Water Mission and Pentair recently announced our next initiative to deliver safe drinking water and improved sanitation to 150,000 people in Western Honduras. The $5 million project expands on Water Mission’s first collaborative effort with Pentair that began in 2007 and impacted over 300,000 lives in the Department of Colón, Honduras.
The new initiative — Project Safe Water Western Honduras — represents ongoing contributions by both Water Mission and Pentair towards reaching U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) number six, which focuses on ensuring safe water is available and sustainable for all by 2030.
Project Safe Water Western Honduras will focus on the Lempira and Intibucá departments. Led by Hector Chacon, Water Mission Honduras program director, our 19 local, full-time engineering and administrative staff members are gearing up for the long-term project. Plans are underway to open a second program office in the area to support the large-scale project. In addition, meetings with local government officials have yielded positive cooperation that will help when the assessments, designs, and community development phases of the projects begin.
Lempira and Intibucá have some of the highest percentages of people living in extreme poverty in Honduras. While access to water and sanitation is relatively high, it is generally not safe nor properly managed. Our joint teams will work with local Honduran governmental organizations to effectively deliver improvements in water quality, sanitation infrastructure, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) behaviors.
“At Pentair, we believe that safe water is a fundamental human right, and one of the foundations of freedom and economic development,” said Randall J. Hogan, chairman and chief executive officer of Pentair. “The world’s safe drinking water crisis is solvable, as demonstrated by the sustainable and cost-effective solution that we implemented as part of our first Project Safe Water initiative with Water Mission in Colón, Honduras. Systems and technologies developed from that project are now being deployed around the world, and we are pleased to expand this effort to additional regions in Honduras.”
Project Safe Water Colón, which provided sustainable access to safe water to over 300,000 people, represents the largest scientifically documented water and sanitation project in Central America. The initial health impact study reported in Practicing Anthropology in 2010, and later presented at international WASH-related conferences, demonstrated reductions in waterborne illnesses by 80 percent, and visits to the local health clinics for diarrheal diseases decreased by over 50 percent. In addition, a follow-up study conducted in 2014 found that Colón’s infant mortality rate fell twice as much as the national average, which translates to saving the lives of 40 children each year.
Pentair and Water Mission developed and implemented an innovative approach by combining technology, micro-enterprise business models, and scientific research. The comprehensive program included the installation of more than 200 water treatment systems and over 15,000 household latrines. It also adopted widespread community education programs to increase awareness of the importance of safe drinking water and the connection between good hygiene and health. To ensure sustainability, Project Safe Water Colón established a microenterprise business model, where the local community owns the water treatment system and users pay a nominal fee for water. The fees are then used by the local community to cover the ongoing operation and maintenance of the system.
“Our studies on the Colón, Honduras, project with Pentair demonstrated that — for just pennies per day, per person — we could dramatically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease and save lives,” said George C. Greene III, Ph.D., P.E., chief executive officer of Water Mission. “In addition to the health benefits, we now look to better understand and quantify the long-term economic and educational impacts that can result from access to clean, safe water.”
Once Project Safe Water Western Honduras is complete, we will again measure the health-related impacts of safe water and sanitation on the communities. We’ll also measure the economic and educational improvements related to the projects. Some of the questions we hope to answer include, “Do health improvements occur first, followed by improved education and economic livelihood?” or, “Are the improvements happening in parallel, once safe water and sanitation solutions are installed?”
Download health impact studies and other Water Mission research papers that have been presented at the University of North Carolina’s Water Institute and industry conferences, or published in scientific journals.