SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families

by Self-Help International
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SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
SHI: Safe Drinking Water for 20,000 Rural Families
Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Members
Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Members

Pedro Pablo (Pablito), president of the CAPS (Potable Water and Sanitation Committee) in the El Rótulo community of Nueva Armenia No. 2, has a house in El Rótulo, but he doesn’t live there. Yet he still feels committed to ensuring that the community’s rural aqueduct stays in operation so that the people can continue receiving water.

Recently, Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program Officer Orlando Montiel has been supporting this community for years, and has provided trained community members and CAPS leaders on various elements of securing clean water for their communities. Pablito has attended the following classes:

  • Making a Community Diagnosis
  • Calculating Water Rates
  • Rural Drinking Water Projects modules
  • Rural Aqueduct Administration
  • Community Leadership
  • Methodology to Promote Community Participation

Pablito credits the training he has received from Self-Help as the reason he has grown into a strong leader. He assumed the position of CAPS president at the end of December 2020. The only other CAPS members left when he joined were Mrs. Marta Bucardo, the CAPS treasurer, and Enider Erasmo Arriaza, the aqueduct plumber and operator. All the other CAPS leaders resigned from their committee positions. 

Their resignations, however, were not an obstacle to the operation of the community’s aqueduct. Pablito's determination has shown that when good leadership is exercised with responsibility, achievements are reaped in the planned work. His leadership was recently on display when Program Officer Orlando happened to visit on the same day Pablito’s CAPS had organized a cleaning day. 

Gravity-fed aqueducts are common across rural communities in Nicaragua, and they must regularly be cleaned. This cleaning involves emptying the pool or pond; removing mud, leaves, and other objects from the water which dirty it; extracting decomposing organic matter from the aqueduct; and finally, washing gravel from the filters and unclogging holes where the water enters. 

Pablito said, “I’ve been a drinking water committee director for four years. When I joined this CAPS board, cleaning was not done; the board had simply encouraged people to go clean the water source. When the cleaning began, many people didn’t want to come.”

He explained that a community assembly was held to discuss the cleaning of the water source. Those present agreed to make a role within each community’s CAPS, whose duty it would be to organize work commissions of community members and to notify and gather these people on the scheduled cleaning dates. They all agreed that those who do not gather to come help clean on their assigned cleaning days will be fined 150 cordobas.

Pablito continued, “Once people began coming to clean, they realized the  importance of doing this type of work so that everyone has water. Now they agree that the cleaning should be carried out.’”

During days when people gather to clean the aqueduct, Pablito reviews the attendance list and notes those who are absent and who will be fined. 

One woman who attended, Emiliana Dávila, shared, “I feel very happy to participate in cleaning the water source, because now we enjoy having water at home. On occasions when there is insufficient water at our house, we get desperate. Previously, we had to ask for water from neighbors with wells and had to do whatever they wanted to get some, and just had to deal with their grimaces. Today we have water and that is why we must participate in the maintenance of the water source.”

“Now we are better organized in Nueva Armenia to maintain and clean the water source,” said Pablito, who is proud of how his leadership has contributed to cleaner water in his community.

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Chlorine tablets cost money but necessary expense.
Chlorine tablets cost money but necessary expense.

Over the years, Los Angeles CAPS President Geovany and Treasurer Arlen have worked very hard to administer and ensure the sustainability of the Los Angeles water system in their area.

Self-Help partnered with the community to install a CTI-8 manual chlorinator in the water storage basin and its associated plastic water distribution tanks. Self-Help also provided technical advice and training to the community’s Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) so they could independently and sustainably maintain the water system.

“Self-Help taught us how to calculate water rates and how to administer our water system,” Geovany said. “We received training and explanations on how to apply what we learned, and we were supplied with manuals on the chlorinating system so that we could study and strengthen our knowledge.”

He went on to explain that there was a community assembly regarding the cost per cubic meter of water, and some community members proposed a price of 3 cordobas (.08 US$). “We were able to apply what we learned from the training in the discussion, and we proposed  7 cordobas (.20 US$)  per cubic meter of water instead ---because we knew that all maintenance and operation costs of the water system had to be included.

“The training sessions have helped us to improve the administration of the CAPS and to assess a water rate that is both affordable for our community members and allows us to cover expenses. This ensures the maintenance and sustainability of the water system that we have,” Arlen added.

Each month, Los Angeles spends between 735 -1,000 cordobas  ($20.55 - $27.96 US) in order to purchase seven to ten chlorine tablets.

Arlen said, “We charge for water services on the first day of each month and charge again after eight days. Anyone who doesn’t pay after the second charge falls into default and is given up to two months to pay the balance. If, at this time, the user doesn’t pay, water service is cut off. At present we have a 15% payment delinquency.”

Geovany shared, “We have an average monthly income of  $2,000 cordobas ($55.91 US) and a monthly disposable fund of $5,000 cordobas ( $139.78 US) after all of the expenses for maintaining the aqueduct. Since assuming our leadership roles, our CAPS has accumulated $155,488 cordobas ($4,346.88 US), which is in the bank. We have been able to save that amount thanks to the rate we charge for water, which we learned from all of the training and support Self-Help has provided.”

Clean Water Treasurer Arlen breaks down costs
Clean Water Treasurer Arlen breaks down costs
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Empalme de Los Sánchez is a small roadside community of 45 households and 230 water users. It is situated in San Miguelito, Rio San Juan. Five years ago, the community installed a chlorinator on its water system, so that its water could be purified and thus potable, so that locals’ health and well-being would improve. But, community water systems are maintained by volunteer organizations called ‘CAPS’ (Potable Water and Sanitation Committee), and Empalme de los Sanchez’s CAPS lacked good management due to local culture, community characteristics and other issues.

The community’s water users have had problems with water supply, availability and quality for the past few years. Families have complained about poor service and lack of sanitation of the vital liquid that until now they have received irregularly. The members of the previous board of directors of CAPS did not hold community assemblies (to discuss water); did not report what they did; and did not account for the money collected as water tariffs. The CAPS left the chlorinator unmaintained, without chlorine tablets and disconnected from the pipe.

Marcelino Brenes Guzmán is the new president of CAPS, along with Yeiner Aguilar as treasurer. Marcelino has been concerned about the well-being of community members who consume the water. He regularly maintains the water intake filters and ensures that the water distribution basin from which water is distributed to individual houses, is clean. The community’s situation has been resolved, and the new CAPS leaders have improved the community work by modifying and rehabilitating the water chlorinator which is purifying water in the distribution basin. Today, Marcelino says that he feels good. He explained, “All of us who consume water, we are not going to contract a disease from dirty water with microbes, since it is being chlorinated and we are going to maintain chlorination while we are working for the community’s CAPS.”

Meydi Sirias Espinoteaches at the Andrés Castro school in the Empalme Los Sánchez community commented on the water program. Each day she travels from San Miguelito to Empalme Los Sanchez to work with 37 students from first to sixth grade. She says when she first arrived in the community she noted the dirty water and terrible water service, and says there was practically no water in the school. She said this affected the children who studied there, and that she would bring them water from San Miguelito to drink and give to the children when they were thirsty.

Teacher Meydi explained that under the previous CAPS leadership, the school lacked consistent water and only had it occasionally and briefly, at which point they would collect it and store it in containers for the following days. But, since the water they collected wasn’t being purified with chlorine, it stank and the children were uncomfortable and refused to drink it.

The children had to go outside the school to fetch water in many water jugs just to have a reserve. But, this water was dirty, because the water fountain wasn’t clean. Now that there are new CAPS directors, though, the water service has improved and the water is clean. Unlike the CAPS’ former director, who neither cleaned the drinking fountain nor chlorinated the water, Marcelino has been concerned about the cleanliness of the water. Once chlorinated water began reaching the school, Marcelino ensured that the drinking fountain would be clean and that there is water every day.

 Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education (MINED) has provided communities with containers with taps in which water can be collected and from which children can serve themselves in glasses to drink it. The school now reports that it has better communication and coordination with the CAPS for the school’s water supply and for the cleaning of the water distribution tanks that are inside the school grounds.

 The teacher reported, “We noticed the change in the water’s taste once it was being chlorinated, and now we feel safe drinking the water. Today, the children are healthier and happier and we explain to them the importance of chlorinating water for our health. We currently have the power to change the water daily.”

School children are not the only beneficiaries of this cleaner drinking water. The entire community now benefits from chlorination, including Félix Camila Dávila Obregón, who lives in a humble wooden house with her 18-year-old son, Franklin Daniel Dávila. She explained that her son had a kidney infection, and that this caused economic expenses and lost time, because she had to buy pills for her son's treatment and this affected them, because Franklin is the one who sows and harvests the crops .

Felix says, “Now that CAPS has new directors like Don Marcelino who cares, we have water every day and they are chlorinating it, something that I see as very important for our health, because we know that chlorine kills the microbes in the water.”

 Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program is proud to support CAPS like that of Empalme de los Sanchez. It is committed to helping, educating and generating self-sufficiency in communities and CAPS with aqueducts, and the program provides comprehensive technical advice to maintain water purification in rural communities.

Clean water not only improves the health of people in rural communities, but also allows children to have healthy access to schools, avoiding diseases that cause delays in education and economic losses for families.

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The CAPS is working to keep clean water
The CAPS is working to keep clean water

In the community of Las Azucenas, Nicaragua, there is a sector of this community called Jacinto Hernández. In 2013, the local mayor’s office constructed an electric pumping aqueduct in Jacinto Hernandez, which in 2021 supplies water to 470 people living across 130 households. The community formed a Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) to manage the aqueduct, and in 2016 Self-Help International installed a CTI-8 chlorinator in the water distribution tank. 

By July 2019, the CAPS was not operating well, which meant that the water system’s administration, fund management, and service levels deteriorated. The community’s water coverage, water quantity, and water quality subsequently deteriorated as well. The system nearly collapsed. 

Community members were reluctant to pay any water fee, so service went unpaid, the aqueduct wasn’t properly maintained, water stopped being chlorinated, and the chlorinator itself deteriorated. Many homes began having unreliable water coverage, while many others simply stopped receiving water completely. The pipes were inadequate and community members had stopped paying for electricity which was needed for the water pump to function. 

Everything seemed lost and destined to fail, but halfway through 2020, the deteriorating situation in the community led community members to hold a community-wide assembly. There, a new CAPS board of directors was formed, and only one former member continued on to the new CAPS board.

The New CAPS Board Implements Changes

This board of directors has gradually worked to regain trust and improve community members’ well-being. They have also worked to make improvements to the aqueduct to maintain service and water chlorination.

Jilmer is the new president of the Jacinto Hernández CAPS. 31-year-old Jilmer has a wife and two daughters.He is enthusiastic about working for the community and makes his own time and resources available to achieve the sustainability of the aqueduct. Jilmer says that people were upset with the previous board of directors and demanded an explanation for leaky pipes and insufficient funds for aqueduct maintenance and for water that was not being chlorinated. 

The new CAPS worked alongside the mayor’s office to improve the well’s perimeter and change the pipes’ diameter so that more water volume could flow to houses. They also reached out to Self-Help’s Clean Water Program to restore the water chlorinator so that community members could receive safer water in their homes and improve their health.  

Victoriano is the CAPS plumber, but since he is a senior citizen, Jilmer helps him place the water in the distribution tank. It is difficult and risky  going up to the tank because it is positioned up high and people need to climb a ladder to reach it.

Elizabeth is the treasurer of the CAPS. Elizabeth reports that as of 2021, 80% of users are paying the water service fee. She says that the fee they pay is used toward the expenses  of the water system and support a fund for the maintenance and sustainability of the aqueduct. She reports that the CAPS has now saved C $ 45,000 córdobas in cash from these payments, despite the 20% delay in payments. She says they send notifications to users who have pending payments and explain to them the importance of paying the fee for the aqueducts’ maintenance.

Leticia supports Elizabeth as treasurer. Leticia explains that the water users are now provided a report on income and expenditures, as well as information about available funds and improvements that have been made to the water system. They charge C$ 9 córdobas for each cubic meter of water consumed. The CAPS spends C $ 9,000 córdobas per month and has C $ 14,000 cordobas of income from the tariff payments, leaving them an additional C$5,000 córdobas per month for savings and equipment replacement.

Irma and Romel live in Jacinto Hernández, and receive water treated with chlorine tablets. They use this water at home to drink and for food preparation.

“As a mother, I see resuming water chlorination as something very positive because this way many diseases are avoided, and this is of great importance for us and a benefit for the entire community,” Irma said.

Jilmer feels committed to maintaining the aqueduct well, keeping the community informed, and submitting the CAPS economic report.

“We all have families and we need good quality water to avoid diseases,” Jilmer said. “Thanks to the constant monitoring and assistance of Self-Help International, our CAPS and our community have managed to rejoin the Clean Water Program to continue improving water quality and to contribute to the health of our community.” 

Maintaining the water system.
Maintaining the water system.
The community water tank is high off the ground.
The community water tank is high off the ground.
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Geovany and Arlen in front of the water system.
Geovany and Arlen in front of the water system.

Nueva Guinea is one of nine municipalities served by Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program in Nicaragua. In this area, 27 rural communities have had chlorinators installed in their water systems. In one of these communities, Los Angeles, there are 1,130 residents and water is distributed through a pipe network to 210 homes.

In 2015, Self-Help partnered with Los Angeles to bring safer drinking water to the community by installing a CTI-8 manual chlorinator in the community’s water storage basin and its associated plastic water distribution tanks. Self-Help didn’t only help the community access safer drinking water through installing a water chlorinator; Self-Help also provided technical advice and training to the community’s Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) directors so they could independently and sustainably maintain the water system.

As of 2021, the Los Angeles CAPS is led by five directors, but three of them haven’t been actively participating. The remaining two, President Geovany and Treasurer Arlen (who has also assumed the secretarial responsibilities), have worked very hard to administer and ensure the sustainability of the Los Angeles water system. Geovany has also taken on putting chlorine into the chlorinator, monitoring the chlorine, and doing all CAPS-related errands on his motorcycle . 

In June 2021, Self-Help staff went to Los Angeles to talk with Geovany and Arlen and learn about the work they are doing as CAPS leaders and the sustainability of the water system. This is what the leadership shared:

“We have been leaders in the CAPS since October 2017. By October 2021, we will have served four years, which is two terms - we were re-elected by the community after our first term for administering the CAPS well. 

“Self-Help taught us how to calculate water rates and how to administer our water system. We received the water rate calculation training in March 2018 and the water system administration training in March 2019. 

“In each training, we received explanations on how to apply what we learned, and we were supplied with manuals on the chlorinating system so that we could study and strengthen our knowledge. 

“There was a community assembly regarding the cost per cubic meter of water, and community members proposed a price of  3 cordobas (C $ 3). We were able to apply what we learned from the training in the discussion, and we proposed C $ 7 per cubic meter of water instead because we knew that all maintenance and operation costs of the water system had to be included. 

“We charge a minimum cost of C $ 30 for 5 cubic meters, and for any additional cubic meter beyond five cubic meters, we charge an additional C $ 7.

“The training sessions have helped us to improve the administration of the CAPS and to assess a water rate that is both affordable for our community members and allows us to cover expenses. This ensures the maintenance and sustainability of the water system that we have. 

“Each month we spend between C $ 735 to C $ 1,000 in order to purchase between seven to ten chlorine tablets. This makes sure that our water stays chlorinated so that community members have safe drinking water.

“We charge for water services on the first day of each month and charge again after eight days. Anyone who doesn’t pay after the second charge falls into default and is given up to two months to pay the balance. If, at this time, the user doesn’t pay, water service is cut off. At present we have a 15% payment delinquency. 

“During the period that we have been managing, our CAPS has pooled its own funds together to make  investments in our community’s water system. The chart below details what we have done.

"We also have monthly expenses due to the operation and maintenance of the water system, which you can see in the second chart below. 

“We have an average monthly income of C $ 12,000 and a monthly disposable fund of C $ 5,000 after all of the expenses for maintaining the aqueduct. Since assuming our leadership roles three and a half years ago, our CAPS has accumulated C $ 155,488 cordobas, which is in the bank. We have been able to save that amount thanks to the rate we charge for water, which we learned from all of the training and support Self-Help has provided.”

Chart 1: Investments Made by Los Angeles CAPS
Chart 1: Investments Made by Los Angeles CAPS
Chart 2: Monthly Expenses of Los Angeles CAPS
Chart 2: Monthly Expenses of Los Angeles CAPS
Geovany and Arlen in training.
Geovany and Arlen in training.
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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Wavelry, IA Nicaragua
$18,656 raised of $34,620 goal
 
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