Water For People

Small in stature but big in heart, Amadeo Rojas will do anything to make sure his community has water.

Whether being lowered down 50 meters to clean a well, rinsing out the inside of a water tower, or doing weekly inspections of the water system, Amadeo is the man for the job. He’s been a member of the water committee in the small town of Capellania in the district of Arani, Bolivia, for 10 years. The committee is tasked with managing the water system and making sure every family has reliable drinking water.

Capellania lies in a valley, surrounded by fields of cactus rising into dusty brown foothills. Amadeo and Miguel, the water committee’s president, walk between the lines of cactus to one of the town’s water sources. The water is pumped from a well up into the water tower, explains Amadeo. Then it’s fed by gravity to houses in Capellania.

Ruddy-faced and soft-spoken, Miguel is the current president of the water committee. He has lived in Capellania his entire life.

“Before we had water, life was hard,” he says. “My children were suffering because of it. Every morning we would have to go and collect water from the river. We were very happy when we got water.”

Miguel says constructing this water system was extremely challenging – more difficult than anyone anticipated.

“When we dug this first well, we found huge rocks,” Miguel says. “We needed to call every family in the community to help pull the rocks from the well.”

They used trucks and tractors to remove the boulders, but the construction was so difficult it took a year to complete. When the system was finally done, life changed for everyone in Capellania.

“The first thing to change was the health of children,” says Miguel.

Not only did children stop getting sick from drinking contaminated river water, but they saved an hour or more each day they used to spend fetching water.

The water tower Miguel and Amadeo are standing under was the first one for the community, and it served the 29 families who lived in Capellania when it was built. But as soon as the community got water, the town started to grow – people heard that life was better in Capellania. Soon there were 46 families, and the current water source wasn’t enough.

The Capellania water committee partnered with the Arani district government and Water For People to dig a second well and build another water tower to make sure every family in the town had safe water. All the community members helped dig the well and trenches for the second water system, just like they had for the first.

They completed the system last year, and now every family in the growing town has water.

“Now, we feel free to use water whenever we want,” says Miguel. “For cooking, washing hands, taking a bath.”

Miguel and Amadeo now have confidence that every family will have the water they need to live happily and healthily. They want it to stay that way Forever, so now they’re focusing their water committee’s efforts on sustainability.

To make sure their community’s water supply is sustainable, the committee adjusted the water tariff based on a tool Water For People developed called AtWhatCost. The tool helps communities understand all the costs associated with operation and maintenance of their system and make sure finances are available for future repairs. Amadeo even utilized his background in computer repair to develop a software for accurately collecting tariffs.

“Before, when the records from reading micrometers were kept manually, people were often arguing about the price,” says Amadeo. “Now with this software, families are confident they’re paying for exactly what their micrometer says they use.”

Each year, the district organizes a fair about drinking water, and all the district’s water committees participate and share their practices in maintaining their system. At the fair, the mayor presents an award to the water committee that is best managing their water system.

“Of the 40 water committees that participated in the fair, we have won the past two years,” says Amadeo, clearly proud of their accomplishment. “We’ve demonstrated that we are managing the system well and taking on the responsibility of sustainability.”

Amadeo, Miguel, and the other members of the water committee are all volunteers. Miguel works in construction by day and Amadeo repairs computers – they have busy lives and both have families. But Everyone in Capellania trusts Amadeo and Miguel’s care of the water system. They know local leaders like these men will do whatever it takes to make sure their families have reliable water services– Forever.

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