The water looked clean enough. It was perfectly clear without coloration or noticeable contamination, but Ceferina Fuentes, a former schoolteacher, knew better. She was quite aware that the microbes wreaking havoc on her small village of El Guasimal couldn’t be seen by the human eye. In fact, it is these microscopic bacteria, viruses, and parasites that make unsafe drinking water the greatest single threat to mankind — causing over three million deaths each year and killing more people globally than all forms of violence, including war. Nearly half of these deaths are those of children under the age of five.
Nicaragua is no exception to this epidemic, and many rural communities like El Guasimal are in dire need of safe drinking water. Ceferina and her neighbors understand the grave problem they are up against, but their community lies far from any water treatment plant and instead relies on a water tank at the top of the hill, which lacks any form of filtration or treatment. In fact, over 80% of the rural communities tested in Nicaragua have contaminated drinking water.
That’s when Ceferina remembered one of the students she taught during her thirty-three-year career as a high school teacher, and in a moment of pure serendipity, the fate of her small community would be forever changed.
Milton Rocha, remembers Cerferina fondly as well as the day he brought clean water to her community. Serving as EOS International’s Clean Water Program Coordinator, Milton sees firsthand the impact of his work.
“We are passionate about the work that we do because every day we provide the opportunity to improve the quality of water and the health of many people. We know that healthy community members can go to work, children can study, pregnant women can be safer, and a healthy family improves its community’s economy. A healthy family is happier.”
Milton climbed the steep hill to find a modest water tank, surrounded by roaming cattle from the nearby farms. He carried nothing more than a bag of PVC piping and a toolbox. That was all he needed. When Milton reached the summit overlooking the village, he spread out his tools, and placed the white PVC components atop the tank. He was accompanied by a few key community leaders including Ceferina, who was eager to help in any way she could.
In just a few short hours, where once sat a pile of plastic piping was now an assembled CTI-8 Water Chlorination System. This low-tech, high impact unit is designed to treat nearly 30,000 gallons of water a day with a simple NSF certified chlorine tablet and requires no electricity and very little maintenance. Costing just a few hundred dollars, this small unit can treat water for communities of up to one thousand people.
But installing a water chlorinator is only part of the solution. EOS International believes in long-term, sustainable change, and that takes investment from the community. While Milton was installing the unit, Ceferina and her fellow community leaders where taking notes. By the end of the day, they were trained on the process of assembling and dismantling the unit, proper care and cleaning, and how to sample the chlorine concentration with a simple color-meter scale provided with each installation to make sure the water is safe to drink.
In addition to offering detailed training, EOS has set up chlorine banks all across Nicaragua, where community members only have to travel a short distance to pick up chlorine tablets each month for their water systems.
Today Ceferina serves as the treasurer of El Guasimal’s water program, collecting small fees from the 420 residents who benefit from the system, purchasing tablets, and organizing community meetings. She is happy to see the significant difference in the health of her village as well.
“Before using the chlorinator, we had problems with diarrhea and parasites, especially among our children. After the installation of the chlorinator, we haven’t had any problems,” she explained.
But it is not just about the lives being saved by this piece of equipment that should be taken into account. Clean water not only improves the health of individuals in rural Nicaragua, but allows communities to flourish, as access to clean water opens doors to education and income generation. Fewer children fall behind in school due to water-related illness and healthy parents can attend work, generating income for their family.
Since 2008, EOS International has treated 1.4 billion gallons of water, and a report conducted by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health has shown a 61% reduction in reported cases of diarrheal diseases.
It is because of passionate people like Milton and Ceferina, that the future of Nicaragua looks brighter every day. In the community of El Guasimal, families will enjoy safe drinking water for years to come, saving lives and creating a more educated and productive community.
Standing at the top of the hill next to the water chlorinator, Ceferina looks out over her village and explains, “We work for the good of others, like others have worked for us previously. It is our duty to work for the good of our future generations.”
Create a better future with EOS International
Our 2,325 installations of simple, inexpensive, and locally serviceable technologies have helped over 534,167 Central Americans access safe drinking water and opportunities to generate income. Please help us invest in the future of millions of Nicaraguans by supporting EOS International.
Photos & Story by Slade Kemmet (www.sladekemmet.com)