Daybreak Rotarian Terri Smiley has recently returned from a trip to Belize and Guatemala to promote Rotary clean water projects.  Read her report below.
The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every day.  Imagine if you had to walk twenty minutes just to take 5 gallons out of a polluted river every time you wanted water.
Access to clean water is a vital necessity yet billions of people around the world suffer medical problems because of undrinkable water.  One of the aims of the Rotary Foundation is to increase the number of people who have better health because they drink clean water.
Local Kalispell Rotarians Terri Smiley and Mitch McKinley recently traveled to Belize and Guatemala in Central America to promote Rotary clean water projects.  They were joined by Rotarians from Libby MT and are part of the Northwest Montana Rotary Global Consortium that is funding efforts to bring potable water to several communities in Guatemala.    
The Montana Rotarians participated in Central America’s Rotary Project Fair in Belize.  The aim of the Project Fair is to match clubs in the U.S. that are looking for projects to fund with clubs from Central America in need of money.  The Montana clubs are seeking additional funding to construct in a well, holding tank, and water distribution system in the village of La Vega in Guatemala.
Following the Belize Rotary Fair, Rotarians visited the La Vega community in Guatemala, meeting with local leaders to scope plans for the anticipated water system, including hygiene training and administration.
La Vega is a resettlement community begun about 25 years ago.  In the 30 years before that the army of Guatemala attacked Mayan Indian villages where they thought guerrillas were working against the government.  The villagers were caught in between the warring sides and fled to Mexico where the UN had established refugee camps.
When the war ended, they were resettled far from their own land.  The people in La Vega came from the mountains in the north of Guatemala but were sent to the tropical Pacific coast region.  No water, sewer nor other programs were provided.    Multiple health problems ensued from diseases related to drinking unsanitary water.
Children and women walk twenty minutes twice a day to attain water from a polluted river.  Large towns further up the river discharge their sewage without treatment into the river.  Because it is a tropical climate, a host of insects are attracted to the area.  These cause diseases especially for the children.  Some people have attempted to dig wells by hand but can only go 20 to 25 feet which does not get them to clean water. 
Fundazucar, a group funded by the sugar cane industry in Guatemala, has developed a plan for a well, a 15 hp pump, chlorination system, elevated tank, and a distribution system for La Vega.  It is designed to provide 115 liters per day per person in the village - a long way from 80 – 100 gallons!  While the system engineering has been completed, there is no funding available to construct the system.  
This is a far larger project than others undertaken in Guatemala by the Northwest Montana Rotary Global Coalition.  Kalispell’s Rotary Noon Club is taking the lead to identify funding for the project.  At the Belize Project Fair, they made contact with other Rotary Clubs from around the US that may be able the help. 
Access to clean water is a vital necessity that we take for granted.  It’s hard to imagine that there are billions of people in the world who watch their children die because they have only dirty water to drink.  Through the efforts of Montana Rotary clubs, this can change for the better.