waterloo-based hydrogeologist Peter Gray, who has been offering his expertise to the group pro bono, helping apply for grants and work through the sometimes complex process of well-drilling.

Well drilling, he says, comes down to  a few simple questions: “Where is it, how much is there, and what is the impact of taking it?”

Currently employed by consultancy, engineering, and surveying firm MTE, Gray has devoted a great deal of his time and resources to setting up water-based charities and traveling to the places in most need of clean drinking water.

“The region of Waterloo is the largest municipality in Canada that relies on wells,” he noted. “We are so blessed to have such clean water.”

Gray first had his eyes opened to the need for activism on a well-digging trip to the community  of Zomba in the African nation of Malawi.

Upon arrival, Gray learned the local chiefs and elders had picked a spot to drill and had blessed it, but his intuition as a hydrogeologist told him a different site was the more ideal location.

However, when they drilled there, the well came up dry.

The decision was made to drill at the original spot the elders had chosen, but on his second last day in Malawi the drill rig broke down.

“My time was running out,” he recalled.

On his last on the job, Gray was met by an ecstatic coworker en route to the site.

“I still remember (him) running down the road yelling ‘We have water!’”

After Malawi, Gray was hooked. Other trips soon followed, including to the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

“In Dhaka, less than five per cent of the city’s waste went to a sewage disposal facility. The rest went in the river,” he said.

In 2005, Gray traveled to Indonesia to help with the disaster relief following the large tsunami that struck the area. The city of Banda Aceh was especially hard hit.

“Eighty-five per cent of the population died,” he said, adding he saw boats six kilometres inland, sometimes on top of buildings.

On top of his speaking engagement, Grey has been assisting SAWA in its preparation for the   well project, including tips on grant writing and finding tenders.

SAWA member Sue Orr will go back to Ethiopia later this month to get more quotes from drilling companies after travelling there earlier this year.

“All of the money raised goes to the well,” she clarified. “Not to trip expenses.”

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