Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor at the Inauguration of the USAID Community Water System

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Inauguration of the USAID Community Water System
Serdo, Afar Regional State
October 2, 2019

(As prepared for delivery)  

Good morning.

I’m deeply honored to be here with you today as we inaugurate this new water facility.

This is my first trip to Afar, and I am very happy to be here.

I want to start by thanking Your Excellency Ato Awel Arba and the Government of Ethiopia, as well as our wonderful partners from DuPont Water Solutions and other key stakeholders, for your invaluable partnership.

But even more important, I want to thank the people in the Serdo community for your enthusiasm and support in making this moment a reality.

The launch of this new water system is one of many examples of the investments the United States government and people are making in Ethiopians.

Many of these investments, like the one we’re celebrating today, promote technology and innovation to improve the quality of life for Ethiopians throughout this wonderful, vast, and diverse country.

And we ensure that these investments have lasting impact through the power of partnerships: partnerships between our governments, partnerships with great U.S. private sector companies like DuPont, and partnerships among people.

Indeed, the Serdo water system is an outstanding example of partnership between the U.S. Embassy and its USAID team; the Federal Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy; the Afar regional government and its Water and Irrigation Resource Development Bureau; DuPont Water Solutions; and the members of this community.

There’s a story behind this partnership that I’d like to share with you.

As many of you here today know very well, people living in Serdo used to get their drinking water from large tanker trucks.

Not only is trucking water difficult and expensive, but the water was often contaminated, risking the health of the children and families in Serdo.

Seeing the critical need for safe drinking water in the Serdo community, the Afar Water and Irrigation Resource Development Bureau proposed drilling a new borehole well.

After drilling the borehole, the water turned out to be extremely hot – 70 degrees Celsius at several hundred meters deep, to be exact – much too hot for anyone to safely drink, and too hot even for making Ethiopia’s wonderful coffee, or in the case of Afar, for making a piping hot cup of tea.

Determined to find a solution, the Afar Water and Irrigation Resource Development Bureau partnered with USAID and DuPont.

Working together, they found that the most lasting and appropriate solution would be to build the innovative and modern system that we’re inaugurating today:  a reverse-osmosis water system complete with a water-cooling tower and self-contained chlorination system, to produce safe drinking water by filtering out impurities and harmful bacteria.

This is the first reverse osmosis water system with a standalone cooling tower ever built in this region, so it’s truly an engineering and technological milestone.

And I think anyone who has experienced the heat of an Afar summer day will appreciate the cool water it produces.

Most importantly – now, for the first time ever – more than 2,000 people in the Serdo community have their own supply of safe drinking water, within easy walking distance and available throughout the year.

As a result, mothers and fathers can be confident that their children will no longer suffer from illness or other health issues caused by a contaminated water supply.

And easy access to safe drinking water will also give the people of this community more of the most precious resource of all: time.

Time to watch over their livestock; time to grow a small business to support their families; time for students to focus on their studies and succeed in school; and more time for family and community to spend together.

While Serdo might have the first water system with a cooling tower, the United States Embassy has supported many similar community water systems solutions in Afar and other areas of Ethiopia where safe water is scarce.

Over the past several years, we’ve built 15 new community water systems and rehabilitated another 12 in Afar alone, giving nearly 80,000 people access to safe water.

And across the country, we’ve provided safe and sustainable drinking water to more than 200,000 Ethiopians.

These efforts are just one part of the United States’ much larger investment in providing Ethiopians throughout their country with greater opportunities to prosper in life, including our major programs to support health, education, and livelihoods.

Rest assured, the United States will continue to invest in Ethiopians in the days and years ahead.

Once again, I extend my deep appreciation to Your Excellency Ato Awel Arba and to your colleagues within the regional government.

I would also like to sincerely thank our fantastic partners from DuPont for making this technology available to the people in this area and adapting it to best serve their needs.

DuPont is a shining example of what the American private sector does best:  understanding that shared interests are the best interests, and ensuring that its investments support the best interests of the communities where it operates.

I’ve come to Afar today because I’m truly happy for the people of Serdo, and wanted to join in this celebration with them.

But I’m also here to highlight this facility as a shining example for how local communities, government officials from both the United States and Ethiopia, and American businesses can come together to solve problems with creative solutions that benefit the Ethiopian people.

As this model plays out both here and elsewhere in Ethiopia, it will transform the lives of countless people for the better.

Once again, my sincerest thanks to the people of Serdo and the Afar Regional State for welcoming my embassy colleagues and me into your community.

I have truly enjoyed being here today, and I look forward to continuing our investments and our partnership so that each and every Ethiopian citizen has the opportunity to imagine, and to build, a brighter and more prosperous future.

Thank you very much.