Our four travelers convened in Nebaj, Guatemala on Friday, March 24th. Nebaj is the regional hub of the Ixil Triangle in the northwest part of the country and a good place to get supplies for the duration of our implementation trip to Sumal Grande. The following morning we met up with our in-country counterpart, Diego (a native of Nebaj), who drove us in his ‘87 land cruiser the two plus hours over questionable roads to the community of Sumal Grande.
In the year between the assessment trip and our implementation trip we spent a lot of time talking with Diego and the community to design a water system to meet the needs and preferences of Sumal Grande. Together we had decided that the priorities would be to build a catchment basin at a new spring that the community purchased and connect it to their existing water distributions system. Additionally, they had identified overflow at the two lower distribution tanks as a problem so we proposed fitting them with float valves to shut off the inflow when the tanks were full. We also proposed installing flow meters so that we could collect better system data to aid in further development projects. All of our designs had been communicated to Diego and the community in the months preceding our trip. A couple weeks prior to our departure we got word that they began construction, so upon arrival we eagerly set out to see what they had accomplished.
We found that the community had already accomplished far more than we had imagined. They had already dug most of the trenches to bury the conduction lines, they had laid out all the pipe, most impressive they had already built the catchment basin at the new spring.
The next week was a whirlwind of successes with challenges to overcome each day. Rather than giving a day by day accounting of events, the following will highlight the major events of the implementation.
During our planning period the community had expressed the need to install a chlorinator in the water system, but due to the cultural practice of always boiling their water they had opted to put it off until our implementation trip next year. However, once we got there they decided they would like to build one immediately. We performed some water quality testing that confirmed the need to implement a chlorination system. Antonio, one of the masons, wasted no time commencing construction on top of the first distribution tank. The design was one he had built many times with great success for many other communities in the area.
Meanwhile, a massive community effort was put forth to connect and lay all the pipe from the new spring to the junction with the conduction lines from the old spring. Once here the line from the new spring was connected to one of the conduction lines from the old spring and a valve was installed to allow use of that line by the old spring if needed but also keep water from flowing back up the line since the new spring was higher in elevation than the old spring.
We were very impressed by the motivation of the community. They surprised us again by tacking on a couple side projects to connect a few more houses to the distribution system. Since these projects were outside of the scope of our plans and the modeling we had done we only provided rough hydraulics calculations and guidance to make sure they didn’t overpressure any of the pipes.
Once all the major aspects of the project were underway we took some time to survey the distribution lines so that we’d have a better understanding of the whole system. We were able to enlist community assistance for that as well and at one point we had a whole school yard of kids wanting to lend a hand.
On the last day as we came back to up to the school yard from surveying we got the pleasure of watching a girls futbol match with a neighboring community. After the match, much to our surprise, the community presented us with a banner thanking us for our help improving their water system. It was such a pleasure to work with a community as dedicated and motivated as Sumal Grande.