La Laguneta Water Supply, El Salvador

El Savador - La LagunetaThe 650 residents of San Antonio La Laguneta live in a small basin-like area high on the spectacular San Vicente volcano in central El Salvador amid coffee plantations, corn fields and orange groves. Their water comes mainly from several shallow, hand-dug water wells in one part of the community, augmented during the May through October rainy season with rainfall runoff collected from the roofs of their houses. The water wells receive recharge from precipitation falling on the land surface above the shallow aquifer. The only common system for disposal of human waste is pit latrines, which are also dug into the soil above the same shallow aquifer. The infiltrating precipitation leaches contaminants from the soil, and although the groundwater has good chemical quality, it is contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria.

Water scarcity is a major problem during the dry season every year, when the wells do not provide enough water to meet the community’s needs. Water is rationed then, and each family is limited to between 10 and 15 gallons of water per day for all their drinking, cooking, washing and hygiene needs (the average family in the U.S. uses 400 to 600 gallons per day). Hygiene (hand washing, etc.) usually is the first need to go unmet, and as a result the family often suffers from more illness during water-short times.

Water for the Americas helped students with the Colorado State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders design and implement improvements to the La Laguneta water system. The project resulted from community surveys, including a detailed health survey, conducted by a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in the area in 2004-2006. The community members identified their most important need as a reliable, year-round water supply.

The project team met with community members, the community’s development association, and their water committee and conducted a preliminary survey of water availability and the geologic and hydrologic conditions in the vicinity. From that information, several prospective sites for water wells were identified and prioritized. With funding from the Rotary Clubs of Fort Collins and Broomfield, Colorado and San Salvador, El Salvador, grant money from Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation and private donations, two 30-meter deep water wells were drilled. The wells were not as productive as had been hoped, but hand pumps were installed and the wells now add to the water supply, which makes a significant improvement during the later part of the dry season.

Rotary Club funds also were used to refurbish an old, concrete water tank by constructing a concrete roof, adding a chlorination system, and installing several taps. Other donations allowed an electric submersible pump to be installed on one of the existing hand-dug wells, and the water from that well was piped through the chlorination system and into the tank.

Later, geophysical surveys were conducted to better identify the subsurface hydrogeologic conditions and allow more effective siting of one or two new wells. Hand-dug wells were installed at two locations where the conditions were most favorable. A new tank was built near one of the new wells to provide closer access to water for the part of the community farthest from the old wells. The project is nearing completion.