Posted on Jun 24, 2021
Safe water is a fundamental human need and a primary focus of Rotary projects around the world.  Yet, even many Alaskans do not fully appreciate the extent to which remote Alaskan communities remain highly vulnerable to sudden loss of community safe water supplies.  Over the winter of 2020-2021 alone, at least six remote Alaska communities, mostly Alaska Native communities, lost their sole safe water sources due to fire and other sudden casualty losses. 
Seen here are Designer John Dufendach of Campwater Systems LLC and Past District Governor Peggy Pollen as they prepare a chlorine generation unit designed for remote area operation.  Chlorination is generated on-site from basic table salt, Sodium Chloride.
Rotary District 5010 District Governor Nominee Mike Pollen performing initial on-site water quality testing.  Proof of concept filtration unit on the left side, rear.
Rotary District 5010’s new helicopter-portable emergency safe water plant project answers that need in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
Rotary District 5010 has developed a highly economical, technically sophisticated, self-contained system that can supply the emergency safe water needs of hundreds of people for several months, can be powered by a small 5KW gasoline generator and is easily moved in hours wherever needed by helicopter or light truck.   Due to the nature of Alaska’s weather and terrain, with a majority of communities accessible only by air, emergency safe water plants ideally should be capable of immediate deployment by all but the smallest helicopters.
Alaska is unique among US states - many remote communities have only tenuous sole source safe water systems, and some of those are regularly lost due to fire, storm, freeze-up, and other sudden casualty events.   Community safe water systems in smaller urban communities such as Cordova, Valdez, and Southeast Alaska are also vulnerable to water system failure as a result of our rather common natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding, and wildfire. 
Over this past year, Alaskans became very aware of these vulnerabilities because of several highly-publicized water system losses. Some events received national media coverage.
Six remote Alaska communities, including Chevak and Tuluksak, lost their sole safe water sources over the winter of 2020-2021.  The Yupik community of Tuluksak in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, for example, experienced a fire that destroyed their community water treatment facility.  This sort of casualty loss usually occurs several times a year in remote Alaska communities.  Typically, the initial response is to fly in bottled water, at a cost of about $100,000 in the instance of Tuluksak.  That’s difficult to sustain logistically and economically.  At Tuluksak, bad weather closed the village runway for several days, preventing normal fixed-wing aircraft operations from even bringing in expensive bottled water. 
Our Rotary project has developed and proven, under real-world conditions, a design and technology now being combined into an integrated full-scale unit built onto a single 6 feet wide by 8 foot long aluminum base. The complete unit weighs only 740 pounds, including an onboard 300-gallon clean water storage tank, Arctic-insulated outer covering, and rigid metal base.  As a result, the unit is easily moved by all but the smallest helicopters and can be on-scene in a matter of hours under most circumstances.   
These units take any form of low-turbidity surface water in one end and output 5 gallons per minute of  EPA-quality safe drinking water on the other end.  With its insulated covering and internal electric heater, these units are able to operate in frigid Arctic conditions for a few months before requiring major maintenance, can output roughly 7,200 gallons of water a day, and require only a small 5KW  gasoline generator to power them and their associated chlorine generator.
After six engineering iterations, our proof of technology concept processed water taken directly from the Tanana River at the Alaska Pipeline crossing, processed that raw water and filled a 300-gallon collapsible storage tank with clean water that met and exceeding stringent urban drinking water standards, confirmed by later lab tests. 
After that successful proof of technology testing in late April 2021, Rotary District 5010 is now constructing a full-scale working prototype safe water plant for flight testing to ensure suitability for safe helicopter operations.  The $25,000 needed to begin construction of the flight test prototype has been provided from District 5010’s Excess Reserve funds.  We now need to raise the $180,000 needed to build the operational units.
Our intent is to construct six such promptly deployable systems and pre-positioned with regional Alaska Native health organizations for quick response and then return these units for maintenance after long-term solutions have been implemented in a remote community.  Rotary would retain ownership of them.  Villages who lose their safe water plants already have the expertise needed to operate the Rotary emergency safe water units.
Each operational unit will cost approximately $45,000, well under half the cost of flying bottled water into Tuluksak on a short-term unsustainable basis.  The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that a national Go-Fund Me raised $100,000 to fly 3,000 liters of bottled water into Tululsak.  For that same amount of money, Rotary District 5010 can build and pre-position two operational units that can produce as much water in 75 minutes as the fly-in effort spent $100,000 and do that for several months at a time, and then do it again when another emergency strikes.
Our project leaders are Rotary District 5010’s 2021-2022 District Governor-Nominee Mike Pollen, who has 50 years of professional experience providing safe water to urban and remote Alaskan communities, and Jon Dufendach, whose company Campwater Industries is a leading supplier of custom-designed remote water systems.