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November 21, 2007 > Rotarians bring water purification to Chiapas, Mexico

Rotarians bring water purification to Chiapas, Mexico

Submitted By Paul Piraino

Earlier this last summer, Mission San Jose Rotarians Mike Leahy, Paul Piraino, Lila Bringhurst, Deon Bringhurst, and Newark Rotarian John Weed traveled to Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, Mexico to attend the inauguration of a Healing Waters water treatment system. Financed by Mission San Jose Rotary, in cooperation with Rotary International and the Tuxtla Guiterrez Rotary Club, the system was installed in a Presbyterian Church in the suburb of Bienstar Social, which has approximately 10,000 residents.

Greater Tuxtla, the capital city of Chiapas, numbers over 800,000. The water system in Tuxtla is unreliable and contaminated due to the age of the water mains and lack of maintenance so people do not generally drink the municipal water, using it instead for cleaning, washing, etc. They buy bottled water for drinking, which costs 15 pesos ($1.50 USD) for a five-gallon container.

Healing Waters, a non-profit organization from Colorado, sells their water from a treatment/distribution center, usually located in local churches, for four pesos, a very good deal for the poor residents in the area. Healing Waters treats municipal water with chlorination, sand filtration, activated carbon filtration, softening and ultraviolet disinfection so water meets very high standards. Locally available materials are used and technician is on hand to maintain the system. The cost for one of these systems is about $16,000.

An average Healing Waters installation sells around 1,000 gallons per day and serves approximately 200 families. Approximately one-third of the four-peso cost goes to the local church to spend on community programs (including schools) in the immediate neighborhood, one-third goes toward maintenance and system upkeep and one-third is used for expansion into other communities. Healing Waters has five installations in Tuxtla, and a total of fifteen in the state of Chiapas. They also have over thirty systems in the Dominican Republic and several in Guatemala.

The inauguration ceremony filled the church with neighborhood residents, church members, representatives from two participating Rotary clubs in Tuxtla, a representative of the municipal government, and the four California Rotarians. Approximately 300 people attended and many more lined up outside to receive a free water container.

Healing Waters gave away 500 containers to jump-start the sale of water and Mission San Jose Rotarians gave away about 600 toothbrushes. The purified water was free on Monday. With a constant stream of customers all day, the project filled 490 containers. This project will contribute greatly to the quality of life of the people in the neighborhood and fulfill a goal of Rotary International to find solutions for water-borne diseases.

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