Washing up with rainwater at Patzilin Ab'aj
Many communities in the mountainous area around Santiago Atitlán have poor or inconsistent access to running water. Patzilin Ab’aj and Panimaquip are two of these communities, where residents often don’t have running water at home or at school. When their school’s water supply runs out, kids have to carry heavy containers of water to school with them, depleting a supply that in some cases they have already had to carry from Lake Atitlán uphill to their homes.
Our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) team has been hard at work with these two communities to provide schools with alternative water supplies and relieve schoolchildren of this heavy burden. The solution? Rainwater, says Pablo Eulogio, Pueblo a Pueblo’s WASH project manager. Rainwater collection systems are known to many communities in this area as a way to take advantage of periods of heavy rain; stored water can be put to use during drier, hotter parts of the year when the need for water is even more dire. Given local average rainfall statistics, these systems can collect up to 240 liters of water per day! This water can be used in the school kitchen, for cleaning purposes, and in school bathrooms for washing hands and flushing toilets.
In May, Pablo and his team worked with Patzilin Ab’aj Primary School to install a brand new rainwater collection system. They affixed piping to the gutter on the roof of a large building, placing wire mesh over the gutter to keep out leaves and other organic debris. They then built a platform for a large water tank, attaching the piping to the tank to catch water flowing off of the roof.
“At this time, the community of Patzilin Ab’aj has no running water,” explains Pablo. “The rainwater collected with this system is now the primary school’s only source of running water.” He also notes that students at Patzilin Ab’aj recently started an organic garden on the grounds of their school—another reason they need a reliable water supply!
The situation in Panimaquip was a little different. Panimaquip Primary School already had a rainwater collection system, but it was in poor condition. The water tank had been installed on top of cinder blocks which collapsed under the weight of the full tank, leaving the tank unstable. The tank was also obstructing the proper drainage of water from school grounds, threatening flooding of classrooms and outdoor school areas.
In June, the WASH team moved quickly to correct the situation. They constructed a strong, bridgelike platform for the water tank so that water could flow under the tank and away from spaces where students learn and play. “These repairs not only improve the state of the physical water collection system,” says Pablo. “They also ensure that students' learning spaces stay safe and dry.”
These new rainwater collection systems mean cleaner, healthier schools in these two communities. Rainwater collection means that primary schoolers in Patzilin Ab’aj and Panimaquip can focus on learning, playing, and having fun!
Mesh keeps debris out of the collection tank
Piping carries water to the tank at Patzilin Ab'aj
Unstable tank before improvements at Panimaquip
New tank platform at Panimaquip
New piping carries water to the tank in Panimaquip