El Salvadorian village getting outside help with water needs
The problem is that in the village in Piedras Azules there is just one water source with unreliable water access as the water table changes depending on the time of year and the weather. This leads to long queues at the well, with some residents sometimes waking up at midnight to beat the water rush.
It’s an intolerable situation that has occurred because the water supply system, which is little more than a well, was designed 50 years ago when there were just 40 homes in the village. In recent years the village in El Salvador has grown and there are now 400 houses and a school with 300 students.
Even the school does not have access to water and students are forced to bring with them bottles of water for everything from drinking with to washing their hands after going to the bathroom. Because of the scarcity of water, such hygiene practices become prohibitive, which puts the children at risk of bacterial infections.
El Salvador is a largely dry and arid country, water access has long been an issue that government has been tackling for years, with little success. There are a multitude of reasons for this, one is that El Salvador, like so many Central American countries, is recovering from a legacy of brutal authoritarian leadership, civil war, and socio-economic inequality.
For much of the 20th century El Salvador was run by successive dictators that saw the government become highly centralized, everything was centralized from finance to water works and to this day there is a single entity responsible for water provision and de-centralized control has not been handed down to individual municipalities.
In rural areas, such as the village in Piedras Azules, the official government statistics show that 76% of people have access to water, but only 42% have a water connection to their house. This means that up to 15% of productive time is spent fetching water in rural areas of El Salvador, which has a detrimental effect on local economies.
It is a situation which a foreign organization has now decided to try to rectify, in the village in Piedras Azules at any rate. The Minnesota State Mankato chapter of Engineers Without Borders recently announced a long-term project to provide quality water access to the village of some 400 families and is looking for volunteers.
The EWB is in need of volunteers who can provide translator services, public relations and health science knowledge. In a press release distributed to El Salvador news media the group said that although the word engineer is in their name, much of their volunteer staff is made up of non-engineers providing support services.
These volunteers will help in carrying out an assessment trip to the village so that the needs of the local community can be properly explored, this trip will also serve to get the EWB and local community on the same page in terms of matching what’s needed with expectations and the group’s capacity for delivery.
A decision will then be made on what action is best to take, either drilling a well, laying a pipe network etc will be decided, then a second trip will be done to make assessments of the land for design and surveying purposes and a third trip in 2011 will see the project finished.
Those interested should contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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