From Nicaragua: Eight days without water

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by Lauren Hack
Some people wait years for water.
At WaterStep, in the field and in the office, we hear stories of people who wait years for a broken well to be fixed, who walk long distances to find water that might not even be safe to drink, who spend lifetimes with poor health.
This is not that kind of story.
This is a story of communication.

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The town of Las Lajas is nestled in the foothills of the central highlands of Nicaragua, off the main highway that leads east from the capital to the city of Matagalpa. It is a dry landscape, dotted with small towns and large coffee facilities where workers rake and dry coffee that has been hauled down from the mountains.

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Despite the arid climate, Las Lajas is a farming community. Fields of onions, tomatoes, and squash are irrigated by a nearby river.
In Nicaragua’s largest cities – Managua, León, Matagalpa – municipal water is pumped to houses and is typically regarded as safe to drink. Leave the cities, and the water infrastructure fades away. Here, in rural areas, the principal source of water is well water.
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The week before our team arrived in Las Lajas, a town leader named David had called our local partner Puentes de Esperanza to report a well in disrepair. This set in motion a plan to send a team the next week.
The town had been without water for eight days. For those eight days, they had carried water from the nearby river, the same river that irrigated their fields, the same river where they washed their clothing.
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Eight days might seem like a long time to wait to some, but this pales in comparison to what it could have been if the phone number of Puentes de Esperanza’s well repair leader had not found its way into David’s hands. The well repair service is unique in its area. Puentes de Esperanza started this service two years ago after being trained by WaterStep staff. Before, if a well stopped working, locals either tried to find a way to fix it themselves or it sat broken and unused. Having someone to call makes all the difference in the world.
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While our team made the repairs, the town members sat along the periphery of the pump, taking turns helping. Kids, out of school for this special occasion, gathered in clumps and watched quietly.
It turns out the town’s hand pump suffered from a common problem – friction inside the well casing had rubbed two large gashes in the pump pipe, allowing water to leak back into the aquifer. In the end, our team replaced the full hand pump system. Everyone took a turn at the well, testing out the new hand pump before gathering around David for a final celebratory word.
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“It is my hope that we can keep in touch and stay in communication for future projects. You’ve brought potable water here – that is the greatest thing of all.”
David spoke of the town’s good fortune to be in contact with Puentes de Esperanza. He ended his story as it had begun, with a request for communication.
In the story of Las Lajas, an open vein of communication between locals meant that the broken well was fixed quickly and efficiently. And that means that water will keep flowing in Las Lajas.
This blog was about WaterStep’s well repair program in Nicaragua in partnership with Water Ambassadors of Canada and Puentes de Esperanza. Interested in learning more about hand pump repair? Learn about hand pump repair training, or join a future water project in Nicaragua.

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