Blessing 10 New Cisterns in San Antonio de Lourdes: A Reflection by Chantal Kronenburg

By Chantal Kronenburg
Caminos de Agua Intern from Wageningen University, The Netherlands

San Antonio de Lourdes is a rural community that is a part of San Miguel de Allende. Like many of the 2,000 villages in the watershed, San Antonio's population is small, totaling about 370 people.  Caminos de Agua built three (3) rainwater harvesting systems in 2015 at the village's church, elementary school, and kindergarten. This summer, Caminos de Agua started a new rainwater harvesting project in the community in conjunction with Engineers without Borders-University College of London.  A total of ten (10) new 12,000L rainwater harvesting cisterns were built.  The community members worked together to build these cisterns over the course of two months.  Last Saturday (September 24, 2016) these new cisterns were blessed by Father Zezati and the community celebrated their work. The atmosphere was very joyful and people were happy and thankful.   

During a reflection session on Saturday, most of the community members emphasized that they succeeded because they worked together. They recognized that working together was not that easy in the beginning of this project. “Working in the community is hard and makes me angry. Often people think different than I do”. Another community member stressed that she sees the outcome of this project not only as having access to water. According to her, this project gave her even a bigger benefit: “the opportunity to share this with my community”.

Religion is important for this community and they recognized that their faith helped them. Their faith strengthened the connection among the community members. Community members are thankful to God for his help and support. “It is God who pushes people like Dylan and Saul to do this great work”. Father Zezati thanked the community for their achievement and emphasized that God and this project brought all the people together. “Thank you for your strength, your time, your effort. This achievement is such a great  achievement for our community”. Father Zezati, and the community, see water as a gift of God which helps people to stay alive. Water is not a product and we should treat it as a gift. Therefore, we should not overexploit our aquifer and try to find sustainable solutions such as rainwater harvesting.

After the  reflection session, Caminos de Agua community worker Saul Juarez distributed the ceramic water filters to the families. These Caminos de Agua filters will ensure  that the community is able to treat their harvested rainwater for biological contamination. Rainwater harvesting followed by any biological contaminant treatment will produce healthy water.

During the blessing, Caminos de Agua Executive Director Dylan Terrell saw some of the new first flush systems. He was happy to see them in use. The old first flush systems were built on the ground and had a pipe which goes up to the big cistern. Problems can occur when this first flush system is fully filled and water flows to the big cistern, as pressure builds up. This pressure could create damage to the system, especially to the system lid. The new first flush system is built to a standard which makes sure that if the system is full and water rises to the cistern, pressure will not rise, since the water just goes down.

At the end of the day, Father Zezati explained to the community about a new project. He wants to start a project to build composting toilets. These toilets use no water.  This project will need less team work, and it is easier to build such a bathroom compared to the big cisterns. Three to four families work together to build the bathroom. To participate in this project, the families must also provide labour,  as they did in the rainwater harvesting project. Participants will also have to bring in materials for the roof, walls and the stairs. Father Zezati hopes that people are willing to participate and looks forward to start this new project.

I was luckly to share this day with the community and Father Zezati. It was such a special experience for me to be there. Seeing our work in practice was incredible. It was so inspiring to see how this project strengthened the connection among community members and how thankful they were that they achieved this all together.