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Water for Us

by Puerto Rico Community Foundation
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Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us
Water for Us

The year had a rocky start for the communities in Puerto Rico, as January brought the first major earthquake felt in nearly 100 years. This 6.1 seismic event, left the whole island without power and many communities without water for a couple of days, and thousands living in formal and informal shelter structures. The epicenter was in Guánica, in the south region of the island, for the first three months they registered hundreds of tremors a day, although the frequency has decreased, they are still feeling the tremors on a daily basis. Access to water has become vital after the earthquakes and it has taken major relevance with our current COVID-19 situation.

 During the first quarter of 2020, we were able to provide a grant to Río Chiquito Aqueduct in Ponce – south region of the island – and provide technical support to these communities: Bayamoncito in Aguas Buenas; Juan Hernández in Adjuntas; Toro Negro in Ciales; Perichi in San German; Gabino in Aguada; Las Corujas in Aguas Buenas; Corcovada in Añasco; Villa de Oro in Caguas; and Villa Vigía in Cidra.

 It has been through these encounters and conversation that we’ve been able to identify some areas of need in the wake of this health crisis, summarized below:

  • Many aqueducts rely on a fee for service system, this income allows for repair, infrastructure maintenance and disinfectant supplies to maintain the quality of the water. For many, these fees are not being collected due to physical distancing protocol or because many members of the community are lacking income to pay for their dues.
  • Most of these aqueducts are very old structures that need constant maintenance and repair. Due to the commercial lockdown materials and supplies are not readily available.
  • Aqueducts need to maintain a water quality standard, this is done through a disinfectant process that needs disinfectant supplies. Aqueducts are lacking the disinfectant supplies to provide access to drinkable water.  

 To topple these factors, there has been an increase in water demand as it is necessary to regularly wash hands, clothes and supplies to avoid spreading of the virus, thus putting more pressure on the already fragile structure.

 We’ve had the support of GlobalGiving, Hispanic Federation, Oxfam and other community foundations, with your collaboration we can continue to do more for these very needed community structures in the island of Puerto Rico.

 Our goal is to empower an association of community aqueducts in the island that can elevate the importance of these structures, strengthen them, and walk with them in the wake of future crises. Our long-term is to be able to strengthen 200 community aqueducts in Puerto Rico.

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Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening

With more than 250 community aqueducts in our island, Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico has been able to work with 65 of them through technical assistance, grants and provoking peer learning experiences through a series of convenings.

As we approach the end of the year 2019, we were able to provide six grants, totaling $229,560, to support the improvement of the physical infrastructure in six communities that provides access to clean and drinkable water to 760 families. The long-term sustainability of these systems is very important, and the community wants to be a part of it.  

Fundación Comunitaria provided a grant to Asociación de Residents Villa de Oro in Caguas and Humatas Deep Water in Añasco respectively, to install water metering equipment. These aqueducts provide access to water to 100 families. The metering system will allow measuring water consumption per family in order to charge families for the use of the water. This is a very important step for community residents, as the amount charged will allow for maintenance, repair of the infrastructure and, better yet, becoming self-sustainable.

On the other hand, twenty families will benefit from a new water storage infrastructure in Cidra through a grant given to Asociación de Residentes Villa Vigia. The grant will allow for this community to have clean water with new water storage and distribution system as their current infrastructure is contaminated with lead and copper putting at risk the community’s health and well-being. Meanwhile, Acueducto Rural Bayamoncito in Aguas Buenas is a community aqueduct with which we’ve been working for more than a year to strengthen its community organizing, administrative, and compliance capacity. With the grant provided to this community of 180 families, they will be rebuilding the water storage and distribution system. And the Comunidad Gabino Negrón in Aguada will build a solar infrastructure that will allow uninterrupted water access and; Comunidad Perichi Aqueduct in San Germán, will rebuild the filtering and disinfection system that provides water to 250 families.

With these six grants, we have been able to provide grants to 18 community aqueducts and provided direct technical assistance to 30 of them, the other 35 aqueducts have received some sort of minimum technical assistance and have participated in our community aqueducts convenings. 

As we continue to listen to the community, we were able to convene Third Community Aqueduct Convening, celebrated in Adjuntas, with the participation of 45 individuals from thirteen communities belonging to the following municipalities: Ponce, Jayuya, Aguas Buenas, San Germán, Coamo, Caguas, Arecibo, and Adjuntas. The previous two were celebrated in Corcovada community in Aguada (western region) and Las Corujas community in Aguas Buenas (eastern-central region). Forty-three (43) community aqueducts have participated in these two convenings. As the aqueducts are at different stage levels, this type of convening is a very rich way to have a thorough peer to peer exchange of ideas and learnings, and serves as well, as a platform to share the challenges faced by these communities and how to solve them.

Our community aqueduct initiative is also supported by Oxfam and Hispanic Federation.

Our long-term goal is to work with the 200 community aqueducts in a five-year period. The approximate cost per aqueduct varies between $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the needs and opportunities it represents for the community. Our goal is to raise $8 million to continue to work with the remaining 170 community aqueducts.

Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
Participants, Third Community Aqueduct Convening
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Well The Hernandez in Adjuntas.
Well The Hernandez in Adjuntas.

As we entered the second half of the year, two more community aqueducts are improving the infrastructure to provide access to water to their communities: Los Hernández, in Adjuntas, and Las Corujas, in Aguas Buenas. Thirty (30) community aqueducts have received technical support – community organizing, administrative organizing, and water quality compliance – while 13 of them have received a grant to improve their physical infrastructure. They are part of the 250 community aqueducts throughout the island that are not connected to the main water system and are completely operated by their communities. The communities form a non-profit as the administrative infrastructure to support the administration, water compliance and full distribution of the resource to its residents.

The grant awarded to Los Hernandez aqueduct ($45,330.00) is being used to rebuild a new infrastructure, as since 2016 their water tank is contaminated with nitrate elevating health risk to its residents. In June 2018, the Puerto Rico Health Department limited its use to non-potable services.  A total of 100 families (380 individuals) will benefit from this infrastructure and will have equitable access to water. Since July, Fundación Comunitaria has been providing capacity building, technical assistance and companionship to strengthen the human capital that will administer the system.

On the other hand,  Las Corujas, received a grant ($53,500.00) to become energy independent by installing a solar energy infrastructure and storage system providing uninterrupted access to more than 50,000 gallons of water a day for the more than 200 families that live in the community.  This will also allow the community to have economies and to collaborate in protecting the environment.

We are in our way to celebrate in October, the Third Community Aqueduct Convening in the central region of the island. The previous two were celebrated in Corcovada community in Aguada (western region) and Las Corujas community in Aguas Buenas (eastern region). As the aqueducts are at different stage levels, this type of convening is a very rich way to have a thorough peer to peer exchange of ideas and learnings, and serves as well, as a platform to share the challenges faced by these communities and how to solve them. 43 community aqueducts have participated of these convenings.

Our long-term goal is to work with the 200 community aqueducts in a five-year period. The approximate cost per aqueduct varies between $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the needs and opportunities it represents for the community. Our goal is to raise $8 million to continue to work with the remaining 170 community aqueducts.

Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (1).
Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (1).
Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (2).
Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (2).
Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (3).
Las Corujas Aqueduct in Aguas Buenas (3).
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Woman reading the gathering agenda
Woman reading the gathering agenda

There are more than 250 community aqueducts throughout the island that are not connected to the main water system and are completely operated by their communities. The communities form a non-profit as the administrative infrastructure to support the administration, water compliance and full distribution of the resource to its residents. As part of the Water for Us Alliance – Fundación Comunitaria, Hispanic Federation and Oxfam – the goal is to strengthen these community infrastructures to provide equitable access to water for all its residents.


On Saturday, June 29, more than 75 individuals from 20 community aqueducts enclaved in 7 municipalities in the central region of Puerto Rico gathered in the 2nd Regional Convening of Community Aqueducts. Las Corujas Community Aqueduct hosted the event in their community with a full agenda that included a panel on Learnings and Experiences for Self-development and Empowerment and a discussion on Gender Intervention and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene from Oxfam. A space was allotted for a peer to peer session resulting in the exchange of administrative and water quality best practices, and the interest in continuous experience sharing outside of the formal convenings taking place.


As the aqueducts are at different stage levels, this type of convening is a very rich way to have a thorough peer to peer exchange of ideas and learnings, and serves as well, as a platform to share the challenges faced by these communities and how to solve them. Las Corujas Community Aqueduct, for example, is operating since 1989 when three water wells operating independently decided to join forces to supply their residents with drinkable water. At that time the aqueduct provided water to 61 families, today 275 families benefit from this infrastructure. Although it was the water issue that brought this community together, throughout the years their robust governance structure has allowed for them to expand their scope of work to include cultural, education and housing initiatives, and to develop a resiliency plan to face future natural disasters. As a matter of fact, after Hurricane María, this community rebuilt their energy infrastructure by themselves and only went to the government to certify their work, allowing the community to receive energy before many others around the island. On the other hand, we have other community aqueducts that are in EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) list on what not to do if you’re a community aqueduct, some of which we’ve already started to work with.


Our long-term goal is to work with the 200 community aqueducts in a five-year period, we’re already working very actively with 30 of them. The approximate cost per aqueduct varies between $30,000 to $50,00, depending on the needs and opportunities it represents for the community. Our goal is to raise $8 million to continue to work with the remaining 170 community aqueducts.


The third Community Aqueduct Convening will take place in October, where more than 50 communities will join in a day-long peer to peer experience.

Participants speaking at the gathering
Participants speaking at the gathering
Assistants at the gathering
Assistants at the gathering

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Organization Information

Puerto Rico Community Foundation

Location: San Juan - Puerto Rico
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FComunitaria
Project Leader:
Mary Ann Gabino
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$315 raised of $100,000 goal
 
11 donations
$99,685 to go
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