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For Leonidas Alaniz it was just another joint to fit to just another pipe, no different from the 600 joints he and the other building supervisors have been fitting for the last ten months. In fact it was so much a routine task that the moment had almost passed when Nuevas Esperanzas’ Director Andrew Longley realised that this was far from just another connection in the pipeline, this was the connection! This joint was the completion of a huge task which back in February had seemed an almost impossible dream.

It is now three years since the plan to bring hot and cold water from two different sources to meet the water needs of these two communities was drawn up. The pipe network for 18 tap stands was installed in 2011 when the first phase of the project was completed. At that point hot water (with too much arsenic to drink) was supplied to every house and it made sense to lay the pipes for the cold water at the same time.

Two years on, with the pipe laid all the way down from the spring to the tank and the tap distribution system ready and waiting, Leonidas’s task was to connect the tank to the distribution system. This was the one missing link which meant water could flow all the way from the spring on the hillside above down to the furthest tap close to the house of the Centeno family in Nuevo Amanecer.

When Andrew and civil engineer Arturo Juárez realised that the best (well actually only) solution to bring safe drinking water to families in Unión España and Nuevo Amanecer was to build a pipeline from a spring on the mountainside, months of hard work began. The final statistics make impressive reading. The distance from the source to the furthest tap stand in Nuevo Amanecer is 5.6 km. The completed pipeline drops 300 metres in elevation from the spring to the 40,000 litre storage tank in Unión España 3.7 km away, requiring the construction of three pressure break tanks along the descent. The first 600 metres of pipe cling to the wall of a deep canyon and the pipeline crosses 11 suspension bridges along the route to the storage tank. The longest bridge is 67 metres. The spring provides more than 100,000 litres of water a day and flows by gravity, along a carefully surveyed route which always descends to avoid problems with air in the pipeline. But the most important statistics? Over 1,000 people now have access to an average of 100 litres of water per day. And better still, unlike any source of water they have used previously, it has 0 ppb of arsenic and 0 E.coli/100ml which means, put simply, that it is safe to drink.

It seems a long time since the idea for this project was first conceived. Nuevas Esperanzas was first approached by the Mayor of Telica and Friends of Students for 60,000, a non-profit from New York, about the water problems in the area back in 2010 and it was thanks to funding from these two organisations that work on this multi-phase project got underway. As the true scale of the project became apparent additional funding came from St Paul’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh, from the Oxford León Association’s sponsored swim and from funds raised at a concert held by the London Medical Orchestra. We are very grateful to all those who have contributed to help make this project a reality. It is still not fully funded, though, so if you would like to be a part of this amazing project your donations would be much appreciated.

Fitting that joint to that pipe was indeed just part of a day’s work for Leonidas, but it symbolises so much more. Hundreds of people have come together to make this project happen, from swimmers in Oxford to students in New York, from politicians to community volunteers and from hydrogeologists to pipe fitters. It has been great working with such a big team on what is arguably Nuevas Esperanzas’ most technically challenging project to date. And we have to confess that our elation at completing the project is tinged with a little sadness that we have no more bridges to build, at least for now!

21/11/13