Mercola has recently recognized the work of Caminos de Agua. Many thanks to Dr. Mercola for continuing to support our efforts in Mexico, especially at this time where it's needed most. Find the full article below.
Caminos de Agua: Shaping the Future of Sustainable, Healthy and Safe Drinking Water
Caminos de Agua has already helped secure clean water for over 14,000 people in Mexico – but their work is far from over. Learn about the innovative solutions that this non-profit organization provides and how they’re leading the effort to ensure that every family in Mexico has access to safe, healthy and sustainable drinking water.
By Dr. Mercola
Water is a cornerstone of optimal health – you drink it, bathe with it and use it for cooking and cleaning. No human being can live without water. In most developed countries, people usually enjoy the luxury of having an accessible water supply in their home. All they need to do is turn on the tap.
Sadly, not everyone enjoys this convenience, and believe it or not, there are some communities around the world who struggle to have access to clean water every single day.
Mexico Is in the Heart of a Water Crisis
Lack of safe and clean water is a constant problem in many parts of the world, and with the growing threat of climate change, the problem just seems to compound.
Mexico has severely felt the harsh effects of this dilemma, particularly, in the Independence Watershed region. Located in Guanajuato State in Central Mexico, the communities in this region have struggled with water scarcity for decades. Because of overexploitation and pollution brought on by large-scale industrial agriculture operations, the state of the Independence Aquifer, which lies just below the Watershed and is the primary water resource of this region, has severely declined.
In order to meet the high demand for water in these communities (there are seven municipalities in the Independence Watershed area), the people began drilling deeper wells, as deep as 200 to 400 meters, at unsustainable rates – puncturing the lower fractured surface of the aquifer, wherein “ancient water,” believed to be anywhere between 10,000 to 35,000 years old, lies.
But aside from being characteristically old, this type of water is also contaminated with high amounts of naturally occurring metals and minerals, particularly fluoride and arsenic. The levels are said to exceed both national and international safe standards, greatly increasing the people’s risk of health problems, such as dental fluorosis. But this is actually just the tip of the iceberg. According to a New York Times article:
“The signs of tainted water seem apparent. The most visible evidence is the prevalence of dental fluorosis, an illness that blackens teeth. Yet the many complaints of joint pain suggest that some people might have developed a much more severe illness, skeletal fluorosis, which occurs when fluoride accumulates in the bones.”
It’s clear that not only are these rural communities being subject to the struggles of inadequate water, but they’re also suffering from the adverse effects of contaminated water.
Thankfully, a dedicated non-profit organization has stepped up to the challenge of providing clean drinking water to the Independence Watershed area – working hard to improve the lives of the people in these communities.
Caminos de Agua: Heeding the Call for Safe, Healthy and Sustainable Water
Based in San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato State, Caminos de Agua, formerly known as CATIS-Mexico, aims to provide practical yet sustainable water solutions that can help people live more prosperous lives while preserving the planet’s resources.
The organization works closely with economically limited countries to innovate and implement open-source solutions that will help develop people’s health, build up their economies and maintain sustainability in their environment.
Caminos de Agua stresses that everyone should have access to drinking water that’s not just safe and healthy, but also sustainable – something that people in rural Guanajuato communities, as well as in other parts of Mexico and the world, do not have – at least, not freely, easily or cheaply.
In Guanajuato, for example, families in rural areas spend over $24 pesos (equivalent to 2 U.S. dollars) just to get 20 liters of water per day. Considering that the world’s poorest people only earn less than 2 US dollars per day, most of them have to relinquish this necessity in order to make ends meet.
In fact, according to a report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1.1 billion people do not use drinking water from improved sources, while 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation methods.
Caminos de Agua believes that drinking water, free of pathogens, bacteria and other toxic pollutants, is a basic human right that should be affordable and accessible to everyone. For this reason, they came up with several innovative water solutions, which are primarily focused on small-scale, household systems. When properly implemented, these can provide access to safe, healthy and sustainable drinking water.
Caminos de Agua provides capacity training and technical assistance to the people in rural villages and communities and urban locals. They also closely partner with other grassroots organizations in order to create long-term, sustainable water solutions. According to their website:
“Our current work includes production and distribution of our certified ceramic water filters for eliminating water-borne pathogens, community-based installations of rainwater harvesting systems, and installation of biochar treatment systems.”
Ceramic Water Filters and Biochar Treatment Promote Safe and Toxin-Free Drinking Water
One of the major projects that Caminos de Agua has successfully worked on is the development of specially designed ceramic filters, which provide clean water for drinking, free of bacterial contamination. The filters are produced using a simple hand mold and are made from locally available clay and burn-out material (such as waste sawdust). These filters are then fired in a sustainable brick-kiln and then treated with a colloidal silver solution to kill pathogens.
The ceramic filters provide each household with 24 liters of water per day, and can last for two to three years. They are lighter and easier to transport than typical pot-filters, and are less likely to crack. They also make potable water 100 times less expensive, reducing the cost down to $0.001 per liter.
But Caminos de Agua does not just intend to develop these filters – they provide training and resources for local communities as well, so they can set up their own kilns and produce their own filters, so that sustainable micro-businesses can thrive.
Along with developing ceramic filters, the organization is also working to use biochar and bone char as a sustainable way to eliminate dangerous pathogens and chemicals like arsenic and fluoride. Just like charcoal, biochar is produced by heating biomass in an oxygen-starved environment. One co-product that can be obtained from it is usable bioenergy.
As mentioned above, fluoride is one of the leading threats that come with the unstable water supply in these communities. Caminos de Agua’s Executive Director Dylan Terrell is now collaborating with Aqueous Solutions to research the potential of biochar and bone char as a low-cost media for fluoride removal. Once this solution has been set in place, the risk that this damaging pathogen imposes can be severely reduced.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems Help Reduce Burden on the Aquifer
Rainwater harvesting is one of the primary solutions that the organization promotes, as doing this means that water is no longer extracted from the aquifer and the natural hydraulic cycle is not interrupted.
San Luis de la Paz, a municipality with a large town and several different outlying communities, is one of the areas that Caminos de Agua has recently provided with rainwater harvesting systems. Located near San Miguel de Allende, the area has one of the worst water situations in the region, with some families only getting 200 liters once or twice per month. Some residents have access to water, but their sources are severely tainted with toxic contaminants.
In November 2016, Caminos de Agua helped provided trainings on the construction of rainwater harvesting systems in San Luis de la Paz. Participants from three communities attended a workshop to learn how to build rainwater harvesting systems and cisterns, and then afterwards, went back to their homes to share the knowledge with their friends and neighbors.
‘Cycling’ for Water: Another Simple yet Innovative Approach
In La Onza, the approach that Caminos de Agua took was different. In 2015, the organization, in partnership with a team from Engineers Without Borders UK, supported the community in building a rainwater harvesting system at the local kindergarten and elementary schools. But task of providing rainwater systems to everyone is too great, and the residents’ water requirements remain high.
Therefore, their team designed a special pump to obtain water from the community’s shallow well. Designed by Aaron Krupp and other Caminos de Agua staff, it uses the same principles as a rope pump, but is powered either by hand or by bicycle, and eliminates the need to throw a bucket into the well and then manually (and dangerously) pull it up.
The levels of fluoride and arsenic are substantially lower in the shallow well. By adding rainwater collected from the cisterns, the volume of safe water available to the community will be increased.
“By following Caminos de Agua’s dilution guidelines, the community can not only keep the mixed water below contamination limits for dangerous minerals but can actually obtain water with a mineral balance ideal for human consumption, as recommended by the World Health Organization,” according to the organization’s website.
Caminos de Agua Shows That Small Ripples Can Create Big Waves of Success
As of June 2017, Caminos de Agua has implemented 65 projects, which has directly helped almost 14,000 people, giving them over 1.4 million liters of rain water.
They’ve also emboldened communities to stand up and act to have access to clean water. Community members have contributed over 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to help set up these projects – and these numbers continue to grow.
Terrell called 2016 their “most impactful” year to date, as they’ve reached significant milestones, such as providing ceramic filters to over 600 new families, installing 43 new rainwater harvesting system and reaching tens of thousands of new people with their water monitoring and mapping program.
“Indeed, this truly was a watershed year for the organization. With our new name and narrowed focus, our work had a greater impact on safe, healthy, and sustainable water supplies, and I am more proud than ever of our accomplishments,” Terrell said in their 2016 Year in Review report.
The impact that Caminos de Agua is making on the Independence Watershed region is definitely an inspiring and heartwarming evidence that, by working together and being united under once cause – in this case, the call for clean, healthy and sustainable drinking water – we can achieve many great things.
But their work is far from over.
Donate to Caminos de Agua Today and Help Provide Clean Drinking Water to Thousands (or Millions) More
Caminos de Agua relies on people’s support to continue expanding their program. According to Terrell, donations make up roughly 25 percent of their annual operating budget.
You can visit Camino de Agua’s website to learn more about their organization’s advocacies and success stories, and access their water tools and resources. Personally, I feel truly honored and excited to be part of this noble project. Seeing the success that this organization is making, especially in Mexico, is completely overwhelming.
I urge you to please, please, donate to this worthwhile cause. Any amount, no matter how large or small, would surely make an impact, and guarantee one more person or one more family another day’s supply of healthy, clean and sustainable drinking water.
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