"We Will Rise Up" – Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

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“We Will Rise Up!”

Puerto Rico

 
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Hurricane Maria blasted through Puerto Rico on September 20th. Many weeks later, residents were 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 was taking to long.

ARDF has been partnering with three different ministries to deliver aid to Puerto Rico. Here is 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 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, elderly and infirm. 

Working with the US Federal 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.

 Community meetings are the first step in deciding if a solar installation is a viable option. 

Community meetings are the first step in deciding if a solar installation is a viable option. 

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, 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 experienced in working with community leaders to discuss the long term financial sustainability of these systems. The Water Mission team recently installed such a system in Buenos Aires, 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.”

Nine months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Water Mission is still working on the ground in Puerto Rico. To date, nine solar powered systems have been commissioned and another dozen will be operational by the end of the summer. According to Mark Baker, Director of Disaster Response, more communities are embracing the chance to "control their own destiny," by not being reliant on the electrical power grid for their water. As long as there are opportunities to bring solar to these communities, Water Mission will remain in Puerto Rico.

Thanks to you and other donors, Water Mission has helped over 45 communities recover after Hurricane Maria. To learn more, watch this short video highlighting the work of Water Mission, a group ARDF is proud to partner with!

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