A month ago I traveled to Honduras to capture the stories of various communities. We visited five projects: spending time with the staff, meeting people, and staying the night in one of the rural communities. The joy and gratitude of the people were inspirational as they showed a lot of pride in their water projects and shared the impact in their families’ lives.
Many communities in Honduras have taps to their homes, faucets where they can get water. But when you follow the faucet to its source, the water comes straight from the river, never going through any kind of treatment. While often clear, it’s very contaminated.
In one of the communities I went to, the day before I arrived, a girl went to the faucet and out came a very long worm. It turns out that they often have things come out through their faucets. They try and filter these out by tying a rag around the faucet, but this makeshift filter—while effective for insects and large pieces of debris—is obviously an ineffective solution to stop microscopic parasites.
While talking to members of the community, the girl’s mother came forward. In her hands she clutched a clear soda bottle containing a liter of water, and the worm. She held up the bottle, turning it so that I could see the orange worm floating in the clear water.
Wow, I thought. When I give talks about the global water crisis, I always show people pictures of water from lakes in Africa. It’s obvious when you look at water samples from Lake Victoria that no one should drink the brown, murky liquid. Sometimes, when the water looks clear and comes from a piped source like that in Honduras, it’s harder to understand that the water is unsafe. But when I saw this worm come out, it really struck me just how dangerous and gross this water was. You could see this worm, but what about everything you don’t see? What else was floating down the river and into the pipe?
Fortunately, safe water means communities in Honduras no longer have to turn the tap fearing what comes out of the faucet. While we don’t put a water treatment system in every house in a community, it’s still easy and convenient to get safe water. One community that I went to, located next to a school, had a water system operator who had started up his own microenterprise. He carries two 5 gallon jugs at a time on his bicycle, one strapped to his back and the other clutched between his legs, to his neighbors. Each delivery gives him a small amount that adds to his income, but these small coins add up by the time he’s made his rounds to 30 families.
It was great to see an operator taking an active part in the success of the water project. Sometimes the operators aren’t as passionately engaged. It’s nice to see these guys taking an entrepreneurial approach and making the water even more convenient for their community in the process.
There’s something amazing about stepping into a community and, from the second you arrive to the second you leave, being surrounded by constant activity. People riding on bicycles they’ve retrofitted with trailers to carry water, cars driving by with water jugs, children carrying bottles of clear, safe water—there was so much happening all because of their safe water solution. Safe water has changed these communities forever.