Tag Archives: Rainwater collection

Living on Solar Power: More About Our Future House in Tanzania

If you looked closely at the pictures of our rented house in Monduli Juu, you may have noticed that there’s a solar panel on the roof and a power line tied in on the front porch.

The house is on the electrical grid. However, with power available as little as 4 hours a day, that doesn’t help much. We expect that we will depend largely on solar power.

Our impromptu system: One panel, a car battery, a controller and an inverter.

Our impromptu system: One panel, a car battery, a controller and an inverter.

We experimented with this a bit while we were in Tanzania this year. Lewis Short had a working battery, and we purchased a solar panel and the associated parts. The panel provides 12 volt power any time the sun is shining. The controller manages the power loads so the panel can’t overcharge the battery and the inverter can’t completely drain the battery. The inverter converts the 12 volt DC power into 220 volt power. The extension cord runs through the bedroom window. It was enough to provide power for my CPAP and for charging our electronic devices.

This system costs about $150 (plus the cost of the battery). We will need a system about ten times as large as this, to run our appliances and electric lights. The good news is that we can purchase all the parts (except a 110 volt inverter, just in case) locally, supporting local businesses.

Just south of the equator, and at an altitude similar to Denver, we get lots of sun! In fact, we have to be careful to wear a hat when we’re outside, pretty much all the time.  Solar power is a smart way to go.

It’s especially smart when you consider this story from the BBC, explaining that Tanzania has just shut down all of its hydro-electric power plants, because of a shortage of water. The already tenuous power supply is now further reduced.

That water shortage has much more serious repercussions. If there isn’t enough water to run the turbines, there certainly isn’t enough water for people, or for their animals or their farms & gardens. So while we are installing a solar system for our own needs, we’re looking for ways to help our neighbors meet their need for clean water.

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Our Future House in Tanzania

Because our mission is an outreach to the Maasai people,we wanted to live among the Maasai. We had seen where a few people had built brick houses in the area dominated by the Maasai, and thought we might be able to rent one. Through a casual connection, we were introduced to the retired Head Teacher from Maasai Girls School, who owns a vacant house in the Monduli Juu area. This is exactly where we wanted to live! We have rented this house in advance, to move in on June 1, 2016.  I have included an album below; I believe you can click on the thumbnails to see a large image.

This is a lovely house, but this community has no water supply. In order to live here, we will need to build an extensive rainwater collection system. With our landlady’s permission, we hope to extend the roof to increase the area for rainwater collection, and to give us some additional covered living/visiting space. With the additional water, we will be able to use the flush toilet and shower that are already built in the house.

When we saw this house, we thought, “We could move in right away!” That’s almost true. It’s a very nice house, but without a water supply or electricity, it would be difficult to live here (that’s probably part of the reason our landlady lives elsewhere). Desert Water Agency estimates a need of 6000 gallons per month for two people.

  • We must enlarge this roof to provide more rainwater catchement capability.
  • We must be able to store at least 2 months supply on location (preferably 3 or more).
  • Estimated cost: $20,000
  • Solar Hot water system $500.00

We will also install solar panels for electricity, because the electrical system here is very undependable. It is often off for days at a time, and rarely on for more than 8 hours a day.We will have a generator as backup, so we will be living “off the grid.” However, because cell phone service (and internet capability) are almost universal in Tanzania, that’s one thing that actually works better than in Memphis.

  • 5 Kv Diesel generator: $1200.00
  • 10 Kv Solar System: $1200.00

Which brings us to the point: We need assistance with these costs. We’re raising money for our support, but we also need money to cover one-time costs like moving, language school and renovating our house. If you, or your church are interested in partnering with us in this work, please let us know.

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Saving souls… one bottle at a time

empty soda bottles

What do empty soda bottles have to do with saving souls? 

We made a tremendous discovery while we were helping the church at Monduli Juu!

By the way, Monduli is the general region. Juu means “upper.” We have rented a house in this community, about a quarter mile from this church. Our co-workers, Lewis and Tammy Short, live in Lower Monduli, or Monduli Chini. 

This church–and the community they are located in–has no water supply. They carry water in from streams and ponds a couple of miles away; the same streams and ponds that are used to water animals. It’s not clean water, but it’s all they have. We proposed collecting rain water from the church building, and sharing it with the community.

Initially, we were going to buy large vinyl tanks. We told the church that we would partner with them: if they buy one tank, we will match it. But since they don’t have a lot of cash, that wasn’t working well.

We found a design for building tanks and houses out of discarded soda bottles, filled with dirt. You still have to buy cement, but nearly all your other materials are free. We proposed this to the members of the Monduli Juu church. So after collecting about 500 bottles, we set a day and started building a tank.

We drew a circle on the ground, and mixed concrete to pour a circular floor. While one group was preparing concrete, another group started filling plastic bottles with dirt. We mixed mortar, and started building a circular cistern. When one of the neighbors wanted to learn how to build this way, we all got together another weekend and worked together with her family.

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Mixing concrete on location. You can see the center stake and part of the inscribed circle.

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Filling bottles with dirt and ground pumice. In the background, the first few bottle bricks have already been laid.

That’s when we made our discovery. It took a long time to fill bottles and mix cement and lay bottle bricks, and all that time, people were chatting. They made fun of  each other, and they exchanged phone numbers. They tried to figure out which friends they had in common. In short, this time-consuming, tedious process was a perfect opportunity for evangelism!

It meets a felt need: for good water storage near home.

It’s sustainable: anyone can do it with local materials (and it cleans up the environment!).

And it provides a lot of relationship-building time between the local church and the non-believers who want to learn about this method.

This was exactly the sort of project we had been looking for. This method can help us become a valued part of the community, and can be part of an indigenous evangelism effort.

And that’s how we use empty soda bottles to win souls for Christ!

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Rainwater collection at Andrew Connelly School of Preaching

The main purpose of our 2015 trip was building relationships with the other workers in the area. So we were delighted to work with the folks at the Andrew Connelly School of Preaching in Kisongo, near Arusha. We started building a rainwater collection system for the school. Because the school is buying water in tanker trucks during part of the year, this would save them a lot of money. It could also provide higher quality water than they currently have. It would also support the drip irrigation system that they use in their garden.

Andrew Connally School of PreachingAs you can see, this is a large complex, with a lot of roof. After discussion with Cy Stafford, we decided to build a small system to test our construction design.

We chose to work with the two small roofs on top of the dormitory complex. All the roofs have eavestroughs installed; we just converted them to a rainwater collection system.

I worked quite closely with Lairumbe while I was working on this system. I showed him how to build a “first flush” system, and then asked him to build the next one. When another of the students came to see what we were doing, I asked Lairumbe to explain to them what we were building, and why. At the end of one day, he asked me to come to meet his fiance. They hope to be married in December. Lairumbe is from Monduli Juu, where we will be living next year. His father is one of the elders in the community, and his half-brother Koimere preaches in Monduli Juu.

Building a first flush system

Building a first flush system

The happy couple

The happy couple

We connected the gutter systems on both dormitory roofs to the 5000 liter storage tanks already in place. We built a sand filter to capture any large particles that escaped the first flush system. And then we went to work on a large steel tank on the ground, to capture overflow from these rooftop tanks.

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One of the students helping me build trusses

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Welding a roof truss

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A basic sand filter for the collection system

Partially completed tank

Partially completed tank with trusses ready to lift

A local contractor was hired to construct a PVC liner for this tank, which will be 12 feet deep when completed. Unfortunately, I was injured, and was unable to complete the tank. I spoke with Ely Martin, a christian and local contractor (I had been using his welder), and I believe he can complete this project. If not, I expect to work on it again on our return to Tanzania in 2016.

Full disclosure: I was injured largely because I was working by myself at the time. I have been ordered not to repeat this error. I received treatment at the Tanzania Christian Clinic, and am fully recovered. 

The advantages of this system for the school are quite obvious: better water, more water, less expensive water. However, the huge advantage for me was the opportunity to work closely with both the faculty and students of this school, building relationships that we hope will last for many years.

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Rainwater collection at Lewis & Tammy’s home.

The week before our arrival in Tanzania, Lewis Short posted a picture on Facebook, showing the water that his family had available: about 3 gallons. Three gallons for cooking, drinking, flushing toilets, showers, and everything else for a family of 5–and we were going to be staying with them. So one of the first projects we tackled was a rainwater collection system for their house. It would help, once the rainy season started.

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We bought several tanks, and we hired a welder to modify the Short’s tower so we could install a 2000 liter tank in the base. We also had him build a cradle for the water pipe running from the main house to the tower, so the line wouldn’t sag when it was full of water.

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Twyla catching water

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Ralph, Lewis & Albert collecting water

Soon after we started building the system, it started raining. The rainy season finally arrived, 3 weeks late. We had tanks, but we didn’t have them plumbed in, so we gathered as much water as possible. It made a real difference to have water!

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Before we finished, we had 10,000 liters of storage, and that was full before we left. We learned a lot about available materials and provided a water collection system for the Short family.

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Brief Update

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Twyla and I have both been quite active on Facebook, so our friends who are on Facebook will be aware of the things we’ve been doing.However, several people have reminded me that they don’t use Facebook,and they would like to have regular news about what we are doing.So this blog is one part of our effort to keep people better informed. In addition, these posts will have the advantage of being centered around a theme, rather than the “here’s what we are doing now” quality of Facebook.

So for the next few posts, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • Rainwater collection at Lewis & Tammy’s home.
  • Rainwater collection at Tanzania Christian Academy.
  • Rainwater collection at Andrew Connelly School of Preaching
  • Constructing a Bottle Brick cistern at the Monduli Juu Church of Christ
  • Visiting the Arusha Game Park
  • Our Non-profit corporation in Tanzania
  • We found a house to live in!
  • Learning to build bio-sand water filters
  • Visiting family and friends
  • A vehicle for Tanzania

That’s a good beginning; these topics will give you a good idea what we have been up to since we left for Tanzania in March.

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One week before we leave: Where do we stand?

My workgroup at FedEx gave us these outstanding insect repellant Tilley hats!

My workgroup at FedEx gave us these outstanding insect repellant Tilley hats!

We leave for Tanzania on Monday, March 16.

Please come to our Farewell Dinner at 6 p.m., on Sunday evening, March 15!  Some friends are hosting a farewell potluck dinner at the Church of Christ at White Station, in the Fireplace Room (see map). It’s a pot-luck, so bring some food and come hear about our plans.

Fundraising

We are far short of our goal for the rainwater capture system. We only have about 10% of the money we need. Even at this late date, we have a hope of raising the rest, which is why I am sending this message.

We have exceeded our goal for our personal needs, largely because we pledged $5000 of our own money (thanks to  my portable pension plan from FedEx). We’re committed to this work; we hope you will donate to it as well.

There are two ways you can donate:

  1. You can make a donation to COCWS with “Williams Tanzania Mission” on the memo line. The address of the church is: Church of Christ at White Station, 1106 Colonial Road, Memphis, TN 38117.
  2. You can make a donation to Tanzania Christian Foundation (click the link to open their donation page). You can designate your gift for Tanzania Christian Academy online,  or you can send them a check with “Rainwater Collection System” on the memo line.

If you have been following our posts on Facebook and this blog, you know that our life has been rather busy. We’re taking a breather on Sunday. I will be speaking at Peppers Lake Church of Christ on Sunday morning (just outside De Valls Bluff, AR). I was their preacher many years ago, when our daughter was a baby. If you would like to join us, send me an email, and I will give you directions. Then,on Sunday evening, we have the farewell dinner. Y’all come!

Please pray for us.

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