Hurricane Maria blasted through Puerto Rico on September 20th. Six weeks later, many residents are still without power and clean water. The island’s motto is now “Puerto Rico se levanta” or “We will rise up!” but for many people, this is taking to long.
ARDF is partnering with three different ministries to deliver aid to Puerto Rico. This week, we bring you a report from one of them: Water Mission. Water Mission is a Christian engineering nonprofit that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas. To date, Water Mission has already brought clean water to eleven communities on the island of Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico, a continued lack of electricity has augmented the water crisis. Even working water systems can’t operate without power. Without electricity, the sewage cleaning systems won’t operate and people cannot boil water to make it safe. Lack of drinkable water quickly leads to a health crisis, especially among the young, the elderly, and the infirm.
Working with the United States Government, Water Mission has been asked to assess and repair municipal water systems. Sometimes this was an “easy” fix, such as sourcing a generator to provide power and then fixing a damaged pressure switch.
However, in some communities, Water Mission has been able to demonstrate the benefits of a solar powered water system. Incredibly, these solar systems require less maintenance than systems run by generators. Additionally, by investing in solar now, communities get clean water now—and can continue to source clean water during any future power disruptions! There is exciting potential for this across Puerto Rico and the team is working with community leaders to discuss the long term financial sustainability of solar powered systems. The Water Mission team recently installed such a system in Aguas Buenas, Caguas.
“Through community meetings with our staff, we worked through the long-term financial sustainability [of such a system] and the safe water committee decided to raise rates which would cover a security guard, replacement battery, and racking system for the solar panels. Now they are able to provide water in their community as well as other neighboring communities that don’t have water yet. They were very proud to be the first community in the area to be powered by solar.”
There is still plenty of work to do! Three hundred rural communities get their water from local municipalities, not the larger Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA). Despite jubilation in the eleven communities served, there are still more communities in need.
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