To increase access to safe water, BRAC WASH undertakes a range of activities. This includes establishing water safety plans, installing deep tube wells and other alternative water options, and testing water quality. Arsenic and saline-prone areas are prioritised when creating these provisions.
Deep tube well
Safe water supply is a critical issue due to highly arsenic-contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh. As a result, the demand for it is much higher than its supply. Deep tube well is the most suitable safe water option as it is affordable and user-friendly. In view of this, BRAC WASH has provided more than 6,000 deep tube wells in Bangladesh. Each tube well covers 36 households on average. In order to ensure sustainability and ownership in the community, 10-12 per cent of the cost is shared by the community members.
Laboratory analysis of the quality of water is done before installing the tube wells and after handing them over to the community. If the test shows arsenic contamination, then the tube well is sealed off and people are restricted from using the water for drinking and cooking.
BRAC is actively involved in educating the community on water safety; and in addition, BRAC WASH also keeps a record of the number of tube wells installed by the government and other agencies to avoid work duplication in BRAC WASH programme areas.
Two-headed and three-headed tube wells
Another BRAC WASH initiative is the installation of two-headed and three-headed tube wells. They are installed so that larger population groups can access safe water from the same tube well. In rural Bangladesh, women are usually the ones who collect water, sometimes travelling long distances every day to obtain water for drinking and household chores. The two-headed and three-headed tube wells make their water collection process easier and less time-consuming. Once these tube wells are installed, the community receives an orientation on maintenance, and a water management committee is set up locally.
Piped water supply systems
BRAC WASH constructs piped water supply systems in areas where deep tube wells are difficult to install, such as hilly areas. This type of water supply system makes use of one safe aquifer which delivers water to the households via an elevated water tank. Piped water supply systems also help address problems with high arsenic content and salinity in shallow aquifers. To date, WASH has set up nine piped water supply systems.
A trained caretaker is hired at each supply system to ensure its smooth operation. A water management committee is set up for each piped water supply system to oversee the maintenance and monitor technical disturbances, sometimes hiring local mechanics when needed and bearing the expenses for repairs. These committees collect a monthly tariff from each family served by the system. The people living in extreme poverty are exempted from this payment and in addition to that, there are standpipes available for their usage.
Pond sand filter
Pond sand filters are an efficient and low-cost option, as they have the ability to purify pond water and allow a major portion of an area to be served based on the size of the ponds. The WASH programme has installed 35 pond sand filters so far, allowing access to safe water in saline and arsenic-affected areas.
Arsenic removal filter
During the first phase of the programme, BRAC WASH provided 647 household-based arsenic removal filters to arsenicosis patients as well as to people living in arsenic-affected areas. These filters were provided to meet the immediate demand for safe water, which is a critical necessity for people living in those areas. Known as Sono filters, these were invented by Dr Abul Hussam, a chemistry professor, using composite iron matrix (CIM) as the active arsenic removal component.