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Agua Para La Vida

2311 Webster Street

Berkeley, CA  94720

(510) 643-8003


                                                                                              December 2001

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Two of the 300 residents of the village of Barrio Pobre enjoy their new water system.  Note the fancy washing machine (the stones set up at the faucet for washing clothes).
Three New Water Systems!


Thanks to the generous support of our funders, APLV has completed three new drinking water projects over the past year in the villages of La Isla, Cuatro Esquinas, and Barrio Pobre.  As a result, over 700 more people have access to clean, safe drinking water in rural Nicaragua.  The system in La Isla brings water from a spring located 3 km from the village on the beautiful mountain called Mu Sun.  The projects in Cuatro Esquinas and Barrio Pobre involved complicated logistics because they are hours away from a road and the “trochas” (dirt lanes) which can be built are totally impassable except by foot or horseback in the rainy season.  A typical water system requires the delivery of more than twenty tons of material.  We are currently working away on new projects in La Bodega and Puente de Paiwas and continuing on our big project in Santa Rita.


15 years…

March 2002 will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the start of Agua Para La Vida.  In that month in 1987 Charlie Huizenga visited the San Cayatano cooperative near San Dionisio to determine if we could help them build a safe drinking water supply for its residents.  Later that year Gilles Corcos came down and started our first project.  For Gilles, the high point of this first project occurred during the two days he spent suspended by a rope 30 feet above the road, trying laboriously to thread together rusty old iron pipes –part of a suspension aqueduct from the distribution tank to the village faucets.  At some point his moorings failed him and he discovered that his Spanish was not sufficient to alert his Nicaraguan teammates.  Gilles recalls, “I could see spectators below betting with one another on the chances that the ‘viejito’ [old man] would fall and break his neck.” 


Gilles survived and many aqueducts and 24 village installations later, APLV is still going strong.  Our center in Rio Blanco is now mainly in the hands of Nicaraguans and includes a small technical school (ETAP), a community health and hygiene education program, and a watershed conservation program.


Here are a few recent highlights of our work:


Technical School.  The second class of students at ETAP is made up of three men and three women.  They are : Migdalia Centeno Herero, Sara Lanzas Espinosa, Xiomara Obando Garcia, Harvin Aconso, Leonel Paez Garcia and Thomas Matamoros Vega.  They range in age from 18 to 23, most of them come farming families, and some of them attend high school on weekends. 


The ETAP curriculum is a work-study program.  The major part of the students’ time is spent in the field learning how to measure spring output, survey the land topography, and to supervise the construction of projects.  Class time deals not only with fundamentals but also with real project designs.


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Two woman working on installing the pipes for their new drinking water system.  Training on system maintenance and repair is an important part of our projects.
Measuring the impact of our program on the health of infants.  Since our primary objective is to prevent water-related diseases, it seems natural to us to try to directly measure our success.  One very simple index of an infant’s health is their body weight.  According to public health experts there is additional vigilance on the part of mothers when they are asked do the weighing and keep a record of their child’s weight.  Such a program should then have a doubly useful outcome.  So Agua Para La Vida, in collaboration with one of the most active proponents of baby weighing by mothers, Dr. David Morley of England, has developed a simple baby scale easy built by a local village carpenter that can be used by mothers even if they are not able to read.  A calibrated spring and a few inexpensive pieces of plastic have to be supplied together with some preprinted or xeroxed sheets of paper on which the monthly weight is recorded with a pencil mark.  Twelve of these scales are being built in villages where an APLV project has taken place and we are starting to put them to use.  A comparison between records of families with and without access to potable water  will eventually be made.


Technical help for other NGOs.  Over the years, Agua Para La Vida has developed a substantial amount of written material and software related primarily to the design and construction of gravity water systems.  Some of this is merely a selection, adaptation and translation of known engineering techniques, but a significant amount is original in that it takes into account the special requirements of our systems which are in some sense simpler but in other ways more demanding than conventional solutions.


One such contribution is software for the design of distribution networks- the part of the system which originates in the holding tank and brings the water to the individual faucets.  While a large number of such programs already exists, they are in general poorly adapted to the requirements we encounter.  With the generous help of Jean Philippe Vial of Geneva, APLV is completing the second version of such a tool (the first version has been used by our Nicaraguan technicians for more than two years and seems to be a considerable advance over alternate tools).  After it has been well-tested, it will be made available for free through APLV’s web site.



Thanks Mathieu!

Mathieu Le Corre, a young French civil engineer who joined the Rio Blanco team two years ago, has just completed an extraordinarily successful contribution to all aspects of the group’s operations.  In addition to serving as the ETAP class-room instructor he provided technical support for project design, worked with the students in the field, helped the health and hygiene team, and provided needed translations between Spanish, English and French.  We will greatly miss his talents and enthusiasm!


Now that Mathieu is embarking on new endeavors we have been fortunate to enlist the help of Kay and Hugh Force from Fort Collins, Colorado.  Kay is a civil engineer and will be taking over in the classroom and Hugh is a construction manager who will help with technical issues of project implementation.  The Forces arrived at the end of  September and have dedicated the next year to helping us in Rio Blanco.


How you can help:

Contribute.  APLV is feeling the crunch of the present economic downturn in the U.S. that has shrunk the discretionary income of many would-be contributors.  We are facing a real crisis which may force us to limit our activities.  If you are able to contribute, please do so- we are dependent more than ever on individual contributions.

Network.  We are actively seeking foundations to support our work.  If you know of a foundation that would be a good match for APLV, please get in touch with us.  Any personal contacts you have could really help us find funding.  One new area we are exploring is land conservation organizations.  A chronic difficulty with our watershed conservation program, which protects and reforests the drainage slopes upon which the village spring water depends, is that these areas (typically from three to 30 acres) have to be purchased to be physically controlled.  APLV does not have the resources to purchase this land and the villages normally don’t have the means to acquire them either.  We are interested in working with U.S. conservation organizations to help acquire these lands and place them in a public trust.  If some of you know of conservation organizations which might be interested, please let us know.

Volunteer.  Our U.S. operation, which is responsible for most of the fundraising and communication as well as teaching materials and engineering review for the Rio Blanco team, is woefully understaffed..  We have always operated with volunteers, keeping all of our funds for the Nicaragua group.  But there are far too few of us.  If you would like to help with anything from proposal writing to Spanish translation to engineering, we’d love to have you give us a hand. 


Spend a Week in Nicaragua With APLV

How would you like to spend a week in beautiful Central America visiting the communities where we work?  APLV, in cooperation with our sister organization El Porvenir, is organizing its first ever project tour for those of you interested in seeing first-hand what life is like in rural Nicaragua.  The one week trip is scheduled for mid-April and we will announce specific dates as we hear from people who may be interested in joining us.  APLV will make all in-country arrangements: food, lodging, transportation, translation.  We are excited about being able to offer this opportunity for you to see what you have helped create.  Send us an email or give us a call if you have any interest in joining us!


Thanks once again for your on-going support!

Peace and Good Health,







Charlie Huizenga                   Gilles Corcos


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Text Box:  Agua Para La Vida

2311 Webster Street

Berkeley, CA  94720











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