The San Carlos Water Commission

For another story about the work of the San Carlos Water Commission, click here to read "Well Done!"

People who live in the rural community of San Carlos, about five miles from León, are concerned about diminishing access to potable water. Wells have been drying up during the past few years of drought, which residents fear is reducing the water table. Furthermore, most well water is contaminated.

Here’s the irony: located in San Carlos is a plot of private land where a well pumps drinking water and sends it about 12 miles to the coastal town of Poneloya. How did this happen? 

In 2012, the people of Poneloya obtained potable water after years of organization, municipal government negotiation, and outside project support. Currently the Poneloya Potable Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS, in Spanish) is managing the water distribution and fee payments.

Photo, right: Minnesotan Adrian takes a photo of Poneloya's modern well.

Nicaraguan law states that every community should have a CAPS, a group democratically elected by the community to ensure a good water supply and improved sanitation are available in the area. They are regulated by the national water authority but do not receive funds from the government, instead relying on fees from community members. 

Enter the San Carlos water commission. In April 2016, women from the community went house to house and collected signatures to formalize a proposal presented to the Poneloya CAPS that San Carlos connect to the existing water system.



Photo, left: Members of the San Carlos community's water commission, accompanied by PML project coordinator Rosa Lira, arrive at the mayor's office to deliver their request letter/

Initial discussions between San Carlos and Poneloya residents were difficult. With Project Minnesota/León’s project coordinator Rosa Lira’s deft guidance, however, the conversation gradually focused on the two communities’ common concern—large, private, monoculture farms irrigating sugarcane 24/7. The result of the discussions was an agreement to support San Carlos’ effort to obtain potable water and to ensure rational use of water in the area.

During May, the San Carlos water commission enlisted the help of more community women and increased the commission to 15 representatives. They sought León governmental support to assess the viability and technical aspects of connecting to the existing infrastructure. Assuming a positive response to the technical evaluation, the commission will also be seeking governmental and independent partners to help finance materials and technical expertise. The community will organize volunteer labor as its contribution.

Photo, left: A León municipal government technician meets with members of the San Carlos water commission.





Alternatively, the result may be that San Carlos needs to look for a separate well and pump system. The potential new well will reach about 70 percent of the San Carlos community. The other 30 percent—the farthest hamlet of San Carlos, across the highway and up a hill—is too far from the well to connect.

The San Carlos women’s commission on water and the CAPS representatives agreed to:

  • Meet with representatives the municipal water and environment department to evaluate an existing well in San Carlos for future use.
  • Initiate joint efforts to demand that the national water authority investigate the irrational use of private water pumps in sugarcane cultivation.

At the Mother’s Day all-community encounter, the commission shared cake, as well as a report on their progress with more than 50 San Carlos women who are heads of household. In June the water commission will be meeting with relevant institutions to follow up on the agreements.