Water for Waslala (WfW) is dedicated to ending the drinking water crisis in Waslala, a rural municipality in central Nicaragua home to 60,000 residents. Waslala was center stage for much of the violence and destruction that occurred during the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s and 1990s. As of 2005, the latest year for which data are available, over 72% of Waslalans suffered from extreme poverty, 77% lived in homes with a dirt floor, 87% lacked electricity, 46% were illiterate, and 40% lacked access to basic sanitation.
Water for Waslala has focused on the issue of drinking water because of its pervasiveness and impact. Nearly all 60,000 Waslalans lack access to safe drinking water, forcing families to spend hours each day fetching water from contaminated local streams. Moreover, drinking contaminated water leads to increased infant mortality, hampered child development and educational attainment, and reduced economic productivity due to both the time spent fetching water and to water-borne illness.
To fulfill our mission of ending the water crisis in Waslala, Nicaragua, Water for Waslala uses two types of interventions: community-level water systems, and household-level water filters. Our primary intervention is a community-level water system, which captures water from natural springs and transports it to tapstands outside each beneficiary’s house. We have also begun piloting household-level water filters to reach those Waslalans that live too remotely to benefit from a community-level water system.
Our approach to implementing both interventions is rooted in the concept of community-led development. We believe that in order to create sustainable solutions to the Waslalan water crisis, the Waslalan people must own and manage their own interventions from initiation through completion and long-term maintenance. This approach ensures that community members take ownership of their own development and receive the intervention that truly meets their needs. As such, communities seeking a water system are expected to submit a formal application, elect a project management committee, pay monthly tariffs to cover future project repairs, and create statutes governing system use. They must also volunteer their time to help construct their system, and elect a community technician to maintain it.
Water for Waslala provides project funding, a process for implementing water projects that fosters long-term sustainability, and strategic and technical support for our local partner organization, ADIS (the Association of Integrated and Sustainable Development). In turn, ADIS provides the day-to-day project oversight, training and support services the Waslalan people need to implement sustainable water systems or household filters.
ADIS provides three main types of training and support services. First, ADIS provides management and leadership training for all management committees, both at a community and a municipality-wide level. Regarding the latter, ADIS hosts capacity-building workshops for the management committees of all completed projects. These workshops focus on developing key skills among the management committees, such as financial accounting, tariff enforcement, and conflict resolution. They also create an environment where leaders from different communities can share experiences, brainstorm solutions to issues with their projects, and learn from their peers.
Second, ADIS provides engineering support to design the community-level water systems, and a construction manager to oversee project construction. Finally, ADIS facilitates support throughout the project delivery process, including participating in most community meetings, conducting ongoing health and hygiene training for community members, and visiting individual beneficiary households to answer questions at the family level.
Water for Waslala relies on two other sets of partnerships to fulfill its mission. The first set is with Villanova University’s Engineering and Nursing Departments. Twice a year, students and faculty visit Waslala to assist with water quality testing, project feasibility assessments, and health and hygiene training. The second set is with a group of industry experts from Water for People and Water.org, as well as academic experts from UNC’s Water Institute and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who together comprise a formal advisory committee to Water for Waslala. These advisors apply their knowledge of water sector best practices to help us to continually refine our approach.