Finding enough water every day is a huge challenge for the rural communities where Nuevas Esperanzas works, especially at this this time of year. In the second year of drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon, many families are finding that their usual sources of water are drying up or flowing more slowly than in the past.

The communities of Mata de Caña, Las Pilas and Rota, a total of around 45 families, share a water supply, a spring on the slopes of the Rota volcano. Improvements were made to the spring after Hurricane Mitch, but that was almost 20 years ago. Parts of the distribution system are now damaged and badly in need of repair. Broken and rusted pipes as well as dead animals have reduced supply and contaminated the source. The three communities have to keep to a strict timetable for collecting water to try to ensure everyone gets at least something.

Realising the situation had become critical, the community of Las Pilas approached the local Mayor’s office for help. After visiting the spring, the water and sanitation officer saw that much more work was required than the purchase of a rope pump – the original request made by families from Las Pilas. José Luis recommended that a water committee should be formed to take responsibility for the system. He also asked Nuevas Esperanzas for help on both the technical and social parts of the project.

This is the point at which Nuevas Esperanzas’ newest team member got involved. Daniela Barrera recently graduated with a degree in social work and joined the Nuevas Esperanzas team earlier this year. Working in rural communities is new to her, but as her first few months have focussed on work with the water committees, she has had chance to look at how the communities work together to face challenges. Daniela has been impressed by the way people from Las Pilas are committed to working together for the good of the community. The experience of this water shortage has motivated them to work hard to improve the situation and find ways to prevent the same thing happening again. Daniela is part of the Nuevas Esperanzas team training the committee in different techniques required in managing the water system. These include understanding the technical side of the water distribution system as well as managing the finances and payment of water bills. It is not always easy but the members of the committee are determined to rise to the challenge. Daniela feels she has learned a lot working with them.

Over the next few months Nuevas Esperanzas will work with the community and the local Mayor’s office to improve the water supply, creating a more hygienic, better managed source of water for these families who so desperately need it.