Water for Life in Central America

Don Tatlock | March 20, 2013

Ricardo, a member of the water board, demonstrating the natural spring dammed up to pipe water to the water storage tank Photo: Nancy Vasquez

Ricardo, a member of the water board, demonstrating the natural spring dammed up to pipe water to the water storage tank Photo: Nancy Vasquez

In my current visit to Guatemala and Honduras water has been on my mind. I’m thinking about World Water Day and visiting several of the communities and families where CWS works.

It’s funny how we look at water and how it affects us and sometimes it’s hard to even imagine the challenges and difficulties rural families in Central America face every day. Many of us have heard the statistics of water access and quality around the world and have heard stories of families, especially women and young girls, who have to walk miles and miles to bring a bucket of water home.  Many times they must carry the water on their heads in order to be able to have a little bit of water at home for not just one use, but several uses.

When we travel with groups or visitors we are concerned about the water we may have where we will be staying. Is the water too cold to use to shower?  Are there warm or hot showers? Is there enough water available for us to flush the toilets? Do we have enough purified or bottle water for “us” to drink during these visits? Caught up in these questions, what is sometimes lost is the real question: where the water is coming from?  Are we using up the water source that could have gone to families in the same area?

Today, as we hiked through a rain forest (micro basin) in the mountains of Nueva Frontera, Honduras, we witnessed how families have become organized by the efforts of CWS. The community has learned to protect the area where water is born, in the mountains or as they say in Spanish, “El nacimiento,” from contamination and deforestation. The community is manually digging trenches miles long to lay pipes to build a 100,000-gallon water depository. More than 900 families can have access to water all year long. For many this will be the first time they will have running water near the home.

I take a moment to ask Marilu, 26, who is a member of the water advisory board for the community, what this means to her. “Water gives life, without water we can’t water our family gardens to grow nutritious food,” she says. “We as women don’t have to walk for hours to bring water home and we have learned to protect our water source as well as to test the quality of the water so we always have clean water.”

As I travel and visit CWS programs in Central America, I may not know where my water comes from sometimes, but the communities in the municipality of Nueva Frontera are fully aware of where their water comes from. They know what they need to do in order to protect the natural springs where water is born and gives life. Water is life.

Don Tatlock, Program Officer, CWS