With the assistance of the Rotary Club of Middletown, Connecticut, more than 1,000 rainwater catchment cisterns have been built in 54 rural villages within the Independence Aquifer of central Mexico. As a result of this effort, 1,000 families in and around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, now have mineral free water for drinking and cooking for the rest of their lives and the lives of their grandchildren. Ground water in San Miguel and the surrounding area is contaminated with excessive levels of arsenic and fluoride; often more than double what is considered safe to consume, according to the World Health Organization. Arsenic and fluoride are not detectable by smell or taste. Thousands of people have been unknowingly ingesting toxic water.
The Middletown CT Rotary Club has provided funding and other assistance to the project’s creator and manager, the San Miguel Midday Rotary Club in Guanajuato State, Mexico. In order to provide clean water to poor rural families, Midday Rotary developed a program whereby they secure the funding and project management to build rainwater catchment cisterns. Funding has come from The Rotary Foundation and many local Rotary Clubs and Districts throughout North America. A collaborating organization, CEDESA, provides technical expertise and training, and labor to construct the cisterns is provided by community members. Rainwater is collected from roofs in a 12,000 liter, ferro-cement tanks next to a family home. During the summer rainy season, ample water can be collected and stored to serve a family of eight for an entire year. Because they are built above ground, the cisterns are easily accessed for maintenance. A three-day education workshop highlighting the importance of water in daily lives, conservation, and maintenance of the cisterns is an integral part of the program.
Midday Rotary’s cistern program reaches well beyond every human’s right to clean water for drinking and cooking. The thoughtful implementation of this program has proven to be highly effective in organizing communities to analyze their collective problems and seek solutions. Anyone familiar with life in rural villages, understands that cooperation rarely exists outside the immediate family. And yet more than 1,000 families have managed to work together building cisterns for each other. Participation is voluntary. One person from each family commits to 250 hours of meetings, training, and labor. Working in teams of six they build one cistern a week for all six families within their group. Personal investment and self-determination are key to the success and sustainability of the program. Communities stay organized by taking advantage of other CEDESA initiatives such as back yard gardening, bee keeping, holistic healing with medicinal plants, and the list goes on.