Nicaragua - El Limon

In early 2013, the community of El Limon, Nicaragua reached out to EWB-USA because their solar-powered water distribution system was not adequately serving all the homes of the community. Dependable and safe water resources are essential for the community’s health, and without a functioning water distribution system families would be forced to spend hours collecting filthy river water for their household use. As a result of this need for technical support, the community requested EWB to assess the problem and help them identify and implement a sustainable solution. Since the EWB-SFP project team’s trip to the community, the team has been dedicated to working with El Limon’s Water Committee and developing an affordable, feasible, and sustainable solution. 

El Limon is a farming community of over 60 families near the major town of Estelí, Nicaragua. Given its location in the north of the country where the 1970s civil war was fought, Limón has very strong Sandinista roots and this translates into the insistence that any changes do not disenfranchise the poorer residents. El Limon has kept with the Nicaraguan grassroots model of governance, and the community has a history of organizing, and if necessary, seeking help for its own village improvement initiatives. 

In 2007 El Limon’s water committee was formed to manage the installation of the solar-powered water distribution system, and since the installation the water committee has monitored and operated the system, collected funds for maintenance, received complaints from the community, hired engineers to service the system, and administered the utility bills. When the existing system ceased to provide sufficient water to all members of the community, the water community initiated contact with the EWB-SFP team to identify potential solutions for this issue.

A safe, dependable water supply is essential to the socio-economic development of an agrarian community, and before the installation of the solar-powered water pump river water was the primary water source for El Limon. River water is extremely contaminated with pesticides that leach in from nearby farms, and was used for bathing and laundry. 

El Limon had already stood out as a forward-thinking and engaged community that has provided neighboring communities with leader in sustainability. However, the existing system does not provide sufficient supply to all families in the community. 

EWB-SFP Response
During the November 2013 assessment trip, the EWB-SFP project team performed interviews and surveys, and realized that El Limon’s storage tank did not reach sufficient capacity for there to be enough head to reach many homes in the village. Because the pump is solar powered, insufficient water is pumped on cloudy days to meet demand and the storage tank was not filled at night. After performing a feasibility study, a hybrid grid/solar powered solution was proposed because if the system were connected to the grid, then at night time the community could switch the pump on, and let the tank fill up so that in the morning there would be enough head to reach the homes at the extremities of the village. Additionally, on cloudy days they could connect to the grid and have enough power to continue to pump water.   

These efforts fall under the program’s first phase: the design of the overall 15-year expansion plan for the system and the implementation of the first 5-year expansion. The overall program is “The Development of a 15-Year Expansion Plan for the Solar-Powered Water-Pumping System in El Limón, Nicaragua” and has been approved by EWB-USA since April 2013. Projects 2 and 3 will involve a re-assessment of the system and implementation of the next 5-year expansion.