Attacking A Global Water Crisis—One Well At A Time
BY ROBERTO MOLAR CANDANOSA ’13 (Reprinted with permission from The Texas Aggie.)
It’s 5 a.m. in the village of Paso Real, Nicaragua, and Adrian is already up. He puts on some clothes and grabs two empty buckets to set out on a 3-mile walk on a dirt road. After walking for about an hour, he fills his two buckets with water from a well and returns home.
The way back is a little harder. Adrian is only 11 and the two buckets of water are almost as big and heavy as he is. But he doesn’t stop, or pant or complain. His family—all 15 members—needs water to drink, grow plants, and feed the animals they use for food.
Clean water is a luxury in Paso Real and many other parts of the world. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that about 750 million people worldwide—more than twice the population of the United States—lack access to clean water. Drinking dirty water often results in disease and death. For example, WHO estimates that 3.3 million people—about the population of Los Angeles — die in developing countries every year due to waterborne disease. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under 5 years old worldwide.
At Texas A&M, a recently established student organization called Just4Water is doing its part to ameliorate the water crisis. J4W was born in summer 2013 when several undergraduates formed a group to think of ways to put their engineering knowledge to work. Guillermo Gomez-Salas ’13, co-founder of J4W and now a graduate student in water resources engineering, said he wanted to do something useful with his major. “First I was looking at building houses, but then I found out about the statistics of clean water scarcity, water-related deaths, and villages like Paso Real all over the world,” he said. Gomez-Salas and some of his class¬mates designed a plan for their organization and consulted several engineering professors. By spring 2014, J4W became a student organization recognized by Texas A&M. Now they are a functioning student organization of about 45 students.
The model of J4W, adopted from a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma called Water4, provides self-sustain¬able and affordable water solutions to impoverished communities. J4W partners with nonprofit organizations and local people in developing countries, equips them with affordable drilling and pumping tools, and trains them to build water wells. “We don’t just go and build them a well,” said Gomez-Salas. “We teach the local people how to do it, and we leave them the tools so they can continue expanding our reach—it’s teaching them to fish instead of just giving them the fish.”
J4W built their first well in Paso Real, Nicaragua, in summer 2014. That well yields water for about 75 people, who have already used the same tools to build five more wells. Those wells should be functional for 10-15 years, providing accessible and clean water for villagers such as 11-year-old Adrian.
In summer 2015, J4W also drilled wells in Guatemala and El Salvador. As they settle down from their sec¬ond trip, they look ahead to fundraisers and further training to make their next trip possible in 2016. “The most important thing here is working passionately and passing along that passion to new members,” Gomez-Salas said. “Members of J4W are known for working hard, so if we continue to do that, we can definitely achieve our goals.”
Read the full article and see more images at tx.ag/Just4Water.