Agua Zarca Water Supply, Guatemala

Agua-ZarcaAgua Zarca is a rural aldea (small community) in a mountainous part of southeastern Guatemala. The community is spread out over several steep hills, so supplying water to the whole community from one source and with one distribution system was not possible. A small part of the community was served by an old, spring-fed, gravity-operated water distribution system. The larger part of the community was without easy access to water, and the residents either carried poor quality water long distances from small, intermittent streams or purchased it at high prices. The situation was worse during the six-month dry season, when the streams sometimes go dry.

The community’s water committee had plans: the identified two undeveloped springs that could supply water to two new distribution systems that would serve most remaining parts of the community currently without water. The water committee and municipality had flow data but no water quality data for the springs. The springs are at elevations high enough for the water systems to work by gravity, and their flow is dependable even during the dry season. Water from these two small springs would supply year-around water to 850 of the remaining 1,000 residents of Agua Zarca currently without easy access to water.

The two new distribution systems were preliminarily designed with government funds years ago. Water for the Americas and several Rotary Clubs completed the final design, tested the water quality and provided assistance for construction of the water systems. Funding provided by the Rotary Clubs of Chiquimula de la Sierra; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Fort Collins and Broomfield, Colorado; and North Platte, Nebraska, along with a matching grant from Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation was used to purchase materials and hire skilled labor.

The Agua Zarca residents provided the manual labor to install the several kilometers of buried piping for the transmission and distribution lines. The municipality of San Jacinto, the members of the Chiquimula de la Sierra Rotary Club and Water for the Americas jointly provided construction management and supervision services. Construction was completed in September 2009. The water systems are being operated and maintained by the Agua Zarca water committee with funds generated by fees charged to the water system users. A baseline health survey was conducted at the start of our involvement in the project to allow later evaluation of the health effects of installing these water systems. Follow-up surveys will be conducted a year after start-up of the new systems.