Innovation in Chlorination Brings Safe Drinking Water to San Jose, Nicaragua

By Orlando Montiel Salas – Clean Water Program Officer

Testing the water with Bertilia.

San José is in the Cruz Verde community in San Carlos, Rio San Juan. 23 families totalling 120 people live in San Jose, and all of the families have limited economic resources. As a rural community, one of the people’s most basic needs has been access to safe drinking water.

Self-Help International recently helped meet that need in 2020 thanks to an alliance with the Asociación para el Desarrollo Local Ecosostenible, or the Association for Local Eco-Sustainable Development (ASODELCO). ASODELCO rehabilitated an artisanal well, adding a MEcate Pump (PBM), and Self-Help installed a chlorinator modified to adapt to the PBM well. Prior to this alliance, these families did not have the PBM well and its adapted chlorination device, therefore lacking access to safe drinking water.

66-year-old Bertilia remembers that the artisanal well that ASODELCO rehabilitated in 2020 had previously dried up years ago and couldn’t supply the families with drinking water. The women of San Jose spent more than 15 years bringing water from a natural source (river/creek) 3.5 kilometers away (2.2 miles), and they spent 40 minutes walking with jerry cans filled with water on their heads until they reached their homes. Families consumed this water directly without applying any treatment to eliminate any possible contamination. Many years passed without the community knowing that illnesses they were facing were possibly caused by non-potable water.

For several years, families in the community  sought help to resolve their situation, until one day in 2017 they asked ASODELCO for support. Three years later – in March 2020 – ASODELCO built the PBM well and contacted Self-Help to help with the improvement of water quality, technical monitoring and education in water purification.

The well was rehabilitated on Bertilia’s land, and it is a community well where all families can go to access water for their homes.

Once the well was built, Self-Help came to contribute to the improvement of the water. This was a challenge, since Self-Help’s Clean Water Program has not typically serviced PBM wells. However, Program Officer Orlando Montiel, a natural innovator, creatively adapted the chlorinator’s design so that it could serve this different type of well and efficiently disinfect water.

The new water system.

The community now admires Bertilia, as well as her daughters and daughters-in-law, for the well rehabilitation and chlorinator installation. This is both incredible and important to community members, who never expected to have purified water access in their small community.

The women are grateful because they did not imagine how the purification of the water would be carried out. They are also surprised to see the chlorination device and mechanism adapted to the PBM well and are also happy because the chlorinator has been easy for them to learn to use and operate.

They feel happy because they have water available and they will no longer have to walk kilometers to fetch water. The women and their families thank Self-Help International, ASODELCO, and donors for working together to bring clean water access to San José, Nicaragua.