The Upper Río Laja Watershed provides life-sustaining water to more than 680,000 residents in central Mexico and is in crisis. The aquifer is declining at an alarming rate, from 2-3 meters per year – some of the most overexploited groundwater in the world – due to over-extraction by industrial agriculture. Community wells are drying up and the remaining water often contains 10x or more World Health Organization limits of arsenic and fluoride. This toxic cocktail causes irreversible health complications like dental & crippling skeletal fluorosis, skin disease, developmental & learning disabilities in children, chronic kidney disease, and several types of cancer. Worst of all, children are the most acutely impacted as their bodies absorb these contaminants at a much higher rate. Upwards of 300 million people, with an estimated 21 million in Mexico alone, suffer from excessive levels of arsenic and fluoride in their water supplies, with almost no appropriate solutions available to remove these problematic contaminants.
Caminos de Agua’s (CdA) plan is to continue to educate & build rainwater harvesting solutions together with impacted communities at risk. Traditional water filters, and nearly all other water solutions, simply do not remove arsenic and fluoride. Rainwater is inherently free of these contaminants and also immune to the threats of water-table loss from dwindling aquifers. Combined with CdA’s award-winning ceramic water filter to remove pathogens, rainwater becomes a safe and healthy drinking water source. To date, CdA has helped thousands of people across 78 rural communities, along with 30 schools, gain clean water access through the installation of more than 250 large-scale rainwater harvesting systems, 5,000 water filters, and many other solutions. Community-led rainwater harvesting projects improve community health, educate locals, reduce stress on over-extracted aquifers, and give people control over their drinking water supply.
CdA believes that successful projects are based on the intersection of low-cost, proven solutions with a community-driven implementation model. Local communities provide hundreds of hours of volunteer labor for every rainwater installation and make all decisions regarding location and organization based on need and participation. In this way, CdA’s water solutions strengthen existing community processes – contributing to stronger, better-organized, and more resilient rural communities in the long-term. $10,000 builds 10 large-scale rainwater harvesting systems, providing a lifetime of clean drinking water access – nearly 5 million liters over 40 years – to 20 families while allowing future generations to avoid the chronic health impacts of overexposure to arsenic and fluoride.