Students organize to build a cistern
The rain is finally here, filling up our rainwater harvesting systems. But so many in our region are still drinking contaminated water and are at risk!
Located down the road, only 15 minutes from the center of San Miguel de Allende, is the community of Agustín González. Unfortunately, for the last fifteen years, Agustín González’s drinking water has been contaminated with some of the highest levels of fluoride ever measured in San Miguel – more than four times what the World Health Organization considers safe for human consumption.
This puts all of Agustín González’s residents at serious risk for fluorosis, a condition that starts off with discolored teeth but progresses to extreme pain, weakened and deformed skeletal structure, and broken bones. Because of their long-term exposure, residents are also threatened with chronic kidney disease and childhood cognitive development issues.
Over the last year, Caminos de Agua and our colleagues at another local grassroots organization have been working closely with students at the local high school to understand the severity of the threats they and their neighbors are facing, and what can be done about it.
The students, many of whom who are living with long term dental fluorosis, were motivated to take action and find ways to mitigate the health impacts for their community including future generations. With training and funding provided by our organizations, the students mobilized to construct a fully operational rainwater harvesting system that provides safe and healthy drinking water year-round – free of arsenic, fluoride, and other harmful contaminants – for the entire school. This is an incredible achievement we are so proud to be a part of.
But sadly, it’s just a drop in the bucket
There is a huge agro-industry boom taking place in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico, focused on the export market. Due to the incredible amount of water it requires, our water table is dropping at a rapid rate of 2-4 meters per year. This is causing high levels of naturally occurring arsenic and fluoride to contaminate our water supply, threatening the health of over 680,000 people who rely upon the Alto Laja Aquifer, including the entire population. Exposure to this toxic cocktail can cause dental and skeletal fluorosis, chronic kidney disease, and, arsenic specifically, is correlated with skin, gallbladder, lung, and numerous other cancers.
Caminos de Agua has been carefully monitoring the levels of arsenic and fluoride for more than seven years throughout our region, and we are sorry to say that they have been continuing to increase, especially arsenic, putting everyone in the region at increasingly greater risk. In some communities, arsenic has been measured more than 22 times above what the World Health Organization considers safe for human consumption, and fluoride has measured more than 12 times those recommendations.
We invite you to watch an informative video which describes the health risks associated with arsenic and fluoride in our region, a link is included at the end of this report (link #2).
What is the Answer?
Water filters and even whole house treatment systems can’t touch arsenic and fluoride. For those who can afford it, bottled water works and so do reverse osmosis systems.
But what about everyone else? That’s why Caminos de Agua exists; to empower threatened communities to take control of their situations and help them create and implement clean water solutions. We work with communities at risk to determine exactly what their threats are. If they are ready to organize and mobilize, we work with them to develop customized solutions, raise the needed funds, implement solutions, and track the results. We develop technology that is scalable and suited to the low-cost needs of our region. But as the crisis is growing and so is the need to increase the work we do.
We are currently in the middle of the rainy season. Help us make this year count!
The project teaches students the value of teamwork
The cistern is filling up with safe drinking water