Can Families Lacking Water Wash Their Hands Multiple Times a Day? 


By Bruce Janklow

For years residents of Agustín González, a small rural community located within the municipality of San Miguel de Allende, have known that there are problems with their water as many of the children began developing dental fluorosis—the deep brown staining of their teeth. Caminos de Agua tested the community well and found the highest levels of fluoride ever registered in San Miguel, more than four times above the World Health Organization recommended limit. That motivated a group of local high school students to join together to do something about the situation. Working with Caminos de Agua and partner organization, El Maíz Más Pequeño, the students’ first impact was the construction of a rainwater harvesting system at their local high school. This system will generate safe drinking water and also act as a vehicle to educate residents about this important, readily available solution.

Feeling empowered by their initial success, the students worked with Caminos de Agua to build 11 more systems in homes of families affected by local water issues. Many of these families suffer from severe water scarcity, often requiring additional water to be trucked in. The water network is over-stressed to the point where some of the participating families only receive water every 15 days. This is a major challenge at any time but especially in the time of Covid-19.

How can families wash their hands multiple times a day—the most effective way to lower the spread of the virus—if they don’t have enough water?

The 11 household rainwater systems are being rushed to completion. Originally timed to be available for the rainy season this year, they are now being completed to beat the arrival of the Covid-19. When this goal is met, these families will have an additional water source that is both safe for drinking as well as washing their hands and keeping surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Too many other communities aren’t as lucky: more than 2,500 rural communities that depend on the Alto Río Laja Aquifer are suffering from severe limits to water access. As Covid-19 arrives, not having enough water to perform simple personal hygiene measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus will increase their chances of being infected.

Caminos de Agua is adapting and stepping up their activities quickly. They are on the job right now working with those who are most in need and the most vulnerable to water shortages. Of course, they are currently taking all the necessary precautions to protect the health of their staff and their partners in local communities. Caminos de Agua’s work during the Covid-19 crisis will be more important than ever.

To learn more about the organization’s work visit their website at www.caminosdeagua.org

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