El Limon Takes Action to Acquire Good Quality Water

By Orlando Jose Montiel, Clean Water Program Officer, Self-Help International Nicaragua

El Limón is a rural community located approximately 45 kilometers northeast of the city of Nueva Guinea in south central Nicaragua. It has a population of 450 people living in 90 houses distributed along two main streets leading to the old road to Bluefields.

For many years El Limón had a shallow open stream for a water source, in poor condition, which required people to carry water long distances to meet the needs of their homes. This was the situation until May 2023, when the Mayor’s Office of Nueva Guinea began to support the residents of El Limón by donating PVC pipes and accessories, a plastic tank to store wáter and other materials for the construction of a gravity water supply system which would carry water by pipes to each of the houses in the community. To make this project possible, the Mayor’s Office technician, David Ortega, asked the population for all possible support. The population organized and worked hard, digging trenches from the wáter source to the homes of each family, burying the PVC pipes, and installing the water system and plastic tank, doing all this in record time.

Having completed the entire construction process of the water distribution system, the next issue that the wáter management committee (CAPS) of El Limón had to resolve was water purification. With this new system they could look for ways to not have to drink untreated  wáter, as they did before, which gave rise to many health problems such as diarrhea and fever. One of the doctors at the community health center proposed  doing a study of the quality of the water that the residents consumed.  He sent a sample of the water to a laboratory in Bluefields, which confirmed that the wáter was contaminated.

Once everyone was sure of the next step to follow, they contacted the technician from the Mayor’s Office to ask if he knew anyone who could help them purify the wáter.  He told them that the Clean Water Program promoted by Self-Help International (SHI) covered the region of New Guinea and was responsible for this type of work.  SHI could provide water treatment and other benefits that they could receive for free. Then the CAPs members told the technichian that they wanted to be part of that program, to improve the quality of the water in their community.

The technician from the Mayor’s Office contacted Orlando Montiel, Clean Water Program officer at Self-Help International, to ask for training on water quality and the use of manual chlorinators with chlorine tablets.  This resulted in an alliance between them to help rural communities in Nueva Guinea improve the quality of the water they consumed.

The training sessions were provided by the SHI program officer.  The participation of the El Limón CAPS members was impressive, since generally people do not like this type of meeting.  This community showed interest in everything related to the topic of water. The directors of the CAPS were eager to acquire a chlorinator to make the water drinkable, because according to their own words “If this contaminated water is not chlorinated, it can make the people who drink it sick.”

By October 2023 the chlorinator was installed inside the water distribution tank. This tank is located in the high part of the town, so that the water is delivered by gravity through PVC connections to each home. The SHI Clean Water Program also provides training in the use and maintenance of the chlorinator as well as in monitoring the chlorine tablets, thus providing better service to the population. Currently the community is purifying 20,000 liters of water per day, which is available to the entire population.

The community is aware of the importance of using the chlorine tablets to purify the water and make it safe for health, although at the beginning it was difficult for them to get used to the new taste of the wáter.  They continued the process because they understood the importance of chlorination, arguing that it was just a matter of getting used to it.  Now they feel secure because in addition to not having to carry water long distances, they also have safe water to drink and are avoiding many wáter-borne diseases

The assembly attending a meeting related to clean water