Water is such a fundamental need, we have made it our priority to install water projects and ensure that they are functioning properly.
Many villages on the Altiplano still lack access to clean water. Families will often get their water from open wells or nearby streams and often spend up to 30-45 minutes every day fetching water for their daily needs. The water is not usually fit for consumption and can cause problems such as diarrhea. This is especially problematic for young children. The lack of sufficient water can also cause problems such as skin rashes. Having access to clean water is vital for healthy families and communities.
QBL partners with villages and local governments to provide clean water to each home. The local government usually provides 30% of the total cost, a good indication that it is a project that the local village wants. Our water projects usually take three different forms:
• Gravity fed systems: The village identifies nearby springs in the surrounding hills as a water source. We capture this water and pipe it to a storage tank, where it is then distributed to the surrounding homes. This is the easiest system and requires the least amount of maintenance and operating costs over the life of the system.
• Hand pumps: Sometimes it is just not possible to efficiently use nearby springs. Fortunately the Altiplano has a shallow water table which is perfect for hand pumps. The villagers dig their individual wells, usually averaging 5-10 meters (15-30 feet) deep. QBL and local government funding provides the hand pumps to each villager.
• Electrical Pumps: When either gravity fed systems or hand pumps are feasible, we will install an electrical pump which supplies water to a storage tank to be distributed to the village homes. Due to the cost of the pump and digging the deeper well, we usually partner with other aid agencies to cover those costs. We have recently partnered with the German aid agency GTZ to supply water to two communities with this sort of system.
With each project, we train the families in hygiene, how to properly use and store water, and how to maintain their new water systems. We pay special attention to working with the children, working with the school to provide special training for them. Each child receives a hygiene kit, which includes a bar of soap, tooth paste, tooth brush, wash cloth and other small items that will encourage the children start these healthy habits as soon as they can.
Since the community is doing most of the work, they learn how to fix problems that might occur. We also work with each village to set up guidelines for dealing with conflicts and how to use the system appropriately. These guidelines are developed and approve in community assemblies, ensuring broad support.
Our hope is that these projects will last 30 years. To work towards a long-term impact, we ask each community to take responsibility for the long-term sustainability of their project.
• A water committee is democratically elected by the community and is responsible for maintaining the system.
• Each villager contributes a small monthly amount to the community “sustainability fund.” This fund covers regular maintenance needs when they arise.
QBL commits to visiting the community regularly to ensure that the water system is functioning properly. We provide any technical help that they may need. After three or four years, we do a thorough evaluation to review how the water committee is working, how the water system if functioning and measure the impact that the water system has had village health.
Tiji Chucapaca Water Project
The Challenge: With a population of 65 inhabitants, Tiji Chucapaca is another community with no ready access to water for human consumption. The water in this location is saline and so it can only be used occasionally for animal consumption only, not for human consumption. To subsist, families need to dig deep wells to have access to water or, most of the time, they need to walk large distances in order to get water for consumption. Another challenge is the structure of the land which it makes hard to build the wells.The Impact: This project is just beginning and next year will provide wells and access to clean water for the 26 families greatly improving their lives and their health and hygiene. They will also learn how to perform the maintenance of these water systems.
Chullunkani Water Project
The Challenge: Many rural communities in Bolivia like Chullunkani have sparse populations living in rural poverty and experiencing inadequate access to sanitation and struggling to access water. The quantity and quality of water in these areas has declined significantly due to climate change. As of 2015, only 76% have access to improved water sources and QBL is addressing this problem and giving communities that basic human right that we sometimes take for granted. The Impact: This project had previously provided a water supply for the community and has now been extended to include service for toilets and for water troughs for the sheep and llamas. A drainage system has been planned and developed so that gray water can be reused for irrigation purposes. Water supply and sanitation projects like this one have significant impacts on people’s lives, extending far beyond expected improvements to health and reduction in time spent collecting water.
Yaribay Water Project
The community of Yaribay is made up of three sub-communities: San Francisco de Yaribay, Centro Yaribay and Rosapata Yaribay. The community is situated at an altitude of approximately 13,000 feet above sea level, and is about 108 kilometers (3.5 hours by road) from the city of El Alto/La Paz. There is a school in the sub-community of Centro Yaribay with approximately 120 students from first grade through fourth year of secondary school. There is a small elementary school in each of the other two sub-communities with a total of about 80 students. The economy of Yaribay is based primarily on agriculture. Homes within the community are dispersed, and typically constructed with adobe bricks, straw and corrugated metal roofing. The community members speak Aymara and Spanish.The Challenge: Families who live in this community have no access to safe and healthy water. In times of drought, the situation gets worse. They can only count on open wells with poor quality water and these are located at long distances from the majority of homes. Currently water is also obtained from water holes shared with animals and from the local river which is brackish and not clean. Children and women and have to walk great distances to bring water to their homes. Over the years, the Municipality was not able to fulfill the need for a clean water supply because of their insufficient funds.
Junuta Condoroca Water Project
The population of Junuta Condoroca is 130 people. It includes the villages of Chujchuni, Piedra Pata, Walunusu and Parcocota. These villages face many challenges but the most significant is the lack of water suitable for human consumption. The remoteness of sources of water means that people must walk large distances to collect water. The families are established in ‘sayanas’ (a group of a number of families) and sometimes use animals to transport the quantity of water they need.The Challenge: The following problems existed for the community: Lack of sources of water suitable for human consumption; High incidence of diarrhea in the population under 5 years of age; Polluted water sources due to open air exposure and presence of other animals; and Remote water sources.The Impact: QBL worked with the community to install new water systems. Three systems for pumping and 6 wells were installed to supply safe water. The community improved their knowledge in standards of health, hygiene and care for the environment, particularly the care for water. They applied the training and knowledge acquired in their daily lives. They perform regular maintenance of the system themselves and are responsible for the operation and administration of their new water system.