Former war zones in El Salvador obtain water using the sun


A local resident of the municipality of Sitio el Zapotal in the canton of El Zapote, El Salvador, turns on the tap to fill his sink to collect the water he needs that day. Since 2010, a total of 10,000 people have benefited from the five solar-powered community water projects in El Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS
  • by Edgardo Ayala (suchitoto, el salvador)
  • Inter Press Service

The families now have running water, thanks to a concerted effort that started when the war ended in 1992, after returning to their former homes, where they had fled the fierce fighting years earlier.

The largest of these communal water systems, powered by solar energy, is located in the canton of El Zapote, municipality of Suchitoto, in the central Salvadoran department of Cuscatlán.

“The first step was to come together and buy this place to drill the well, do tests and build the tank, and we had a lot of help from other organizations that supported us,” Ángela Pineda, president of the Zapote -Platanares Community- National Association for Water, Health and Environment, told IPS.

The association is a “junta de agua” or water board, which are community organizations that bring water to remote areas of El Salvador where the government does not have the capacity to supply it, such as the one installed in the canton of El Zapote.

There are an estimated 2,500 water boards in the country, providing services to 25 percent of the population, or about 1.6 million people. The vast majority of this works on energy from the national electricity grid.

But five of the boards, located near Suchitoto, received funding from organizations such as Companion Communities Development Alternatives (CoCoDA), based in Indianapolis, Indiana, to make a technological leap toward working with solar energy.

“The advantage is that the systems are powered by clean, renewable energy sources that do not pollute the environment,” said Karlyn Vides, director of operations in El Salvador for US CoCoDA.

Four previous projects of this type, supported by CoCoDA since 2010, have been small, with less than 10 solar panels. But the one mounted in the canton of El Zapote was to be equipped with 96 panels in 2021.

It was inaugurated in June 2022, although it has been in operation since 2004, using hydropower from the national grid.

This effort benefits more than 2,500 families who settled around Suchitoto and on the slopes of Guazapa Mountain, which during the 12-year civil war was a stronghold of the then guerrilla Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), now a political party that ruled the country between 2009 and 2019.

However, if we include the four other small solar water projects, plus five that continue to operate with electricity from the national grid, all financially supported by CoCoDA after the war, the total number of beneficiaries rises to 10,000 people.

The bloody armed conflict in El Salvador killed some 75,000 people and left more than 8,000 missing. between 1980 and 1992.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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