The Story of the El Carrizal Water Project

 

The aldea (small village) of El Carrizal is in the municipality of San Jacinto in the department of Chiquimula, southeastern Guatemala. El Carrizal occupies a large hilly area cut by one of the main rivers of the area. The river and some springs in the area comprise the main sources of water for the 660 members of the community, but they are contaminated with bacteria. The residents typically carry the water long distances to their homes, often uphill. The availability of water becomes even more of a problem during the six-month dry season, when the flows from the springs decrease.

 

In an effort to bring water to the community, the municipality constructed a water supply and distribution system consisting of a commercially-drilled water well, a water tank with 80 cubic meters (about 21,000 gallons) of capacity, and a gravity-driven water distribution piping system from the tank to the homes in the community. This was all done in about 2004-05.  The construction and equipping of the well was not completed, so the water system went unused.

 

The water committee of El Carrizal approached the Rotary Club of Chiquimula de la Sierra in the fall of 2007 to request help in solving the problem of the incomplete and unusable water system. It was thought that the well might simply need cleaning and equipping with an adequate submersible pump. However, the well provided less than one gallon per minute and so was not usable.

 

The community members identified two sets of springs they wanted to use to supply water to the existing tank and distribution system. (San Jacinto Mayor and Chiquimula Rotary President at one spring in picture on right)   While the project was being organized, one set of springs was tapped by a few nearby residents who decided they could not wait for the community water project to go forward. Those springs thus became unavailable to the community water project, which cut the available quantity of water in half. The water supply from the lower set of springs alone was insufficient to meet all of the community's needs.

 

Water for the Americas provided technical assistance by designing a shallow, horizontal well (El Carrizal community members working on horizontal well in picture to left) to tap groundwater in the river valley's sand and gravel aquifer near the lower springs. The water from the horizontal well made up the needed difference in flow. We designed structures to capture the water from the lower set of springs and pipe it to a collection tank (the collection tank in picture at right) between the springs and the horizontal well. The community identified a route for a transmission pipeline from the collection tank to the distribution tank, and Water for the Americas designed the pipeline and the support structures for aerial crossings where the pipeline crossed two deep ravines. The water from the springs and well will be pumped up to the existing distribution tank, which will be equipped with a chlorination system to remove bacterial contamination, and will flow to the homes through the existing distribution piping.

 

The project is currently nearing completion in the spring of 2009. Funding provided by the Rotary Clubs of Chiquimula de la Sierra, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Fort Collins and Broomfield, Colorado, with a matching grant from Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation is being used to purchase the materials and pumps and hire skilled labor. The Chiquimula Rotary Club received the funds for the project in the fall of 2008 followed immediately by the start of the project.  The El Carrizal residents provided the manual labor to install the 1.3 kilometers of buried piping (part of pipe line in picture at right) for the transmission line. The municipality of San Jacinto provided materials and labor to bring in electrical power to supply the pumps in the well and collection tank and helped coordinate and manage the construction with members of the Chiquimula de la Sierra Rotary Club and Water for the Americas. Upon completion, the water system will be operated and maintained by the El Carrizal water committee with funds generated by fees charged to the water system users. The improvement brought about by the water system will be gauged by comparison of future health surveys to a detailed survey made before the water system construction began.

 

In early April, 2009 the El Carrizal community held a celebration to recognize the completion of the water project (El Carrizal leader presenting plaque in picture at left).  Members of the Rotary Club of Cheyenne and Water for the Americas attended the celebration and were given plaques for all of the participating clubs, key personnel and organizations.  This project was the easiest of a series of unfinished water projects in the municipality of San Jacinto and was chosen so that the Chiquimula Rotary Club could gain credibility by completing the project.  Getting year around, easily accessibly potable water for the several parts of the aldea of Agua Zarca in the San Jacinto municipality is the next project in this series and funding from Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Foundation is already in place to do that.