Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Water For San Genaro II - Part 1

This is how a family typically stores water in San Genaro II (the upper part of the hill that forms the ¨human settlement¨ known as San Genaro) - using an odd collection of tubs and garbage cans with some sort of cover to keep the dirt out. This community was organized as a legal entity more than eight years ago, but there are still only a handful of houses that have connections to the public water supply, and just one ¨public¨ connection shared by 20 families who occupy one block.

When the Canadian teachers left after their reconstruction project here, some of them were interested in donating money to help with the other problems, besides housing, that face the people here. They were particularly moved by the fact that most of the people in San Genaro II had to pay more the double the usual cost of water because the only way to obtain it was to pay a downhill neighbor, who had a connection to the water supply, to let them fill their containers using a hose. The typical charge is more than $3 per hour of use (just about enough time to fill all of the containers in their house), and a family usually needs to fill their containers a couple of times each week. A private connection to the city water supply costs more than $300.

I told the Canadians that I had been interested in doing a ¨microcredit¨ project where a group of families would finance the installation of a shared water access point using the savings that they would realize on the cost of the water. They agreed to donate the money for the installation. A group of friends from Lilly who participated in a Spanish class that I taught are providing the funding for the paperwork and other miscellaneous expenses. So lately I´ve been spending a lot of time visiting with Freddy (one of the residents in San Genaro II who´s going to represent the group of neighbors), SEDAPAL (the water utility) and SUNARP (the public documents registry) trying to understand and compile all of the documents that we need to present just to perform the first step: a feasibility study that will determine the cost of the installation. Tomorrow we should have everything we need except for a cover letter from the directiva of San Genaro II authorizing the project.

The plan is to get each of the 24 neighbors on Freddy´s block to agree to buy their water from an access point that we will install, and to pay 1/12 of the water bill each month. In this way we will collect twice the amount of the water bill each month, and put the excess into a fund that will pay off the cost of the installation and generate money for another installation on another block. When the second installation has been financed, the neighbors can stop subsidizing the installations and just split the water bill each month. But even during the period of subsidization, we estimate that they will see at least a 30% reduction in their expenditures for water. Over time we should be able to provide cheaper water to everyone in San Genaro II. There are still a few details to work out, like buying and replacing hoses, and what to do in the case of nonpayment, but we´re optimistic that we can work through those.

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