Over the last two years, Twin Cities Rotary has helped a village in Mexico called Plan del Vergel create and build a system to give the entire village clean water. Plan del Vergel is in Oaxaca State.
It has long been a goal of Rotary International to bring clean water to communities around the world. Rotary clubs are given the opportunity to apply for grants to both build clean water systems, and then teach the locals how to maintain them. We were presented with the ability to provide this service to a small village in Mexico called Plan del Vergel. This was a special opportunity for several members of our club because they personally worked with a gentleman from that village, Noi Jimenez. Noi owns a local landscaping and yard care business that services both Lewis and Thurston Counties. Since much of his family still resides there, this is an issue that is close to his heart.
The village of Plan del Vergel has approximately 1,500 residents. At the time of our project, they had one medical clinic and three schools in total. Although they had a large reservoir built years ago with water supply, the water was not potable and it required expensive pumping to get into the village.
Not long ago, a well was built with good clean drinking water, but the cost of operating the pumps and jurisdictional disputes resulted in this well never being used. Due to this struggle, the only option left for the residents of Plan del Vergel was to purchase water.
While it was functional, the expense of purchasing water piled up over time to become an enormous one. Due to this, our club came together with an Olympia Rotarian, Bob Wubbena, who designed a solution for the village. This required the purchase and installation of a solar-powered pumping system for the existing well. The plan was that once the pumping system was installed, it would deliver the good water to one of the existing storage tanks at the edge. As part of the project, it was determined that water from the reservoir would reach the village without pumping and could be used with the addition of a three-staged filter system.
Twin Cities obtained a District Community Grant so we could purchase a non-maintenance professional solar-powered pumping system and our Rotarian, Larry McGee, traveled to Plan del Vergel to lead the installation effort in mid-2021. The West Olympia Rotary secured their own District Community Grant to purchase the pipes, vales and filters to install the comprehensive filtration of the reservoir water. West Olympia Rotarian Bruce Smith joined the effort and led the filtration installation. Bob Wubbena, along with his wife and son, traveled to Plan del Vergel as well to lead the overall project. During this process the Alabama Sunrise Club learned of the effort and contributed.
We were thrilled at the community response. They were very welcoming and responded wonderfully by building a filtration shed before our team arrived. Not only that, but 10-15 individuals from the village helped by working alongside the Rotarians for every day they were there. They even held a special thank you celebration with delicious food and music.
Overall, the results were good, but not perfect. The existing well supplies a large quantity of potable water and the villagers get that water by going to the storage tank with 5 or 10 gallon containers. The water from the reservoir is now stored separately and is piped to the homes for non-potable purposes. Manganese is a well-known issue that can plug filtration systems and that issue exists in Plan del Vergel. There are continuing efforts to resolve this so the reservoir water can also be made potable. Fortunately, the electricity bills for the reservoir pumping have ceased, saving the village thousands of dollars per year. Water purchases have almost entirely ceased.
The existing well’s solar system works and is occasionally powered by a backup generator that was donated by Twin Cities Rotarians from the Bowman family. Clean water, major financial savings with over 1,500 people served for a total project cost of about $20,000. A Rotary success. Twin Cities has previously been involved with water projects in Jalisco State, Mexico, and Uttar Pradesh State of India.
Catherine Cleveland and Larry McGee are members of Twin Cities Rotary.