Nicaraguan law states that every community should have a water and sanitation committee, known as CAPS. CAPS are democratically elected by the community, and their purpose is to ensure there is a good water supply and improved sanitation in the local area. They are regulated by the national water authority but do not receive funds from the government, instead relying on fees from community members.
Nuevas Esperanzas is currently working with CAPS in the communities of Unión España and San Pedro Nuevo. Alongside creating a new water distribution system in San Pedro Nuevo, technical assistance is also being provided to establish a new water committee there. In Unión España, capacity building for the existing committee is underway.
The CAPS in Unión España was registered in 2012 and represents the communities of Unión España and Nuevas Amanecer, managing the drinking water supply for around 150 homes. In 2015, the Mayor of Telica approached Nuevas Esperanzas to request support in handling a struggling CAPS. It seemed to have lost its effectiveness and had not been carrying out its mandate effectively since the pipeline project brought new water supply to the community. The Nuevas Esperanzas team joined with representatives of the mayor’s office to investigate the potential causes of this weakness. A general assembly with members from the both communities was held on the 18th of March to discuss the situation and to elect new leaders for the committee.
Three main challenges preventing the committee from fulfilling its role were addressed during the Assembly. The first is the administrative management of the committee. There is a great deal of mismanagement, particularly when it comes to financial and legal issues. The committee has faced difficulties in collecting payment for the water bills every member of the community receives. This leaves a shortfall in funds for maintenance of the system. The legal registration of the committee has also been a problem.
The second challenge is the maintenance of the system. It has been reported that the pipe shared with the uphill community of El Caracol is broken. This is affecting about 20 families in Unión España, reducing their access to water. Some families reported during the general assembly that they have spent days without water in their homes, and for this reason were reluctant to pay their water bills. The committee leaders also stated that the flow of water in the pipes has decreased and expressed their concern. This is the first maintenance issue the committee has faced, which makes it a good test of their mandate. Solving this challenge will require good coordination and team work from the committee leaders.
The last challenge deals with relational conflict between the previous leaders of the committee. Two members were struggling to work with each other, and this was unfortunately tearing the group apart, leading to the resignation of some people. The newly elected leaders will have to find a way to cooperate and overcome personal differences.
The General Assembly allowed community members and the water committee to express their opinions and concerns. The newly elected leaders took their suggestions seriously and have made the maintenance issue their priority. Nuevas Esperanzas and the Mayor’s office will continue to support the water committee as they work to carry out their mandate in ensuring the supply of safe drinking water to the families in their community.