Rotary provides drinking water to rural communities

By Robin Loving Rowland

“The world water shortage looks unsolvable,” said an article in Scientific American earlier this year. Good thing your local Rotary Club doesn’t believe everything it reads…

“Sometimes people see a problem and think it’s too big to solve,” said SMAS Rotary Midday President Lee Carter. But, Rotarian Laura Stewart didn’t have that perspective when she decided to solve the rural water shortage.

Hearing that rural water here has poisonous quantities of arsenic and fluoride, she recruited volunteer experts to do a needs analysis that confirmed the facts, and determined that collecting pure rainwater from roofs and storing them in cisterns is a permanent and sustainable way to rectify the problem.

Stewart then enlisted Rotary Clubs in the US and Canada to empower rural citizens to work cooperatively to change their communities for the better and for the benefit of all. Some would call this a hand up instead of a hand out.

These projects are recipient-driven: the communities have to ask for the assistance in order to receive it, for we’ve all seen projects where outsiders thought a solution worthwhile, but people in the community thought differently. Members from the rural communities of Los Torres, Juan Gonzalez, and Cruz del Palmar, which lie down some of the worst roads in the world, constructed cisterns and learned to maintain them.

CEDESA was called in to lend technical support and lead in community development.

Rotarians raised funds for materials and necessary technical consultations.

The result is that now communities have solutions to their water problems and processes to solve additional problems as well, for they learned community development in the process of learning how to make cisterns, and sustainability to their former water problems.

To date, Rotary has, with its partners, helped to build 605 rain water-harvesting systems in 22 rural communities, 20 schools, and one church, affecting 584 families, or nearly 5,000 people with only US$325,000 invested, some of which came from the San Miguel Community Foundation, or an average of only US$65 per person for a lifetime of drinking water.

Materials and other direct costs represent 92 percent of the total. Each family put in an average of 28 days of labor, which at the average wage of 30 pesos/hour comes to around 6,720 pesos worth of sweat equity per family. This in dollars comes to around US$650, about the same amount invested by Rotary per cistern.

There is now an organized rural community that needs 165 more cisterns. Will you help? For more information, contact Carter at Rotary unites leaders from all countries, cultures and occupations to exchange ideas and take action for communities around the world.


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