Would You Drink Water From the Amazon River?

May 09, 2014

As part of our on-going partnership with the Peruvian NGO CONAPAC, International Expeditions employee Emily Harley-Reid traveled to Peru in April to participate in the Adopt-a-School program’s annual school supply distribution trip. In addition to providing needed books and supplies, this year the program also initiated the Sawyer Classroom Project, setting up Sawyer filter systems in 179 classrooms in schools along the Amazon and Napo Rivers.

Sadly, in many communities across the Amazon Basin, the primary source of water is rivers, streams and ponds. Drinking and cooking with parasite-filled, contaminated water creates an obvious health risk, especially among children.

“Honestly, while I love wildlife, the children are always my favorite part of traveling to the Amazon,” said Harley. “They are always so welcoming and funny. Quick to give a smile or a hug and to show-off their school work. So, it’s always been heartbreaking to know that so many of these children will live their lives sick or malnourished because they simply don’t have access to clean water.”

Finding solutions for providing clean drinking water to Earth’s most remote places isn’t a simple or easy process, nor is there only one answer. More than five years ago, our friends at CONAPAC started a clean water program building community water treatment plants. IE contributed as well, and many guests on our Amazon River cruises have seen the water treatment towers through the years. Although many rural river communities that have benefited from the program, not all are good candidates for water towers. Flooding and erosion often lead communities to relocate as often as every four to five years. And the water towers are certainly not portable.

So we were thrilled when CONAPAC started testing a pilot project using bucket-sized water filtration systems by the Sawyer company. Homes in three rainforest communities tested the systems and during this year’s Adopt-a-School deliveries, each classroom also received a system. Since the system’s filter can be used over and over, a limitless supply of potable water can be produced each day to meet the classroom or family’s needs.

“The Sawyer systems were so incredibly easy to transport and operate, and the concept so simple, that even 10-year-olds are able to be responsible for maintaining their classroom’s buckets,: said Harley. “Throughout the week I was in Peru with the AAS project, I continuously drank from buckets of filtered water and refilled my bottle. This is water so sediment and parasite filled that these communities have lived in a cycle of sickness.”

“There is also such a demand for access to clean water, because the people know what the medical benefits will be. When I spoke to the crew of La Estrella Amazonica about bringing these systems to the villages along the Ucayali River, they were intrigued…even asking if they could get systems for their homes and families.”


And thanks to the generosity of past guest Kathleen Egan and Eleanor Morpheu, in June the 50 families in the village of Cedro Isla will receive a personal Sawyer system, along with much needed supplies for their school.

When you look at the picture above and think “I would never let my children and family drink that water,” you can rest assured that dozens of families now have access to clean water, and know that International Expeditions is committed to spreading water filtration systems across the Upper Amazon Basin.

To learn more about the Sawyer PointONE system, visit conapac.org or contact emily.harley@ietravel.com.