Bringing Clean Water to the Community of Las Palomas, Nicaragua

By Orlando Montiel Salas – Clean Water Program Officer

Porfirio holding bags of tested water.

Las Palomas is a small, rural community located 35 miles from the Self-Help International office and training center in San Carlos, Nicaragua.  It is one of the most important communities in the area due to its role as an agricultural center.  Approximately 1,115 people live in Las Palomas, and 230 homes receive their water supply through the service provided by the Potable Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) administered by a board of five volunteers from the community.

Porfirio Sequeira is president of the CAPS in Las Palomas.  He has been in this position for more than 3 years, and his priority has been to improve the quality of the water that is distributed.  He and his family are also users of the water, and he is motivated to protect their health.

The community of Las Palomas had been treating their water with granulated chlorine directly, without taking precautions, but the chlorination was not permanent, and they had to go to the Ministry of Health to obtain the chlorine.

Porfirio had seen water chlorinators when he was working in Costa Rica for a season. When he returned to Nicaragua, he heard that Self-Help worked with local water committees to put chlorinators in their cisterns to purify the water.  In September 2020 he contacted Orlando Montiel, Self-Help Clean Water Program Officer, and they set up a meeting for the whole community to explain the program.

Porfirio asked Orlando to help test the quality of the water they were drinking to have evidence to guide their decisions.  Based on the test results, he proposed to the other directors of the committee that they acquire a chlorinator.  Orlando brought the materials to Las Palomas and helped the community leaders install the system. He trained them on how to maintain the chlorinator, and how to determine their costs for the entire water distribution system and set rates for each household.

The CAPS of Las Palomas repaid Self-Help for the cost of the system over a six-month period, from the monthly utility bills paid by each family.  Self-Help also made it convenient for communities to maintain their systems by stocking a regional chlorine tablet bank in a town nearby.

The water system in Las Palomas.

“Currently we have better chlorination than before because the chlorinator is working 24 hours a day,” said Porfirio, “Now we have the expense for the purchase of chlorine tablets and maintenance of the chlorinator, but it is a positive thing, because we are avoiding diseases.  The expense would be much more to treat people who are ill, compared to the expense of chlorine that we buy every month, which are 10 tablets that are used to disinfect the water and turn it into safe drinking water.”

The Las Palomas CAPS always maintains a constant supply of chlorine tablets, and coordinates with Orlando for follow-up visits to monitor the operation and use of the water chlorinator system.  They are one of the communities that has assimilated very well the objectives and strategies of the Clean Water Program, which is to improve the quality of community water intended for human consumption.