Feb 3, 2020

A Coalition for Clean Water

Water Press Conference
Water Press Conference

Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion and concern about the future of water in San Miguel de Allende.

Are there contaminants in the current water supply in San Miguel? What will happen to the quantity and quality of San Miguel’s water supply as our city continues to grow? What work is being done to make sure a water plan is being created that provides for the city’s future water needs?

With these and many other concerns in mind, 14 leading San Miguel NGO’s with a stake in the fight for clean water joined together to create a coalition called Agua Vida to raise awareness about water issues and work with government to promote public policies to ensure safe and clean water for future generations.  The Agua Vida coalition celebrated its one year anniversary last October.

HIDDEN CONTAMINANTS ARE PUTTING US ALL AT RISK

Export-driven agriculture is a huge sector of the economy in the state of Guanajuato. Water-intensive crops are rapidly sucking up our precious water resources and significantly contributing to the rapid decline of our water table (2-4 meters every year). The deeper we go to get to the water, the more we are seeing spikes of naturally occurring arsenic and fluoride in our water supply. There is no question that there are dangerous contaminants in our drinking water when it comes out of the ground, the big question is how bad is it when it enters our homes? Without immediate action, the health of all the residents of San Miguel de Allende will become increasingly threatened.  

THE DOWNSIDE TO TOURISM 

Making changes in the agriculture sector is largely beyond the capacity of municipal government. However, tourism, urban planning, and rainwater management are just some of the issues that our local government can manage, and there are important changes that can be made to better preserve our depleting water resources. 

Every year, more and more tourists flock to San Miguel and an increasing number of foreigners are investing in residential property. To accommodate this rising demand, new hotels, restaurants, housing projects, and other developments are popping up at an unsustainable rate. Without water stability and public awareness, we are looking not only at serious health threats to many residents but harm to businesses, increased urban flooding and falling real estate values as well.             

A PROMISING ADDITION TO THE MUNICIPAL CODE TO FACILITATE FUTURE GROWTH

With this in mind, one of the major efforts of the Agua Vida Coalition is to change the municipal construction code to require rainwater harvesting on all new developments. Such a change will be the first of its kind in the country and put San Miguel on the map as a model city in water management and innovation. 

WORKING TOGETHER TOWARD A COMMON GOAL

For the first time in the history of San Miguel, a large group of nonprofits is working in partnership with the municipal government, including the municipal water authority (SAPASMA), on a plan to identify problems and develop solutions that will ensure water security for all.

Having an open-dialogue has allowed us to raise specific issues. Caminos de Agua is proud to be a critical part of this coalition that is making important progress to ensure the future of San Miguel. The threats to our water that we are all facing are not issues that we can combat alone.

BY SUPPORTING CAMINOS YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Guanajuato faces a great challenge. Water table levels drop alarmingly and our wells go deeper wells to meet the population's water needs, but the arsenic and fluoride we find at these depths is creating a serious public health problem and water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. The challenge presented by the reality of water in the region exceeds the capacities of any individual, organization, company or governme

The challenge presented by the reality of water in the region exceeds the capacities of any individual, organization, company or government but your support allows Caminos to work with government, other non-profit, and corporate entities to share experience and resources that will create solutions and plans that are having a greater impact. 

 

 

Agua Vida and municipal government work together
Agua Vida and municipal government work together

Links:

Nov 25, 2019

Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink

Allie and Aaron, R&D Coordinators present Aguadapt
Allie and Aaron, R&D Coordinators present Aguadapt

On September 16th, 2017, a deadly Category 5 hurricane wreaked havoc on many Caribbean islands - including Puerto Rico. Out-dated, but crucial, infrastructure was destroyed. The islands flooded quickly. However, despite the abundance of water, access to safe drinking water became an urgent concern. The only solution available at the time – shipping in plastic bottles – was an inadequate response.

That same month, two powerful earthquakes shook Mexico. First, a magnitude 8.2 quake left many communities disconnected from their water sources in Southern Mexico. Days later, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the states of Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico City. Buildings collapsed throughout the region where hundreds of people died and thousands more were injured. One headline buried amongst the rubble was the sudden lack of water infrastructure to support a now vulnerable population.

A Call to Adapt

In the days following these disasters, Caminos de Agua received numerous requests for our ceramic filters. We were able to provide a limited response in Southern Mexico. However, at the time, we were a smaller organization and relied solely on our artisanal production. Furthermore, our filters were much too large to ship in the quantities that were desperately needed. 

Due to these limitations, we were unable to respond to other requests. These catastrophic events were a wake-up call for Caminos. We started looking at the global impact of our technology development and during the next two years we took on the challenge to reach further.

We asked ourselves, how can we adapt our ceramic filters so they can be easily shipped and installed in any available domestic container in a emergency relief situation? Then, we took it a step further and started thinking about how we could also adapt our filter to deal with regionally-specific contaminants – from arsenic and fluoride in our region, to pesticides in Southeast Asia, lead in Flint, Michigan, etc.

One design iteration led to another, and by outsourcing production and thousands of hours of staff and volunteer work, we came up with Aguadapt. This innovation can be deployed for emergency relief and later transition to a permanent water solution for families. It received an awared form the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (for latest developments on Aguadapt clink on the Impact as Outcome link below).

The Time is Now

We must adapt to a world that will see more frequent and devastating natural disasters. This time, Caminos de Agua needs to be able to respond. Your donation enables us to provide safe drinking water next time disaster strikes – whether in our region, or hundreds or thousands of kilometers away.

As you plan your end of year donations consider donating to Caminos de Agua and make access to safe and clean water a reality for communities at risk.

ASME experts gave our team valuable input
ASME experts gave our team valuable input
Focusing on having a greater impact
Focusing on having a greater impact

Links:

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
 
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