Bikes for the World

Friday, November 9, 2012

Delivering More Than Just Bikes

Jose and Rosa Hernandez
Jose and Rosa Hernandez and their children live in the community of Los Limones in northeast El Salvador. The family lives off $2/day, does not own any land, and has no access to electricity. Not a single family member has a middle school education. However, when Koji Ukai, a local Peace Corps volunteer, conducted a survey in 2011 and asked for their opinion as to the most important need in the community, the family answered that access to potable water was a clear priority.

Los Limones is fortunate to have a water system, but after 15 years of use it no longer meets the community’s needs. Of the community’s 132 homes, nearly 70 are not connected and must borrow water from neighbors or use nearby rivers. In the dry season, even the houses that are connected experience shortages. The current arrangement of dividing the community into six different sectors, each receiving two hours of water per day, has put an abnormally heavy strain on the system’s piping, creating maintenance issues and disputes between community members and the water committee.

With these problems in mind, Koji and the community’s water committee began a year-long process of petitioning help from local NGOs. In February 2012, they finally succeeded with the signing of a bilateral agreement between the NGO World Vision and the local municipal government, promising $80,000 in funding to upgrade the water collection system, tank, and network. With the support of over 3,000 hours of organized labor provided by the members of Los Limones and detailed blueprints from students at the University of El Salvador-San Miguel, construction is nearly 90% complete as of November 2012.

Arlington County VA meters
Members of this 'potable water mission' all quickly agreed on the importance of water meters for success. Potable water administered via the use of meters would allow the water committee to transition from a sector-based system to a one with 24-hour access.Unfortunately, Salvadoran culture dictates that the future beneficiary pay for the water meters, which can cost as much as $45 each. Realizing the potential for failure in a crucial portion of the project, Koji was introduced to Bikes for the World. We worked in coordination with Arlington County, Virginia to find and ship 150 used water meters to El Salvador in a container of bikes that went out this summer to partner program CESTA (The Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology).  . Arlington recently replaced all the meters in its system with meters which can be read remotely and donated the old meters to this project.
Old Arlington meters in use in El Salvador

The Los Limones water project looks very promising at this point. At least 140 of the 150 donated meters are working properly and are more than adequate for rural El Salvador. One provisional meter has been installed and average water consumption has been tracked in preparation for community-wide installation. By January 2013, Los Limones will have access to 24-hour potable water in a safe and sustainable form. More importantly, 70 more families, such as that of Jose and Rosa Hernandez, will have the dignity of having potable water access for the first time in their lives. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you BfW, CESTA, Arlington County and Koji. Another excellent example of how cooperation can produce great results.


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