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Nov 5, 2019

From Household Solutions to Public Policy

A family shows off their new rainwater system
A family shows off their new rainwater system

Our rainwater harvesting work continues to take on new partners and venture into new realms, and we are excited to leverage these relationships to multiply our impact. 

Back in March, Caminos de Agua and 13 other organizations – collectively known as the Agua Vida Coalition – signed a declaration with the municipal government in San Miguel de Allende to create a plan for the future of water in the municipality. Since then, we have worked closely with the municipality and coalition partners to bring rainwater harvesting solutions to more and more people in the region as a way to address both water contamination and growing water scarcity. 

We have been working closely with our coalition partner organization, Casita Linda, to bring rainwater harvesting systems to homes in the community of Palo Colorado – a large community only 15 minutes from the urban center. The community’s well dried up -- and literally collapsed in on itself -- this past year, leaving hundreds without water access.

With the municipal government, we have been working closely with the Department of Environment and Sustainability to change the municipal construction code to require all new develops to capture rainwater. This would make San Miguel the first municipality in the entire country to require rainwater harvesting! 

Additionally, we have been working with the government to implement rainwater harvesting solutions in communities most at risk. 

Last time, we updated you on the community of Agustín González. This community has some of the highest levels of fluoride we have registered in the municipality – more than 4 times above the World Health Organization recommended limit. We, along with our partners in El Maíz Más Pequeño, have been working with the students at the local high school for more than a year. Many of these students have been living with the health impacts of excessive fluoride including cognitive development issues and severe dental fluorosis – an irreversible condition that stains teeth brown and black. 

The students organized and, amongst other projects, built a rainwater harvesting system for drinking water at their school to help stave off the health impacts for future generations. But that’s only where this story begins…

Since that last report, the students have worked with us in Caminos de Agua to solicit the municipal government to do more. Thanks to their efforts, the Department of Environment and Sustainability has agreed to deliver the materials for 11 new, large-scale, rainwater harvesting systems, which will be installed by the students themselves in family homes over the next month. The students have continued to work in other communities and have also identified future needs for rainwater systems at other community schools. 

This initiative is the first of many between the municipal government, Caminos de Agua, and local communities. Together with the Agua Vida Coalition, we are working to develop projects through a municipal “Water Fund” that will help support rainwater harvesting, watershed restoration, and similar projects will into the future. 

Thanks to everyone who supports our work. We hope you will consider a donation today to help us do more. 

Saludos,

Dyan and the Caminos de Agua Team

Agua Vida and local Government sign the agreement
Agua Vida and local Government sign the agreement
Students explain the rainwater system to visitors
Students explain the rainwater system to visitors
Caminos staff talk water filtration with students
Caminos staff talk water filtration with students
Aug 29, 2019

Aguadapt is a winner at the 2019 ASME Innovation Showcase Award

Aaron and Dylan receiving the "ISHOW" award
Aaron and Dylan receiving the "ISHOW" award

WE WON!

In our last project report, we shared that Caminos de Agua would be competing at the Innovation Showcase Award, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) in Washington D.C.  We are happy to announce that Caminos de Agua's (Caminos)  new modular water filter – Aguadapt  –  was one of three winning entries!

Caminos has already developed a certified ceramic filter that removes 99.9999% of pathogens and bacteria from contaminated water. However, low-income people worldwide are disproportionately affected by rising levels of chemical contamination, This is something most low-cost filters simply do not address. Additionally, shipping expensive bottled water is common in emergency disaster relief, which is costly and very inefficient. Aguadapt is a flexible filter platform which seeks to solve both of these issues. 

What did the judges like about Aguadapt?

The family-sized system is robust, deploys rapidly, and can be quickly installed in nearly any commonly available containers – making it ideal for emergency response. Aguadapt is not only adaptable to containers but also to regionally-relevant contaminants like arsenic, lead, fluoride, or pesticides. So, it can easily transition from emergency relief measure to a permanent water solution for families.

The ASME award was presented to the Caminos Team by the head of the Climate Technology Program at the World Bank and is accompanied by a USD $10,000 cash prize. In addition, Caminos will have access to free consulting services with Catapult Design – a design firm that works with socially-driven organizations to build accessible, market-based products and services that give low income and underserved people reliable tools to improve their quality of life. The ASME award also comes with an invitation to additional events to be held in New York City in October. There, Caminos will have a chance to present Aguadapt to industry water experts.

To learn more about what Aguadapt can watch "Aguadapt. All Waters. All People" by clicking on the link at the end of this report.

Our Goal

Our goal is to make Aguadapt accessible to the people who need it most, so we are happy to report another important Aguadapt update. Caminos is currently piloting Aguadapt with 700 families in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico.  We are doing this in partnership with a US non-profit working with at-risk communities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia.

All of us at Caminos have been hard at work to make Aguadapt an accessible water filter that is flexible enough to address the world’s most pressing emerging contaminants, but we need the support of people like you to take the production of Aguadapt to scale.  

Your generous support will help us take Aguadapt to families, communities, and other places or situations where clean and safe drinking water is not readily available. 

 “Aguadapt. All waters. All people.”

 

Aquadapt being tested with 700 families in Chiapas
Aquadapt being tested with 700 families in Chiapas

Links:

Aug 8, 2019

Students take action to provide their school with safe drinking water

Students organize to build a cistern
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 project teaches students the value of teamwork
The cistern is filling up with safe drinking water
The cistern is filling up with safe drinking water

Links:

 
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