SEATTLE — Nicaragua is a country that is no stranger to water as it is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There are also several freshwater lakes throughout Nicaragua, although they are hard to access. This is why WaterAid, an organization dedicated to providing clean and safe water worldwide, is helping to improve the access to water and water quality in Nicaragua.
Nearly 800,000 citizens, or 13 percent of the Nicaraguan population, don’t have access to safe drinking water. There are several reasons for the low water quality in Nicaragua and most of them are related to poor public spending. Thanks largely to a few natural disasters and war, funding for water sanitation lost priority in the country. Mining and agriculture contamination, along with deforestation and soil erosion from cattle ranching have affected the quality of water and caused many available water sources to be deemed unsafe for water consumption. In addition, tap water is no longer safe to drink in many areas due to its high chlorine content.
Despite the contamination of many freshwater sources, there are still ways to improve the water quality in Nicaragua. One common feature of the country is hand-dug wells that are not adequately cleaned or maintained. WaterAid is providing services to teach citizens how to clean these wells, drill new wells and develop simple rope pumps to access this new water. Since these new wells are being made away from areas of contamination, they are much safer to drink from. Last year alone WaterAid provided safe drinking water to 2,000 people.
Another issue is sanitation. A World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program study in 2013 showed that 52 percent of Nicaraguans did not have access to improved sanitation. Nearly 200 Nicaraguan children died last year due to improper sanitation and poor hygiene. Sanitation is strongly linked to water supply and quality, so when access to water and water quality increases so will sanitation.
Considering the mismanagement of government funding it is important for other organizations to step in and help improve conditions in Nicaragua. This is why WaterAid also focuses on improving sanitation for Nicaraguans. They helped nearly 1,000 people last year by installing and teaching them how to use eco-toilets, which use a pour-flush technique. WaterAid is not only providing the materials needed but educating citizens on proper sanitation, allowing them to work by themselves to improve conditions instead of solely relying on outside organizations for help. This means that Nicaraguans are well on their way to improving water quality in Nicaragua.
– Scott Kesselring