Guatemala: Potable Water Supply
Founded: 2006 (MTU Chapter's First Project)
Location: Fronterizo, Guatemala
Fronterizo is small village located in northern Guatemala, close to the Mexican border. The people of Fronterizo have requested our help to bring them a potable water supply. Today, their water comes from a series of “wells” scattered around town. However, these are little more than shallow depressions in the ground filled with muddy water.
Through this project, we hope to improve the overall health and well being of the community by reducing the incidences of water born diseases, reducing child mortality, ensuring environmental sustainability and help improve their economic situation. CCGAP and the MTU chapter of Engineers Without Borders will make subsequent visits to Fronterizo after the completion of the project to ensure its long-term sustainability. However, the people of Fronterizo will be ultimately in charge of all aspects of the project, instilling a sense of ownership and ensuring its long-term success.
The team completed an assessment trip in November 2006 to ascertain the community needs. This trip consisted of three students who traveled to Fronterizo with CCGAP to do an in depth community assessment. They determined the needs and desires of the people through community meetings, interviews and surveys. Secondly, that group completed an engineering assessment to find the best engineering solution using technology that is appropriate to that village. They considered multiple water collection options including hand dug wells, rainwater collection, and pumping systems to bring water up from the river. Lastly, the team completed a health survey of Fronterizo to determine which diseases the community suffered most from.
The team also traveled in March of 2007 for the implementation portion of the project. Based on community input from our November 2006 assessment trip, they constructed two hand dug wells in the communities of Fronterizo and Nueva Libertad using a modified design based on traditional caisson lined wells. The wells were approximately 8 meters deep with a 1.1 meter diameter. They were sealed with a concrete cap and a direct action hand pump of the Bomba Maya style.
Fronterizo was established on May 10, 1995 by Guatemalan refugees returning from Mexico where they had fled during Guatemala’s Civil War. It is made up of approximately 300 indigenous people from all over Guatemala. The citizens are predominately of Mayan ancestry, but they speak Spanish within the community. A large percentage of Fronterizo’s population is less than 18 years old since most of the working population must leave the village to work or for continuing education.
The main economy in Fronterizo is subsistence farming using slash and burn agriculture and selling items on a nearby Mexican highway. However, remittances are becoming more and more common as many of its citizens are working abroad in Mexico and the United States.
Their political structure is highly democratic.
Fronterizo is located in a remote region of Guatemala close to the Mexican border on the Rio Ixcan. It is a 14 hour bus journey from Guatemala City (on a good day). Access to is limited to a rafts which the villagers use to transport people and goods from the road across the river.
After the civil war, the citizens of Fronterizo were worried about continued persectution so the Copper Country GuatGuatemalan Accompaniment Project (CCGAP) was founded. CCGAP's role was to act as protectors for the village during the unstable period following the civil war. To date, CCGAP helped Fronterizo obtain a day care center, sanitary latrines, mosquito nets, cooking pots, medicines, and scholarships.