El Carrizal Water Supply, Guatemala

Pump House El Carrizal, GuatemalaThe aldea of El Carrizal is in the municipality of San Jacinto in the department of Chiquimula, southeastern Guatemala. El Carrizal occupies a large hilly area cut by one of the main rivers of the area. The river and some springs in the area comprised the main sources of water for the 660 members of the community, but they are contaminated with bacteria. The residents typically carried the water long distances to their homes, often uphill. The availability of water from these sources becomes even more of a problem during the six-month dry season, when the spring flows decrease.

In an effort to bring water to the community, the municipality constructed a water supply and distribution system consisting of a commercially-drilled water well, a water tank with 80 cubic meters (about 21,000 gallons) of capacity, and a gravity-driven water distribution piping system from the tank to the homes in the community. The construction and equipping of the well was not completed, so the water system went unused.

The water committee of El Carrizal approached the Rotary Club of Chiquimula de la Sierra to request help in solving the problem of the incomplete and unusable water system. It was thought that the well might simply need cleaning and equipping with an adequate submersible pump. However, the well provided less than one gallon per minute, less than one-tenth of what the community needed, and so was not usable.

The community members identified two sets of springs they wanted to use to supply water to the existing tank and distribution system. While the project was being organized, one set of springs was tapped by a few nearby residents who decided they could not wait for the community water project to go forward. Those springs thus became unavailable to the community water project, which cut the available quantity of water in half. The water supply from the lower set of springs alone was insufficient to meet all of the community’s needs.

Water for the Americas provided technical assistance by designing a shallow, horizontal well to tap groundwater in the river valley’s sand and gravel aquifer near the lower springs. The water from the horizontal well made up the needed difference in flow. We designed structures to capture the water from the lower set of springs and pipe it to a collection tank between the springs and the horizontal well.

El-Carrizal Water ProjectThe community identified a route for a transmission pipeline from the collection tank to the distribution tank, and Water for the Americas designed the pipeline and the support structures for aerial crossings where the pipeline crossed two deep ravines. The water from the springs and well is pumped up to the existing distribution tank, which will be equipped with a chlorination system to remove bacterial contamination, and will flow to the homes through the existing distribution piping.

The water supply portion of the project was completed in May 2009, the distribution system testing and repair was completed in July 2009, and the entire system was cleaned, disinfected and started in August 2009.

This was truly a joint effort by everyone involved. Funding provided by the Rotary Clubs of Chiquimula de la Sierra, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Fort Collins and Broomfield, Colorado, with a matching grant from Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation, was used to purchase materials and pumps. The El Carrizal residents provided the manual labor to install the 1.3 kilometers of buried piping for the transmission line. The municipality of San Jacinto hired masons to construct the collection tank, provided materials and labor to bring in electrical power to supply the pumps in the well and collection tank, and helped coordinate and manage the construction with members of the Chiquimula de la Sierra Rotary Club and Water for the Americas.

The water system will be operated and maintained by the El Carrizal water committee with funds generated by fees charged to the water system users. Rates were set so as to be affordable by the families but still provide the money to pay pumping costs, maintain the piping and chlorination systems, and periodically replace the pump. The improvement brought about by the water system will be gauged by comparison of future health surveys to a detailed survey made before the water system construction began