How poor is too poor?

Posted on: October 8, 2012

At staff meeting this morning we had a discussion about how poor is too poor?

Normally, EIA and EWB works with very poor folks. Most of the Municipalities we work in, 85% of the folks make less than $2/day ($700yr). And as poor as that sounds, it is still enough for the folks to pay a little to run the water systems we bring in. ($5-10/mo). This money is used to pay for the electricity to run the pumps, to do repairs, to collect to replace the submersible pump, buy pipe, etc.

However, with our renewed commitment to work in the poorest of the poor Municipalities in Bolivia, we are finding communities that can’t even afford this small amount for operating a system. Afnan shared that some of the communities he has looked at sell none of the food they raise. They either consume it all themselves, or barter it for a few things. In fact, electricity has been brought into the community, but many (most) don’t even have their homes hooked up to it because they can’t afford. it. Does this mean that communities like this, the poorest of the poor, are doomed to no clean water?

We are going to visit with the Alcalde of Bolivar and see if there might be a solution that we can then turn into an EWB project. What about handpumps which have no operational costs, but do have maintenance and repair issues? Apparently many of these communities follow a usually dry riverbed, that has siginficant water at the top. What would a large very long trunk waterline down from the mountain cost?

Both of these solutions may not work. Hand pumps only work to about 50-100 mtrs in depth. And what will be the quality of water that shallow? A large several mile long trunk water line down from the mtn may be beyond our capabilities and that of EWB. There may, in fact, be no solution. But, dad gum it, as long as I’m the Executive Director, we are going to look into it. We’re going to try to figure out a solution. If we can’t, we can’t.

I thought you might be interested in some of the discussions we have at Staff meetings.

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