Today, March 22, is World Water Day, a day designated by the United Nations (UN) to bring attention to the importance and need of safe water worldwide. Water is life, and access to safe water is a fundamental human right. However, 771 million people worldwide continue to live without safe drinking water affecting their health, wellbeing, education, and livelihoods. Water is so critical to life and wellbeing that the UN added it as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6), which commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030.
This year’s World Water Day theme is groundwater and making the invisible visible. Groundwater is invisible, lying underneath the dirt, yet its impact worldwide is visible everywhere. Groundwater provides the majority of the water that sustains us. As we face climate change and increased pollution, the role of protecting our groundwater could never be more important. Since the beginning, EOS has been working hard to protect our watersheds by implementing our Circuit Rider model of training, education, and sustainability of rural communities’ water systems.
Just two weeks ago, I joined our US-based team on a visit to Honduras, and for a few of us, it was our very first time on the ground seeing our work. We watched a water chlorinator being installed in an extremely remote community called La Cañada, located high up in the mountains in Gracias, Honduras. Reaching the community was not for the faint of heart, as the roads are almost non-existent in parts and it requires patience and perseverance to make the bumpy drive up the mountain to reach the village.
Over 11 kilometers of pipes descend from Puca Mountain (one of Honduras’ highest peaks), collecting water down to the community water tank that provides drinking water for 43 homes.
Over an afternoon, we watched the installation of La Cañada’s first water chlorinator and it was an incredibly emotional experience. Men, women, and children from the community had gathered around sitting on a few dusty rocks alongside the tank, chatting and watching the installation being led by 22-year-old Alicia Cruz, one of our newly trained Circuit Rider interns thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Youth Conservation Corps (YCC).
Our work is important because we are raising awareness of the importance of safe drinking water for local communities and restoring the forests. It has been powerful for me to share knowledge of what I’ve learned in the YYC with the local communities so they can empower themselves to live healthier lives. We are reaching communities that no one has ever visited before and bringing them safe drinking water, changing and saving lives”.
As a women, my job has been especially powerful as it has empowered me and made me realize that women can do the same work as men. It is a privilege and also a challenge. When I first started going to the communities, they were surprised but once I proved myself, they accepted me. Often I feel like I must work harder to raise up the status of all women. I love that young girls and other women in the communities see me leading this work and they realize that they can do it too. “Si puedo” (Yes I can!). “ – Alicia Cruz
Not only was Alicia breaking gender barriers by leading the installation in a field that is highly dominated by men, she was also breaking the continual cycle of poverty in rural communities by empowering the community on how to take care of their own water system for the long-term. These practices work and help us achieve SDG 6 (safe water for all) and SDG 5 (empowering women).
Today, over 28 million Central Americans lack safe drinking water. For the past 13 years, EOS’ team has been working incredibly hard to change this by creating sustainable solutions and economic opportunities for the communities we serve to live healthier, more prosperous lives. While we are proud of the incredible work our team has accomplished, there is still an immense need that remains and we will not stop until every community in Central America has access to safe drinking water.
While it is a beautiful country, there is much need that remains to save its glorious forests, protect its watersheds and continue bringing more safe drinking water services to millions of people. I am honored to do this work and so grateful for the opportunity to see it firsthand in Honduras.