Few politicians and agencies find it worth their while to help the residents of the rugged Sierra de Omoa in northwestern Honduras with their potable water problems. NGOs find the topography and limited access challenging with a high risk of project failure; politicians find the sparsely-populated region an infertile ground for votes. Many rural communities (populations about 100 to 400) have been without reliable, safe potable water supplies for their entire existence. To help remedy this problem, the author has worked in the area since 2001 assisting Hondurans Rolando Lpez, Alex del Cid Vsquez and local villagers construct five community water systems in the Municipio de Omoa. University of New Mexico students worked in this area with the author from 2001 through 2005; descriptions of these trips can be found in Water Resources IMPACT (http://bit.ly/9ColgZ) and the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education (http://is.gd/XgmI38).
More recently, the Ann Campana Judge Foundation has partnered with Omoa and its mayor, Prof. Ricardo Alvarado, to bring potable water to three communities, Brisas del Rio Cuyamel, Los Mejias, and Las Palmas. Rolando Lpez and Alex del Cid Vsquez continue to play major roles: the former as a manager and facilitator and the latter as the project engineer and Omoa municipal councilor (through 2013). Prof. Alvarado has marshaled the forces of the municipal government to provide transportation, road maintenance, human power, and assistance with other jurisdictions.
The successful work in the aforementioned villages has prompted Omoa and the ACJF to continue their collaboration. Each village must request a system and exhibit strong support for same; no village is forced to accept a water system nor will a village receive one without overwhelming community support. Before a project is started or even designed, the community's residents are organized, a junta de agua (water committee) formed with tasks, training, financing, and responsibilities identified. Watershed stewardship and elementary sanitation (latrines, etc.) are also introduced. At that point, SANAA (Servicio Autnomo Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados), the Honduran government agency responsible for rural water supply, approves each project and agrees to provide support after the project's completion to ensure some measure of sustainability. Simple gravity flow systems are constructed using a small dam and reservoir, ferroconcrete tank with a chlorinator, and PVC and/or GI (galvanized iron) piping to provide each residence with a tap. Water is to be used for household use only; irrigation using project water is proscribed.
The partnership provides benefits beyond potable water. For example, road maintenance needed for equipment access assists villagers in getting their products to market; students traveling to school; and transportation and commerce in general. Politicians benefit by acquiring political capital. In particular, they are seen helping their constituents obtain one of the necessities of life ‐ a reliable supply of potable water.
The author and his colleague Sr. Lpez are developing plans to once again include students in the projects to provide experiential learning and cross-cultural experiences for both US and Honduran students. Security issues are hampering efforts to bring US students to the area. The author and Sr. Lpez are also hopeful of eventually establishing a school, Escuela Tcnica de Agua Potable (ETAP), or Technical School of Freshwater, to train local students to meet rural potable water needs in Honduras.