Two years into the drought which has affected much of Central America, the water situation in the community of Agua Fría has become critical. The spring which flowed freely only a couple of years ago has dried up and nothing but a trickle is left lower downstream. As the dry season continued, the 500 families affected became increasingly concerned about where they would find water to drink, to wash, to cook until the rains came.
A couple of years ago, the Nuevas Esperanzas team had protected a naturally occurring spring to provide a good clean supply for the families nearby. Unfortunately the drought meant that the groundwater level dropped so that water no longer flowed from the pipe fitted as part of that project. The remaining small trickle of water was harder to access and it took a long time to fill the buckets and containers the families took with them to collect their drinking water. Further downstream, where more water could be found, women came to wash clothes and animals came to drink. Cows, horses and washing soap all combined to make the area dirty and unhygienic. Some families said they would need to go to the collection point at the spring of the pipeline for their water. This part of the system, which takes water down the mountain to the communities of Unión España and Nuevo Amanecer, was not designed for high demand as it was only intended to supply the eight families living close by.
As soon as funds were available, the Nuevas Esperanzas team got to work with the community. Work groups were formed with two groups programmed to work each day in order to advance progress as fast as possible. The first challenge was to improve the road from El Caracol to Agua Fría to make access easier for transporting building materials. Then work was undertaken to protect the spring further downstream where the water was now coming out of the ground. A submerged dam was built which forces water into a pipe taking it further down to a spring box. This will provide a protected storage tank for the water, thus improving its quality and reducing the risk of bacteriological contamination. A collection point with taps for drinking water will be built nearby. The spring box has an overflow pipe that takes the water down to a second tank which is being built further downstream. This has two outlets; one goes to a washing area for clothes and the second to a trough for animals. The priority with this design is clean drinking water, but the water demand for washing clothes and for animals is also addressed in a way which should ensure hygienic conditions can be maintained.
In parallel with construction work, a water committee has also been formed in the community of Agua Fría for the first time. The water situation in this area is complex, involving springs and a pipeline providing water to several different communities at different distances from the water source. When water is scarce the potential for conflicts to arise is huge. By helping the community form the committee and then providing training for their work, it is hoped that Agua Fría will soon have both the infrastructure and capacity for the cooperation required to ensure that everybody has the water they so badly need.