The impact that Matías Canching, a 15-year-old student at the La Salle Conocoto school in Machachi, has achieved with his project Pontus aqua: Identification of clandestine drinking water connections through acoustic patterns has been quite great. The teenager designed a prototype that performs an analysis of spectrograms-sound signals that are produced in the pipes. The device has a vibration generator, an omnidirectional microphone, Scarlett 18i20 interface and free REW software.
The device managed to detect 55 clandestine connections between December 2021 and March 2022 in the city of Machachi, in the Mejía canton, determining a significant impact on equal access to water.
Taking care of water starts with making simple decisions at home
Matías comments that he first had to understand how another device that already exists on the market worked, but whose value is close to $27,000: “This device uses 27 microphones, it has electric floors that listen for vibrations above the ground. My prototype is something like that, but mine goes inside the drinking water pipes. First, the tube is dried with a sponge that is tied to a wire and then the eight-millimeter omnidirectional microphone is inserted, which allows it to fit in any pipe.”.
Then vibrations are sent with a kind of gun and when they collide with the so-called tees that are used to make clandestine connections, they bounce off three echoes (minor, medium and major). If the echo is bigger it means that there is a clandestine connection. “My prototype costs $600 and is designed so that the Decentralized Autonomous Governments can acquire it without affecting their budgets,” he says.
He adds that in cantons like Mejía the problem of clandestine connections is quite strong, since out of every 10 water intakes, 4.3 are illegal and, in addition, it has been detected that other micro connections emerge from each clandestine connection. “The neighbor steals from another neighbor who has made a clandestine connection,” he says.
Matías’ idea was selected in the fourth edition of the Junior Water Prize (JWP) contest to represent Ecuador in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize international competition, which takes place annually during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.
JWP, through partners, including universities, provided support and mentoring to Matías that helped him fine-tune and adjust his prototype. The teenager will travel to Stockholm on August 26 along with a delegation from the contest and will defend his project before an international jury. The award ceremony will be on August 30 and will be attended by Princess Victoria of Sweden, sponsor of the contest.
Belén Vallejo, representative of JWP in Ecuador, affirms that the competition seeks to form bases of applied scientific research in young people between 15 and 20 years of age in the country: “We work to promote the sustainability of water and sanitation. We are not only a contest that elects a representative, but we see a comprehensive way to support young people, have better representation and train young leaders on water issues in Ecuador.”.
JWP has registered 92 projects presented in all its editions on the conservation and sustainable management of water, in 20 locations in Ecuador. Vallejo affirms that promoting this type of initiatives is important due to the problems that the country has with regard to access to and contamination of water.
Keys to a responsible use of water
One of JWP’s partners in Ecuador is Tesalia cbc. The company seeks to support the ideas of young people, but that can be translated into real prototypes. Due to the scientific technicality that the JWP covers, they decided to support the competition from its first edition.
“Natural resources are finite so we are aware as Tesalia cbc that there are challenges that we have to counteract through environmental education based on a green economy and promoting young Ecuadorian talents”, affirms Maricruz Ortíz, spokeswoman for the company.
For the executive, it is essential that large companies, which are generally accused of causing a great environmental impact, get involved in these issues and, in fact, lead change processes in the form of production in the sector they represent.
“The thinking of the private sector is changing and is based on building a better world, but not only from philanthropy but from clear actions. There is no planet b, we have a planet and we have to take care of it consciously. In addition, through energy and water savings, savings are also generated for companies. Saving natural resources will allow you a highly sustainable return on investment”, he indicates.
The prototype designed by Matías competes together with other initiatives worldwide in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. However, Ecuadorians can help you win by voting through the page https://siwi.org/stockholm-junior-water-prize/vote. Voting closes on August 15. The prize is $15,000. (YO)