Kim and I came to Ukarumpa specifically so I could work on the new RAM water intake for the water system. Ukarumpa uses two kinds of water which it gets from two different places. The two kinds of water are potable (drinkable water) and non-potable (non-drinkable water) and the sources are rain water collected off of roofs and stored in tanks, and from two creeks respectively. The creek water is known as RAM water here in Ukarumpa. Rain is a very clean and reliable source of water during the rainy season. During the dry season an alternative water source becomes necessary. That is where the RAM water comes in.
Years ago, Ukarumpa installed a network of perforated pipes into the gravel at the bottom of a creek that runs along the north side of the community. Water seeps down through the gravel at the bottom of the creek, is collected by the pipes and conveyed via gravity to a pump house where it is then pumped up the hill and into Ukarumpa’s distribution system. This proved to be a good source of RAM water for Ukarumpa for many years, until about a year and a half ago. At that time some of the local tribal leaders got together and decided that they owned the creek and that Ukarumpa had no rights to the water. This is not legally the case, but laws mean nothing in the area of Papua New Guinea where Ukarumpa is located as the police force is corrupt and lawlessness prevails. At any rate, the men from the village attacked and disabled the collection pipes at the stream bed. They then proceded to defend it with bows and arrows and bush knives. This became a very big problem for Ukarumpa very quickly as tank water is the only drinking water we have here and many houses do not have large enough tanks to allow it to be used for showers and flushing toilets, ect. Eventually, a police force had to be brought in from one of the large cities in Papua New Guinea and they were able to force the village men to back off and allow the water source to be repaired.
Shortly after that incident in was decided that Ukarumpa needed a second, more secure source of RAM water. A second creek flows along the south side of Ukarumpa. It was decided that that creek would be detained with a pond and the water from the pond would be used as a second, secure source of water. The pond is considered secure as it is located within the security fence, the infiltration pipes in the other creek are located outside of the security fence. There was not an engineer at Ukarumpa when the pond was created and the pump house built. As a result, no pump sizing was done. Conveniently there were old pumps laying around so they grabbed one plugged it in and started using it. It is 180 vertical feet from the location of the pond to the tanks at the top of the hill, so a second pump and a few tanks were constructed half way up the hill, just in case the first pump could not lift the water high enough.
Shortly after this new detention pond was constructed a new problem arose. The creek that feeds the pond runs through acres of gardens belonging to the local villagers. As there is no season in the highlands of Papua New Guinea when you can’t grow produce, the gardens are being constantly tilled, year round. Also, during the wet season we get monsoon rains every day. The result is a very large amount of soil carried from the gardens into the creek. The creek in turn carries the soil into the pond and it eventually ends up in the water system and finally at our taps. When Kim and I first got here we were in a house that was old and the only tank water was the cold tap in the kitchen and the cold tap in the bathroom sink, everything else was RAM water. The first time I took a shower the RAM water was so dirty that it looked like I was showering in hot chocolate. Needless to say, I did not feel super clean after my shower.
Naturally, after a year and a half of showering and doing dishes in severely dirty water, and not being able to see the bottom of your toilet bowl, (go look into your toilet bowl and imagine how dirty the water would have to be to not be able to see bottom) people here are ready for a better source of RAM water. The new RAM water intake that I am working on designing and will build will collect water from the Bae’ River, a much larger, much cleaner source of water.