The following guest post is from Water for People – an organization that works to establish reliable safe water systems for developing countries. The first hand volunteer story below highlights the importance of water conservation for everyone.
Don Gregorio Understands the Water Challenges in His Community
As we leave the rural Peruvian town at 6:30am, the only sounds heard are those of motorbikes and trucks accelerating rapidly toward their morning destinations on narrow, paved roads. Pavement covers the road until the edge of town, turning into dirt roads meandering around the jagged foothills of the Peruvian Andes. Climbing higher and higher, the number of mud-brick homes lining the roadside thins out. Water becomes scarcer with each foot gained, with the highland households heavily dependent on mountain springs for their domestic and agricultural water needs.
At 9,000 feet, our van halts in our first community. My monitoring team slowly scans the central square for our guide for the day, Don Gregorio, the mayoral representative in the community of Casman. As an elected official tasked with overseeing the community’s development, Don Gregorio knows the exact location of the water sources and the challenges experienced by his neighbors in accessing potable water.
He warmly greets us on this cold, breezy morning. It’s rare to greet guests from across the world, so Don Gregorio is eager to host us in his home, giving him the opportunity to properly introduce us to the land, the water struggles facing the community, and their efforts to improve access for households and agriculture. After being treated to coffee and snacks, Don Gregorio outlines the route we’re taking and invites a fellow resident to accompany us.
Knowing his guests are not accustomed to higher altitudes, both gentlemen keep slow paces ascending the mountainsides.
Hiking to the first mountain spring is no easy task. Trekking at this altitude is a challenge. Armed with a machete, our guides chop and hack through thick brush grown to deter animals or passers-by from easily accessing the spring. There aren’t many mountain springs near the community Don Gregorio explains, “We must protect and conserve the ones we have so our children can raise their families in this same place.” In total, two springs are used for the town’s day-to-day activities, with one large irrigation canal cutting through the territory. Due to the demand during the dry season and the scarcity of water, the agricultural user water association must ration the water for each community.
Data collection for reporting and monitoring is not easy, but for this team it’s the reward of knowing efforts have made an impact to improve water delivery and its quality that inspires individuals on such an adventure. One volunteer whispers to me “my life will never be the same after this trip.” Indeed, many who have the privilege of experiencing Water For People’s country programs in person rarely leave without being affected in a profound way. For more information, please visit www.waterforpeople.org.
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