Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Water in Pueblo Nuevo

We have always known that, just like the rest of Guatemala, Pueblo Nuevo has a serious problem with contaminated water. Without asking too many questions, I assumed I knew the answers. Beginning in December, families will begin receiving water filters through AAB's water filter program. In order to provide accurate information to those interested in supporting families in Pueblo Nuevo through water filters, I had to get more details about the water situation so I spent a while during my trip a few weeks ago searching for answers to tough questions. Sadly, most of my assumptions were correct.

This is Pueblo Nuevo's water tank. Water is pumped from a river into the tank. Anyone in Pueblo Nuevo can have access to running water if they pay 100Q ($12.50) for connection, 500Q ($62.50) in advanced payments and 25Q ($3.13) per month. Some people in Pueblo Nuevo do not have pipes run that give them access to running water or have chosen not to have running water for a number of reasons (can't afford it, do not want it, etc.), but most families do have access to the public water system. Once the water is pumped from the river, it is held in this unsanitary tank. According to those living in Pueblo Nuevo, the tank is "cleaned" no more than once a year.

There are varying degrees of poverty in Pueblo Nuevo. Having access to running water does not mean that a person is not living in extreme poverty. That is so something I would have thought years ago. With so many people in the world not having access to water at all, having running water must be a luxury. Wrong. Not when your water looks like this.

Fortunately, the above picture is not someone that has access to running water. This is water that they collect from neighbors that have running water and it then sits in their pila (sink) where disease carrying insects breed as they wash their food and clothes in it. This is also their drinking water.

Not everyone in Pueblo Nuevo has a bathroom. Most families that do have one have only a toilet hidden in a corner behind a shower curtain or somewhere to the side or behind their home. Others have bathrooms like this. Without any type of plumbing, they are forced to discard of their own waste behind their home, down the mountain.

One of the biggest contamination problems comes in how and where the drainage pipes lead. All water and waste from pilas and toilets in Pueblo Nuevo goes back into the river. And the cycle starts over again. It is pumped back out of the river into an unclean tank and into homes.

Like I said, I already assumed this was the case and it has always been hard to watch our kids in Pueblo Nuevo drink water. But it was so much harder to stand their listening to the disgusting details while watching children drink. At one point, I became so overwhelmed with the thought of these sweet children literally drinking someone else's waste that I had to fight the urge to vomit.

Having access to CLEAN water, not just any water, but clean water, is one of life's basic necessities. We can continue to work on a number of things to try to alleviate poverty, but until we begin meeting basic needs that will start eliminating preventable diseases and do this on a wide scale, nothing will ever change. We can continue to run around fighting fires and working ourselves into a frenzy, never really getting anything accomplished or we can begin to focus on one or two things at a time and work until those issues are solved before moving on. That is what I believe must happen and water has to be one of our top priorities (along with education and other disease preventing efforts). The more partnerships we form in different areas of concentration, the more work we can do and the faster it can be done. It is not only possible, but easy, to provide every family in Pueblo Nuevo with a water filter and a lesson in hygiene. It costs $50 to provide one family with a water filter that can produce 10 gallons of clean water every 24 hours for two years. After that, filters are replaceable for $24 every two years. We will begin distributing filters and providing hygiene classes in December. After that, one of our primary focuses will be water filtration and working to develop some type of sanitation system and we will not stop until every person in Pueblo Nuevo has access to clean water.

It will cost an estimated $10,000 to provide every family in Pueblo Nuevo with a water filter. I have never been one to dream small. It is my personal prayer that every person has access to CLEAN water by the end of 2011.

No comments: