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 Health  Mexico Project #30379

1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico

by Caminos de Agua
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1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
1 Million Liters of Safe Drinking Water in Mexico
These systems provide water at a critical time.
These systems provide water at a critical time.

Dear GlobalGiving friends,

In late March, all of us at Caminos de Agua were excited to launch a week of events to celebrate World Water Day. Our featured guest had purchased plane tickets to fly to San Miguel de Allende from the US, venues were rented, a full publicity campaign had been developed in the months leading up to the event and we had recently organized a press conference to publicize events.

And then it all came to a halt.

The municipal government, who was a partner in our events, announced that no public events were to be held until further notice. We rushed to cancel everything and reached out to people that had purchased tickets to some of the events. Everyone was supportive and understanding and once that was done we huddled to figure out how we would redirect our work to meet the new reality and challenges related to water in times of COVID-19. Our lives have not been the same since and we have moved into a different era of communicating and doing our work.

World Health Organization recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus call for hand washing several times a day as well as cleaning surfaces and items that come into our home. While this seems a reasonable approach to many it is not feasible for at least half of the population in Mexico and a great number of the rural communities we serve in the region of central Mexico where we do our work. We also had to accept the fact that many of these communities have limited access to reliable sources of information to help them deal with the pandemic.

In record time we developed a communications network using channels used by many in these communities such as WhatsApp groups and Facebook. We also contacted the grassroots organizations we work within these communities and asked for their advice.
We developed a series of online workshops and materials with valuable information so that communities with little access to water could do the following:

  • Build a hand washing station, called a Tippy Tap, which has allowed many all over the world to wash their hands multiple times with only a gallon of water.
  • How to build an emergency rainwater harvesting system to supplement the limited amount of water available.
  • How to prepare hand sanitizing solution to readily available ingredients; and
  • Remind families that already have a rainwater harvesting system of the maintenance required before the arrival of the rainy season which is due to start soon.


We also reached out to our loyal friends in a targeted fundraising campaign and were overwhelmed by their generous response.

We have developed new and timely education materials, created communications channels using platforms used by communities with little internet access, and trained staff to help those at risk communities increase their access to water and prevent the spread of the virus in their families and communities. All of this was done thanks to your generosity and willingness to support our work.

We will be busy in the coming months with new initiatives with local government and major foundations.
We are also on track to test our Groundwater Treatment System which has been years in development at a community level. This solution has the potential to help countless communities in our region, elsewhere in Mexico and worldwide.

Thanks to you we are in a good position to help and do more. As always, your support is needed and appreciated, but at this time we want to take the opportunity to thank you and acknowledge all that your contributions make possible.

Much of the support we get from GlobalGiving comes from recurring donations. We know who you are, we are familiar with your names by now, and we welcome your loyal support every month. We hope that at this time you and your loved ones are well and safe. You are an important part of the Caminos de Agua family and we take this opportunity for helping us through when we needed it most.

We encourage all of you to share news of what Caminos de Agua is doing in response to COVID-19 with family and friends who may not know about our work. Information about our new online workshops and materials is available through our website and YouTube channel. Have a look and reach out to us if you have any questions or comments.

To say we are stronger because of you may sound like a marketing tagline, but it is the truth and a sincere statement of how we feel at this time. This response and our continuing work would not be possible without your support.

We will continue to update you on our work and latest initiatives. Rainwater harvesting is still a priority and your contributions are helping us extend our reach. We invite you to take a look at the materials and videos our great communications team developed in-house in record time. 

On behalf of the entire Caminos de Agua team, once again, ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS!

50% of the population in Mexico needs more water
50% of the population in Mexico needs more water
Our solutions are impacting the lives of many
Our solutions are impacting the lives of many
Your support is making a difference
Your support is making a difference

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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

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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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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

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Drinking freshly filtered rainwater in Pozo Hondo
Drinking freshly filtered rainwater in Pozo Hondo

The rainy season is about to start in our region of Central Mexico.  This is a great time for Caminos de Agua because rain means the cisterns we have built with dozens of communities, impacting thousands, in this region will soon start filling up with healthy drinking water.

Many of the cisterns we built late last year and early this year will start filling up for the first time and this is a cause for celebration. Twenty-five large-scale rainwater harvesting systems were built for the communities of Pozo Hondo and La Vaciada which will benefit approximately 60 families; however, residents were worried that the local grade school had no fresh drinking water and very little water for restroom use or basic maintenance.  They conveyed the need to Caminos de Agua, and we found a generous donor, outside of GlobalGiving, who provided the financing. The parents of the school children (mostly the mothers) organized, were trained, and ultimately built the ferrocement cisterns, which is no easy task, and finished the construction just last month. The inauguration and party celebrating these school systems is scheduled for next week!

Additionally, we are working through various partners to get many new rainwater harvesting systems off the ground. We just just put the finishing touches on another school system with the highschool students in the community of Agustín González. This community has some of the highest levels of fluoride contamination we have ever seen in San Miguel – impacting the participating teenagers development and health throughout their life. Many thanks to the GlobalGiving community and our long-time partners, El Maíz Más Pequeño, for providing support on this project.

Additionally, we are working with our partners at Casita Linda de begin implementing a comprehensive education program and build nine (9) large-scale rainwater harvesting systems in the community of Palo Colorado. We are also working with the Municipal and State Departments of Environment and Sustainability to potentially build upwards of 80 rainwater harvesting systems in communities at-risk throughout the entire state in the months to come. So, keep your eyes peeled for some big projects in future updates.

The work we do involves far more than construction.  We’ve been taking recent opportunities to develop and begin piloting our new education program. We provided a series of workshops to mothers participating in the Pozo Hondo and La Vaciada school rainwater program. Topics include the water cycle, the importance of knowing our watershed, the health risks of contaminated groundwater (these two communities are affected by high levels of arsenic and fluoride in their drinking water), and how rainwater is the most important solution to the problem now. This educational program has evolved into six extensive modules that we will be implementing in new rainwater programs in the future.

This educational development is a massive undertaking for the organization and an integral to – and perhaps the foundation of– the future of Caminos de Agua. Our team is working diligently every week to create new materials, design modules, and pilot new ideas. Lots of these topics have never existed in these types of educational programs to date – with each module linking to the previous and future modules and focusing on things like: the entire spectrum of water contaminants (i.e. organic and inorganic chemicals, etc) and their individual impacts on human health – ideas that are largely set aside by tradtional water educational programs.

Get a taste of our new educational materials in one of the photos below. 

By finding solutions to water issues, communities are empowered to organize and solve other problems. Other grassroots NGOs with a longer and more constant presence in these communities are crucial collaborators and partners in this objective. A local woman summed it best in this description of the experience, “we are not only building cisterns, but we are also building community.”

Your donations not only build rainwater harvesting systems, but they are also helping develop stronger and more resilient communities. We thank everyone that is supporting our efforts through GlobalGiving. We are ready to do more, but limited only by our ability to raise more funds. Help us take advantage of this rainy season today!

¡Muchas gracias!

Paco Guajardo

Carrying rainwater to filter in La Vaciada
Carrying rainwater to filter in La Vaciada
Student building a base in Agustin Gonzalez
Student building a base in Agustin Gonzalez
Delivering ceramic filters in La Vaciada
Delivering ceramic filters in La Vaciada
Mothers starting work at the school in Pozo Hondo
Mothers starting work at the school in Pozo Hondo
Draft of a page from our new educational program
Draft of a page from our new educational program
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Organization Information

Caminos de Agua

Location: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato - Mexico
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @caminosdeagua
Project Leader:
Dylan Terrell
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato Mexico
$15,505 raised of $85,000 goal
 
300 donations
$69,495 to go
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