Water Engineers for the Americas has been working since 2004 with a Bolivian development group called Suma Jayma (Aymara for Community Good Works) to provide funding and technical expertise in carrying out dozens of projects to provide safe and sustainable access to water for thousands of Bolivians in the “altiplano” (highlands) around Bolivia’s capital La Paz.
To see water and sanitation facts, please visit: washfunders.org
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, ranking 95th out of 169 countries in the UNDP’s 2010 human development index. Bolivia’s health indicators are among the lowest in South America, with one child in 16 dying before the age of five, and one woman in 89 dying during pregnancy or childbirth. More than 25% of the rural population does not have access to safe drinking water, with nearly 40% of the entire population lacking access to basic sanitation services.
To combat these sobering statistics, WEFTA and Suma Jayma tailor projects to meet different communities’ needs and structure. For clustered communities, we build centralized water delivery systems, where water pipes from a spring catchment at the water source to a large storage tank and then distribute it to households or centrally located standpipes. In other communities, where the homes are too spread out to make a central distribution network feasible, families dig wells in their front yards–generally about 10 feet deep to reach the water table–and Suma Jayma provides the materials and technical assistance to line the wells with concrete and install a hand pump at the wellhead for pumping the water. No matter which type of project is implemented, both WEFTA and Suma Jayma require the participation of the entire community in providing the manual labor necessary to complete the project. This can mean digging trenches for waterlines or digging the wells in each household, as well as collecting and delivering locally available materials such as sand and gravel.
Between December 2012 and May 2013, WEFTA purchased, refurbished and shipped a used drilling rig to Bolivia so that Suma Jayma can greatly expand its ability to reach more families and communities still in desperate need of safe and sustainable water sources. Members of Suma Jayma trained in Texas, and drillers from Texas went to Bolivia to train Suma Jayma when the first well was drilled in spring of 2013 for a private individual. A second well was drilled in 2014 for 28 families. WEFTA is now seeking funds–particularly from corporate and nonprofit funders in Bolivia–for start-up costs to drill more wells. Because these well are much deeper, the material costs to drill and stabilize them is approximately $6,000.
Every time one we send a crew on a trip to either help or assess a community, we ask our volunteers to write a trip report that details the trip through their eyes. These documents will give you both a look into what it is like being a volunteer and a different perspective on our efforts to help communities. The photo-based reports redirect you to our Google+ photo albums.
Click here to see photos of the May 2013 drill training with Jason Gehrig and Dale White.
Click here to see photos of our work in Bolivia.
Click here for a statistical summary (PDF) of our projects in all countries as of 2013.