Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pasmata Water Project Progress Report - 12/10

This will serve as our last in country progress report. Jessie and I are a few hours away from crossing over the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican boarder, and I am thankful for this time to reflect on how we left things in the field. So here goes.

The ideal situation would have been a 1 month overlap of a new and qualified FCP rep (I think had we started searching for one in August like I had suggested in my first report this could have been accomplished). However, based on some fortunate circumstances, we may be in a decently good place given the help of two eager Peace Corp members (Lindsey and Trey) who are currently holding down the fort while we find someone to represent FCP.

Accomplished since the last post:

Community Meeting: A whole community assembly took place on December 4th. I made a 10ft Google map printout composted of 33, 11x17” screen shots assembled like a puzzle. It took 2 days, but I feel it was worth it since it allowed folks to see where their house was in respect to the planned project, and to see that this project is for real! Karla and I also made about 6 other informational posters. The meeting again took place at the Pasmata primary school. This meeting was very important because it had been indicated to the community in the meeting the month before as the due date of all 140 household donations of 200 cordobas along with an agreement to pay 30 cordobas/month along with using water meters to quantify water use for evidence in disputes over unreasonable usage. We have decided that unless at least 90% of the community pays the initial payment, and agrees to the tariff and meters, we will not do this project. A project that is not supported by the community would be a complete waste of time and donor money, so we cannot sway from this.

90% of the community means roughly 125 people on board with the project. Only 54 people came to the meeting this time, down 75 from the previous meeting where we laid the non-negotiable’s of cost and metering. From this meeting we increased community initial 200 cordoba payment from 20 households to 44, and I would imagine over the last week, we might expect a few more. In the meeting I presented each non-negotiable, and then had it explained a second time by one of the water board members to ensure everyone understood what was being said. There was a great deal of grumbling concerning the monthly tariff and metering. After about 15 minutes of complaining about the 30 cordobas, I made it known that due to a survey done on 600 of the people living in Pasmata (about 90% of the population), that I knew that the majority of folks were paying significantly more (sometimes triple to quadruple) just for their cell phone service alone--not considering cigarettes and candy. I then outlined that the use of meters and the payment of 30 cordobas monthly was not something to be discussed, and if we didn’t get agreement from all community members for these costs, that we would find another community. Where we stand now is waiting to see if and when we can expect to have the desired 90% of folks.

The Google map now has nearly every household leaders name associated with each house waypoint. The goal will be to write down the names of folks who have paid and who are on board with the way this project is being managed, and then mark them on the map to see if the disagreement is spatially related, and to predict how a disagreement could affect the way water is provided to different areas. Lindsey and Trey from Peace Corps have agreed to help get better figures on who has paid, and go house to house to ask again for the initial 200 cords and to see who is willing to pay the monthly fee.

Assembling the troops: We still only have 81 people assigned to work squads. We were hoping to have 140, but 81 would work if we had 8, 10 person squads. Trey, Lindsey and I will continue to be in communication to see how these squads are changing and of how any meetings go.

Designs: I have designed the system components completely, all except the dam; however we do know the exact dimensions and location of this dam, what’s lacking now is just sitting down and figuring out how this will look exactly based on typical details. I visited the source one last time with the foreman we’re hoping to contract, Jaime, and he made some insightful suggestions on how this design should look, furthering my belief that he’s got what it takes to run this project from the technical and construction side of things.

The system hydraulics have also been completely calculated both for the conduction and distribution/domestic lines. I am still waiting to hear back from a few fellow engineers on how these calculations look, and to decide exactly what pipe size we can afford where hydraulics meet economic feasibility. At this point it looks like utilizing between 2-3” piping for the conduction and distribution lines, and the typical ½” PVC tubing for domestic lines. I’m excited to present this hydraulic data at the FCP holiday party, it will be easier to explain in person and with a few more figures.

Permissions: I have in my possession, a copy of the formal contract written by the alcaldia’s lawyer outlining the official donation of the Finca de Pasmat’s land to take 35gal/min of water and run 1.5km of conduction line until the distribution tank. What we are still lacking is written permission from land owners: Dona Camila, Dona Maria, and Dona Ofelia. All three of these women have given oral approval; however, we are still waiting on the alcaldia’s lawyer to write up the official contract to pass the tube. We are planning on putting the tank on Dona Maria’s land, in a location outlined on the Google map kmz file. She has donated a 25mx25m plot, which saved us about $500.

Getting these written permissions will be quite easy once this is written up by the alcaldia, however, based on their past performance, this could take another month. We have our Peace Corps friends putting pressure on the alcaldia’s office, and will distribute these permissions in person when we have the contracts written.

Updated Project Budget: I had a meeting with the owner of a ferreteria (hardware store) named “Agro Ferreteria”, which supplies the majority of the water system components to projects by the alcaldia. This ferreteria was recommended by Reyna, and she got me in contact with the owner, his name is Juan Jose, and he appears to be awesome. I presented him a list of the components that we need, and he is currently filling in the form with exact prices. He is also placing recommendations he sees for how we might both make the system money while potentially saving some money. Obviously I’m skeptical on the money saving part of this since if he saves us money, he loses money. But the thought was nice, and I trust him. I will present an update of the project budget when he returns the list to me.

Rotary Involvement: This has been somewhat trying. After passing the matching grants form back and forth between Boulder Rotaries and the Rotary in Somoto, we started to realize that there was a great deal of information lacking to complete the form, and that it was going to take more work that we had originally thought. The form has been in the hands of the Boulder Rotaries for about a month now, and it’s just about done, however, when a request for written confirmation by Somoto was sent to Ivonne, the President, she returned my email(s) with a “I will get to this in January” response. I have yet to draft up a retort, explaining to her that WE (Boulder Rotary) will be in charge of sending the form work off to Rotary International once we have everything complete, and that all we’re needing from them is their commitment signified by approving to supervise the project and pay $100.

Until we have this confirmation, we can’t send the form. I see obtaining Rotary money as taking some serious time, and becoming one of the limiting elements holding back the project, since without Rotary money, we’re missing a $14k chunk of our budget.

Visiting Old FCP Projects: I only had the chance to visit one other FCP site, Chusli, since the last board meeting on the 21st of November. It was educational to see how Brandon did this project, and I must say that it’s very impressive that it’s still working. However, Chusli is finding that in the summer the source isn’t enough to provide water to the increasing population, and is therefore soliciting funds from organizations to build a new source further up the mountain, and pipe that water to the existing distribution tank.

Pending Project Tasks:

Defining my future involvement with this project: I agree to do the pending project tasks shown below in order to ensure the success of this project. I will also give a few presentations to bring awareness of the projects status to interested parties, and present a technical debriefing report to be posted on the FCP Dropbox account. However, after these subsequent tasks, I will be dropping out for a while to pursue work as a water engineer, and develop necessary credentials to be effective in the development field within organizations that do water sanitation and hygiene work.

The only involvement I would like to have with FCP will be to remain as the contact between Karla and FCP. After losing Francoise we need someone to be in the same close contact with Karla, since Karla has expressed her fears of losing her connection with FCP since the resignation of Francoise. If I could remain as this contact for FCP, I would love the opportunity.

GETTING A REP: Until we get a new FCP rep, we are depending on our Peace Corps volunteer friends to do the majority of the work in organizing squads, meetings, gathering money, and motivating the people of Pasmata. They have their own assignments and will not likely be giving this project the time it needs to move forward a great deal—but it is my hope that they will allow for the project to not take any steps backwards. That being said, we HAVE to keep the number one priority as obtaining a new rep and getting them to Jalapa as soon as possible, hopefully before February.

Updating our project timeline: With the designs nearly completed, the things that are mainly holding the project back unfortunately are arranging project funds, and obtaining evidence of full community participation. In the next week I will be meeting with Travis to create an updated project timeline based on foreseen progress with our Rotary grant, and with the agreement of the people of Pasmata. The initial idea was to have the project start in February, but based on the fact that we still have so many things up in the air that are out of our control, we may have to push this date back. Things to be cognizant of are that the foreman Jaime is only available Feb, March, April and June, so we’ll likely have to find a different foreman if our project is delayed too long.

Designs: I am meeting with my father who is doing the CAD drawings over the Christmas holidays. We will be putting together the finishing touches on all system components and sending them to Jaime via email for tweaking. By January these drawings should he ready to print by Karla on 11x17 paper and given to Jaime, his masons and work crew. The way in which we want to print of the main pipeline map still remains to be seen, since Google Earth does not allow one to print off high resolution shots of large areas. Apparently Google Earth Pro does, but this costs money; however Travis tells me that we could potentially get this program for free using our non-profit status.

Work Order: Once I get the entire work order looked over by Juan Jose the owner of Agro Ferreteria, I will send it out to you guys. This will also update our budget and give us a more exact figure on exactly how much this project will cost. Hopefully my 10% buffer on the current budget prediction was conservative.

Ordering Up Materials: After the work order and designs are acceptably complete, after all money is secured, permissions in our hands, and at least 90% community paid and signed up to work, we can order the materials from Agro Ferreteria from the United States, which saves us having to transfer large amounts of money to one of the water board members. We have outlined that all materials will be sent to the house of Dona Esmeralda because she has a large amount of storage space and already stores pipes and expensive farming equipment on her property due to the work of her husband. This will be the last thing we do before starting construction.

Community Meetings: We will have to continue having community wide meetings to slowly bring in the necessary 90% contribution and to raise community awareness. Lindsey and Trey will visit households and ask for initial household contribution, and let them know that the due date for community participation will be Jan 15th. This date is changeable, hence the reason we need to think more critically about the project timeline given the current project constraints.

Handling Community Money: This is big. We’ll have Trey and Lindsey go with Julia, Don Francisco and Dona Esmeralda to the bank to open an account that will be used to keep funds contributed by the community. Having 3 people on the account will allow for checks and balances. Again the goal of this account will be to 1.) Pay a maintenance worker to take care of the system, 2.) pay for replacement materials when things inevitably leak and break, 3.) have a nest egg for if another natural disaster comes along, or the system needs to be replaced in the far off future.

Permissions: Lindsey and Trey will continue to help us to get the contract completed by the alcaldia’s lawyer Mario, and have this contract distributed and signed by each of the 3 land owners where the line will pass.

Rotary Involvement: I will continue to work with Ivonne to get Somoto Rotary to be more attentive to our time constraints and inform her about what’s truly needed from them. Hopefully this part of the process will go quickly and all we’ll have to wait for is processing of the application by Rotary International.

Assembling the Troops: I am going to stay in contact with Jaime via email, presenting him with project designs to get his recommendations for designs constructed in the field, utilizing his real world experience with water projects . Lindsey and Trey will begin meeting with Karla and arranging squad meetings to talk over exact project tasks, while meeting with Jaime for his recommendations.

Past FCP Systems: I will be presenting on the status of old FCP projects and using lessons learned from the projects I visited in Champigey, Nueva Esperanza and Chusli, as a basis for the things I recommend for the new project in Pasmata, along with future FCP water projects in Jalapa.

Database: I am working to make sure a project database on the internet is set up in Drop Box. I will be populating existing folders with all of the information I utilized and developed over the past 4 months. If anyone will want access to these files, they will have to download Dropbox from

See everyone on the 18th of December for the Holiday Party!

Jeff and Jessie

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 11/19/2011

The last month has had it’s ups and downs. With the election smack dab in the middle of it, Jessie and I were unable to work for around 8 days since we were advised to leave the country (we actually had to leave the country anyway to make sure we weren’t in Nicaragua with a tourist visa over 90 days). However, some great things were accomplished.

Accomplished since the last post:

Community Meeting: A whole community assembly took place on October 30th. This meeting was very important, because the turnout of this meeting was going to show us just how important this project is to the people of Pasmata. The meeting was advertised in 7 different common places in the town, and I scheduled domestic line mapping for that week so that I could personally tell everyone in the community that this meeting was taking place. In preparation for the meeting Karla and I created posters showing:

  • A map of the complete project: I drew this with markers, it wasn’t pretty J
  • A timeline: how long the project is predicted to take once digging starts (around 3 months, email me if you want a complete project timeline)
  • Funding contributions: Who was contributing and how much mas o menos
  • The Financial contribution requirement from the community: 200 Cords/family initially, 30 cords/family/month
  • A sign up list of squads: 8 squads in all are being asked to work, with at least 10 people per squad working 2x per week, people were asked to pick a squad leader and to work under them. I am working to get this list entered electronically.
  • The meeting was a complete success, over 125 people showed up, half leaders from households, the other women in the community. Already we have 15 of the roughly 135 households that have shown their interest by paying the 200 Cords. This meeting showed me that Pasmata is interested, and that we need to do this project well for them.

Assembling the troops: Lindsey was at the community assembly, she introduced herself and the community knows she’s going to be taking over general supervision when the project starts construction in February. Jaime, the project foreman is still on board, and I have decided that hiring a project engineer is not needed as long as we have approved project designs (see below).

Designs: I have designed the system components completely, all except the dam, since we’re still pending as to where we want to put the source, since to run the lines through the steep stream banks, we have to surmount an initial bump that brings us to around 835meters. The source location as of now is at 830, so to not risk having the flow stopped 100 meters from the dam, we’re likely to push it a bit more upstream. The topography is steep, and should only require another 100 meters of tubing, at most.

For system component designs, please see the email that I sent yesterday.

The complete system hydraulic calculations have yet to be completed, however I have the spreadsheet ready to go and simply need to place the GPS data into it. It’s actually not all that simple, since all of the data needs to be organized and exact pipe sizes iterated for, but it shouldn’t take more than 10hrs.

Permissions: Finally after 2 months of delayed meetings, false promises and frustration, we have legal approval to construct a water system on the land of the Finca de Pasmata! I have a copy of this contract that I will save in a file for FCP. We are still needing to get a legal contract written for the other land owners closer to Pasmata where we’re hoping to run the line, and the lawyer has told us that he’ll have them available by Tuesday of this week. However, all in all, we have these permissions guys, success!!

Pending Project Tasks:

Designs: I will be completing the system hydraulic calculations and sending these calculations out to everyone. With these calculations complete, I will be creating a design doc which summarizes everything for this design. I want EVERYONE to look at this design doc (if you haven’t already looked at the calcs I sent), to make sure I’m not missing anything. I will be sending this design document to the ex peace corps worker who made the spreadsheet I’m using to ensure I’m not missing anything, and will also have it completely looked over by Reyna, the project foreman Jaime and the engineer for ADRA Ramon Urbina.

Work Order: While these designs are being looked over, I will be creating an exact work order for the amount of supplies we’re going to need to order. Obviously, I will not be ordering any of these supplies until the entire system is approved by everyone. I have made contacts with a large hardware store on the way to Ocotal and will get exact prices from them before I leave.

Community Meeting: We are holding another community assembly on Dec 4th. This meeting will drive home the idea of what’s going on with this project, and allow for more people to sign up for the project.

Household Association: I have yet to associate household leader names with actual houses, and that’s going to be a problem I feel. I am going to walk the entire distribution line, asking the folks at each house to tell me the name of the household leader. Moreover, I am going to ask them if they agree to pay the 200 Cord initial cost and the 30 cord/month cost, since there is some grumbling. We have to stay firm with these costs from this point forward, and anything less than 30 cords/month will not be approved by me, but certainly if FCP wants to veto this amount you can! I just know that asking less than that amount will not allow for funding of a maintenance worker, upkeep parts, and complete project overhaul in 20yrs.

Permissions: We will be getting the permissions of the other 3 land owners next week after the contract is written up. These land owner have already given me approval but just to be sure we’re getting this in writing.

Assembling the Troops: I will be meeting with Jaime the predicted project foreman to see his prices for doing work, and what the prices he feels will be for skilled labor. I predict that his price will be around $300/mo (what the alcaldia pays him). I will also run through everything with Lindsey and make sure she’s on board with what her job will be working as a supervisor for us while we wait for the new FCP rep.

Database: I am working to make sure a project database on the internet is set up in Drop Box. We have to be more organized in the future, we need all calculations to be available to board and FCP rep folks, to minimize current and future project confusion. This will be set up this week. I will populate this database with all of the calcs, design guides and regulations I used, lab data, permissions, and a complete project contact list.


Jess and Jeff

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 10/23/2011

The weeks are starting to melt together. We have been here around 11 weeks now, and while I feel like we have made some amazing progress in getting Pasmata water, in the same blush I know there is so much more to be done. Here’s what’s been accomplished lately, some pretty great and positive stuff!

New Project Start Date: After much delay with permission from the Finca de Pasmata, and because we’re still waiting for the Rotary Matching Funds Grant to come through (which will likely take some time!), I have decided it would be best to push back the tentative project start date to February. This will allow us to wait for the Finca de Pasmata to either 1.) respond and approve our request or 2.) Allow the alcaldia to move in and put the Nicaraguan Law (ley 40) to the test, since it’s the law that water is available to all. The law says that this can only take a maximum of 45 days after the 3rd attempt to have approval. So this could take some time... More on this as I find out, we have an advisory meeting with the alcalde and the alcaldia lawyer on October 31st.

Community Meeting: The meeting has been postponed to October 30th, and after talking with Karla quite a bit, we decided that it would be best to have this meeting simple and to the point about the project, what it will entail, and how the community is needed to help. More details to follow. This meeting will be very important as it will serve as a gauge for how many manual laborers we can expect per day, as well as the overall community perspective of the project.

Assembling the troops: This has been a lot of fun. As I mentioned before, I have met with a few engineers and foremen to get a guage for the availability of skilled labor and engineering that are available. From these meetings worth noting was one hydraulics engineer Roman, who during our meeting made it very evident that he’s highly capable to run the supervision of this project. Also, yesterday I had the pleasure of acquainting Jamie, a foreman who does specifically water system construction, with the project in Pasmata. While walking where we’re hoping to put the line, and discussing where we’re hoping to put the retention, it became evident also that he was highly capable and knew his stuff. I spoke with him about his recommendations for the project, his availability, and his rate along with the rate of 4 skilled laborers.

I began to ask Jaime how he runs his ship. He told me his interaction with the engineer, and with his team, and I was very impressed. He invited me to visit his project site in Las Pampas, where he is installing much larger project for a community half the size of Pasmata (a larger project in that the source is much further away than Pasmata’s source (9km as compared to 3km). I will be visiting this site next week.

After this meeting, and some thought, I have decided that what this project will need after the permission has been granted, the drawings are all complete, a thorough budget is made, the money is secured, and the community labor forces are arranged (my goals!), there will be no need for an actual engineer to be in the field. Jamie expressed the engineer’s job at his current work site, and this engineer only shows up one day a week for about 1 hr to check over the drawings and give Jaime a pat on the back. Obviously I will be checking to see if this is actually true next week. Not having to pay an engineer will make this project far more economically feasible.

Also, as I mentioned in an email, having a Peace Corps person to report back to us matter of factly concerning project progress, will be highly beneficial. And she (Lindsey) is free of charge!

THEREFORE, a breakdown of the project will be as follows (and please express your feelings on how I am running this), copy this link into your address bar to view:

The crux now is getting the community on board, and getting the permission!

Designs: I have drawn up designs for the retention, the sedimentation tank, and the distribution tank, and am still working on getting exact figures for how the transmission (conduction), and distribution (domestic) lines will look. I have some great examples from what the Alcaldia office has put together for their past project, so with the help of my AutoCAD wizard of a dad (he has worked with AutoCAD for Shell Oil refineries for 35 years), my handy dandy GPS, and MS paint, I should have something to send everyone in the next couple of weeks…again pending that we can fully clear and walk the line. I can get project design calculations to anyone who is interested, but it will take some finagling. I am making sure that everything to do with this project is being backed up and well organized for the upcoming FCP rep.

So that’s about it. It comes down to having:

  • Complete and legal permission from land owners
  • Drawings completed
  • An exact budget made
  • Money from FCP, the alcaldia, Travis’s grant, Rotary, and Pasmata in one readily accessible account
  • A labor force constructed, and a contract signed by a foreman (we have this ready)
  • Materials, Tools, equipment ordered
  • A place for the Materials, tools, equipment to be stored (thinking the church)
  • And basically a marriage of all of these things working together by Feb….
  • I am sure I'm forgetting something...

I am hopeful that this can be done, we have mad steps to get each and every one of these items covered. Wish us luck, and we’ll do the same while you search for another FCP rep.

Jess and Jeff

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 10/12/2011

Again, another couple weeks, and a few more steps forward with this project! Also had some awesome friends come visit: Cole, and Travis (who is still here!).

Accomplished since the last post:

Project designs – Moving forward, but still lacking crucial information in terms of where the line will be passing, as we have been told we cannot pass through the property of the Finca de Pasmata until we hear back from the owner. However, as shown below, contacting the owner isn’t necessarily the only way to get legal permission to pass the line through the property of the Finca de Pasmata.

I have been scouring sources for best management (design and construction) documents for projects of this type, since I was unable to find any useful design documents from past projects by FCP, something we’re going to have to change by having all project information (contacts, design documents, funds spent, funds saved…etc.) available on a cloud network (i.e. dropbox). We can accomplish some great things here but we have to start being more organized.

I have some designs written up for the dam, and will be meeting with a skilled labor team to talk over the feasibility of what I’m proposing we do. The tank design is still up in the air because Travis and I are considering baffling the system to ensure appropriate chlorine contact time, successfully avoiding short circuiting.

Travis and I managed to scroung up some old system designs from an Alcaldia project in Las Uvas. It’s great because this actually gives us a great idea for material prices. More on this in the next couple of weeks, these designs are going slowly, but the more important items are being addressed now, such as community interest, willing to pay, creating a work plan, and getting someone to fill my shoes and keep the momentum going for this project!

Old FCP Systems – I was originally in contact with Champigny to see their project site in order to learn from their design methodology. As mentioned in past posts, I found that the system, while very very successful (10yrs and providing water), the community was having problems providing everyone with consitent water, both for reasons of incredible population growth, and from what I can tell, poor system maintenance (overflowing tank, meaning the distribution system has something clogged). They have a fontenero (maint. Operator) named Jose, but I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing. I had a meeting with the community leaders, they explained their concerns (which always leads to them telling me they need to install a brand new system with 4” tubes (HUGE). Their way of thinking always seems to be to make the system larger, instead of working with what they already have. Also less than 50% of the people are paying the 10 $C monthly tariff, which barely funds the 3000 C$/month cost of a funtanera, since the town has 400 families paying for their access to water. As you can imagine this is leading to improper maintenance. I have made a meeting with Travis to walk the system to do a second diagnostic on Monday. This is the kind of work that the new FCP rep should be contracted to do, ensure that FCP projects are working well.

We can talk more about this stuff later, but I feel that monitoring and maintaining old projects should be one of the more important aspects of work that is done here with water projects in the Jalapa Valley, and I am going to be working on creating a somewhat ad hoc plan of attack to scale things up in the next few years!

Survey/census data: A pretty bare bones estimate was made from the surveys conducted last week concerning willingness to pay. The data from about 560 interviewees is shown in the table below.

Significant bias likely existed between surveyor and interviewee, as was obvious by the trend of answers gathered by each surveyor. However, the general trend was that most individuals can afford the initial construction cost of $8/family, and a 25 C$ monthly tariff to pay for the maint. worker and materials. The hard part will be collecting these funds, and having consistent payment. It was also found that roughly 50% of the people


# Initial

% Initial

Number responded


Number Blank (NR)


Willing to Pay 8



Willing to pay <8 but >=6



Willing to pay <6 but >=4



Willing to pay <4 but >=2



Willing to pay <2but >=0



Not Willing to pay



# Monthly

% Monthly

Number responded


Number Blank (NR)


Willing to Pay 47



Willing to pay <47 but >=20



Willing to pay <20 but >=10



Willing to pay <10 but >=5



Willing to pay <5but >=0



Not Willing to pay



Average Initial ($)


Average Monthly ($C)


Number responded


Number Blank (NR)


# Bueno


% Bueno


# Malo


% Malo


CAPS (Comite de Agua Potable y Saneamiento) meeting: This was enlightening. Yet another CAPS meeting where various communities came to understand the convoluted and highly involved process of joining the CAPS system and thereby having the organizational backing and rights provided within. CAPS, in short is a “non government based group” of leaders from the national all the way down to the community that came together with lawyers to create updated water laws, in the form of Law 722 for CAPS, to replace the past laws for water 620 and 40(municipal law). Although the only way for communities to join CAPS they have to have a community representative show up to the office of the Alcaldia, where Reyna then is in charge to distribute the 3 necessary applications. This meeting showed me that for those working here in Jalapa with water, we need to have these laws understood, since knowing the rights of community members will allow us to know how to proceed when times , like now for example, come up when land owners are not keen on granting the use of their land for water projects…

This meeting also showed me a small portion of the need for water projects in the Jalapa Valley.

Water Tests – Still waiting on these water tests. The most important parameters we’re waiting on are fecal coliform, and total coliform counts (evidence of shit), and nitrates, nitrites, phosphates (evidence of pesticides or other anthropogenic contaminants). We will be meeting with ENECAL Friday to get these results!

Somoto Rotary Story: The trip to Somoto last week to visit their Rotary (which has got to be one of the most organized groups I have met thus far in Nicaragua. They are certainly alive and well!) Here's an overview

  • Interested in supporting us with supervision as an in country contact
  • Wanting a more up to date budget (heck I want the same thing)
  • Interaction was good, they gave us a good contact for an engineer who does this kind of work in Jalapa who could replace me named Ramon (met with him today in fact!)
  • Travis and I are getting the completed application sent to Rotary this evening.

Building a database of best practices design and construction documents for the new engineer – This is more for future workers from the states here. I feel that starting a cloud database (dropbox) with designs, “contact trees”, contacts, lessons learned, etc. will be the cornerstone for fieldwork in the future. .

Contracting Ramon as the new engineer – Met with him today, but posted the outcome in the next section.

Teaching a Spanish class for Becadoras (scholarship winners from FCP) - Side note, Jessie and I are teaching English to about 5 grantee’s. It has been a fun experience. More on this later. We have been meeting on Fridays!

Organizing Labor Forces: 9

squads of 10 workers. – Oraganizing this will be an involved process, but just mentioning it here in short to show that we are now looking at how we should organize household manual labor. This would be 3 squads working 2 times a week. But it get’s complicated….more on this next week.

Organizing skilled labor forces – We had contact with a brick layer and concrete extrodonare, Jarvin, and he is going to be coming with Travis and us to visit the site. More on this later as well.

Walked the Domestic Line – This took place on October 8th, and we are still looking over exact domestic line dimensions and placements.

Definite Fuenta location – (picture) This is still pending. The location for the new source is above the waterfall and I have chosen the spot shown below due to it’s rocky foundation. The crux will be attaching to the rock and diverting the flow…more on this later.

Design and budget of piping has been put on hold until we hear from the Finca de Pasmata. They are taking a while in getting back to us, and we’ve been in correspondence with Miguel. However, any correspond

ence with Miguel and with Orlando has been in the form of cancelled meetings, and broken promises, so I decided to visit the lawyer of the alcaldia. He told me a few ways to get permission, but ultimately what happened was a last ditch effort to meet the owner of the finca de Pasmata. A sidebar, the finca owner used to be the current owners sister, but he was killed by the Mafia. She ended up taking off to the states, and we were unable to get her to sign the document. Making a long story short, we can still get the fuenta property, but we have to go through a number of hoops, which will take 45 days or so to get completed, before we have legal access to the source. This is the kind of thing you read about in development books…let the delays begin! To make this whole thing a bit clearer I have attached a map of the owners and pipe lengths below:

The majority of this design should be completed, by the end of next week. I mean it this time.

Community Meeting : For now the community wide meeting to talk over the details of the water project has been changed from October 9 to October 23: More on this later as well, this date is also tentative, and pending on a lot of work on our part to create a detailed work plan to present at this meeting.

Pending Project Tasks:

WE HAVE TO GET A PERSON TO REPLACE ME!!! I met with Nicaraguan Engineer Ramon today (10/12) (shoot don’t have his last name, but have his email), and pitched the project, the tentative designs (planning on emailing these out when they’re a bit more presentable), the scope of work, and the desire to have him take over the project when I leave. He said that he is available to help 2-3 times per week, overseeing the work, ensuring the project is moving in the right direction. He would be working in conjunction with a project supervisor (still searching, likely this is going to be a Peace Core worker Lindsay (also no last name)).

I would like to talk this over with the FCP board to see how you guys might feel about paying (price not set) a local engineer to oversee the project. In my eyes it would be the best option, someone who knows the systems, knows the people, and knows the language. But again, more on this later, I have a lot of information to talk over with him, and he still needs to see the project site.

Meeting with Travis to talk over:

  • Project time line,
  • worker timeline,
  • funding, fontenero,
  • acquiring money,
  • reporting project progress and funding,
  • la cuenta (who has control of the project account?)
  • project monitoring
  • Much much more…

This post was pretty disjointed, I'm sorry, it really was just a much needed outlaying of the work that is being put together for this project in the last two weeks. So much progress! Man it’s a lot to think about but having Travis here, and having my 30th birthday in Jalapa really makes me feel like a blessed man. This work is a dream come true, and an incredible experience and jumping point into development work in the WASH sector.

I will put out another similarly long progress report after Travis leaves, we still have a lot to work on!

Until then, take care and thanks for reading!
Jeff, Jessie, and for a time, TRAVIS!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 9/25/2011

This week went very well, of course, not as I had planned in my overly anal and naively built Gantt chart. Keeping with the theme of the past posts, let’s get started with some rigid engineer mind explosion.

Accomplished Project Tasks:

From last time (I only had this compiled in email form, so I’ll just paste it in here all nimbly-bimbly)

Prepared a survey for Pasmata to obtain basic census information along with information and opinions concerning this upcoming water project as well as a portion evaluating willingness to pay both on the initial construction front, as well as for a monthly payment – Conducting this survey went quite well. To summarize the survey process a bit better, the questions went as follows:

  • Who lives in your house: education, age…etc.
  • What kinds of infrastructural items to you have: electricity, water, toilet (with a way of rating their toilet on a good to bad scale for odor, cleanliness, and flies to allow for statistical coding-yep this is what my life has come to).
  • An introduction stating that this project is hopefully going to be happening, but only with the contribution of $8 from each family, and $2 per month to pay for maintenance and all that’s entailed with it. Each person was informed why these rates were as they were.
  • question about their feelings of the use of meters, and how they would feel having the cost of water based on quantity instead of a flat rate. We prefaced that this was likely to be requisite, Travis and I both agree that knowing how much water is being used is going to be highly important for reasons of: understanding system demand, household use (overuse?)…to name a couple. Didn’t know quite how to tell them that our goal would be to someday have the meters monitored over the internet. This explanation might have to wait until we get the pilot set up J
  • A closing statement saying that you for your time, we’re going to have a community wide meeting explaining in detail what is demanded of the community (time, money, labor), set for when Travis get’s here so we can have some more firepower.

In total we had 165 surveys to do. The surveys were divvied up between the water board, President Don Chico took 75 surveys, Julia, a guy named Miguel and Sulema took the rest. I was under the impression that everyone had somewhat of an idea about what a survey was about, seeing as I showed them the activity and role of a surveyor and an interviewee J.

These surveys did go relatively well,

considering that the majority of the folks (unbenownced to me) who were going to give these surveys (the water board of Pasmata, and a few random folks that showed up to meetings) either couldn’t grasp the premise of the surveys, didn’t agree themselves with what the questions were saying and ergo entered in their own biases while presenting the questions, or simply couldn’t read and write. I decided I would go out with a few folks to see how they were giving the surveys. Sulema, the woman I worked with first had eye problems so she had me read the questions and she continually gave her own opinions to the interviewee while I tried to explain that they were supposed to listen while the interviewee talked. Sulema spent nearly one whole survey explaining to me in front of a woman interviewee that people in Pasmata are poor and what that should mean to folks doing a water project. So, not exactly the professional façade we were likely hoping for. However, nearly all 165 surveys have been conducted (albeit by a group of random people, handed the surveys and told to do the work by the water board). A positive takeaway, the people know about the project and are ready for a meeting.

Fecal coliform tests done at the new source by MINSA – This went even better than we had planned. On a whim, I was called by Reyna instructing me that I had to be at the ENECAL office in 2 minutes. I got there in 3, and waited for 1hr. I love this place. ENECAL apparently had an opening in their busy lab schedule to accommodate our complete request for water quality tests. I was driven to Pasmata, and we made the trek up to the location of the new source. Two nutrient samples were taken and one bacteriological test was taken at the source. I managed to find the perfect location for the dam, solid rock walls about 3 meters wide (see picture below). This is at 830meters, the tank is at going to be at 740 meters.

The fact that we got these tests taken before the first of October was nothing short of a miracle. We hope to have the results by Thursday, I will include these in the next blog

Walk the tube line with a local pipe guru: We decided to wait for the response from the Finca de Pasmata. We heard back yesterday, after having called the representative for the farm (Miguel), that the Finca de Pasmata owner was going to be discussing the letter Karla wrote concerning using the source above Las Piedras (right above the water fall about .9km upstream). So we should be hearing back from them by Wednesday of this upcoming week . Exactly 1 week late. Not bad.

Land owners: We have yet to get signed documents from Dona Comila, Maria, Folia. However, we did hear from Dona Maria saying that we could use her land free of charge for the tank location. She was originally demanding $150, but then she decided to donate, not sure why but we are grateful!

Somoto Rotary: Ivonne confirmed today to meet with the water board, myself, and Jessie in Somoto on Tuesday evening of next week. I will be speaking with Travis to see what is needed from the Somoto club to get the ball rolling. We will also be presenting the scope of the project with Ivonne and the Somoto club.

Alcalde y alcaldia: Karla and I had a meeting with Orlando on Monday to solicit his presence at the upcoming community meeting (during the time that Travis is here) October 9th. We are going to try to get him to commit to the $2000 that he has promised for the domestic lines at this community meeting. Just a bit of pressure from the community J. We’ll see how this goes. He certainly isn’t going to have any money to give until the first of the year, but that should be just in time for the domestic lines, shown in the Gantt chart, as being installed in January. I will do a back flip if any of the promises he’s giving actually take place.

Champigny System not working well: I walked the Champigny system to get another successful system design in my head. The system, which was constructed in 2001, is still working pretty good, with the exception of some plugged air release valves (common to both this system and the Nueva Esperanza system). The main problem with this system was there is something plugging up and slowing down water flow in the distribution line (after the tank). This was evident both by the overfilled 16k gallon tank, and the people in the community complaining that there isn’t any water. The people of the community think the reason they don’t have water is due to an increase in demand. Their fontenero (maintainance guy) doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, and how to fix the problem, mentioning that the system needs to be expanded and a new tank installed. After looking through some if-then troubleshooting diagrams in my engineering for developing communities book, I have deduced what I already thought, that the distribution line is either too small (not the case, 2” is actually overkill if you ask me), or is blocked. Blocked is the likely culprit, and since new households have been installed rather ad hoc, I would imagine that more sediment/junk could be entering the system.

I will explain the situation to the Champigny water board when we have a meeting, one is planned for the following week to discuss how their construction teams were run, and any lessons learned. I will also be discussing this with Gregg since he likely knows the most about this project. Looking after systems like this one and making sure that everything is running properly will be a great job for the upcoming FCP rep. I will be keeping a log of work that he/she can do so that his/her time is used effectively. Should be quite a lot of fun having a hand in so many projects.

Gantt chart: Emailed to the board to show where this week’s work has put us in the grand scope of things.

New project on the horizon -- I met with a man named Don Enrique from Trapiche. He and his water board have created an impressive document both in Spanish and in English outlining an expansion proposal of their current system to meet the demands of a neighboring community of 80 households that is developing close by. The community is filled with rockstars who have been very active in expanding and up keeping their water system funded in part by ISLA (Minnesota) in 1983. The system is still running. They are of course lacking funding, but I believe this project could potentially be a great one to piggy back the hopefully successful project in Pasmata.

My main fear is that they are trying to use donor money to get in place a project that will in tern allow them to charge the development company that has bought the land (solares) for the new neighboring community named Monte Verde. The only reason the community hasn’t been built yet is the lacking water system, and from the looks of things, they have been waiting for some time. The fact that there is corruption in the air is pretty comforting these days, as it’s something I’m getting used to dealing with and assuming it’s presence.

Pending Project Tasks:

Somoto meeting-- Getting ready for this meeting. I will be discussing this with Travis who is running the show states side.

Water System Designs – The first string of designs should be done and sent out to Greg et al (I will just take photos of the pages in my calc book, and send the excel spreadsheet and CAAD drawings) by the end of next week. We are hopefully walking the line as well on Saturday, which would give exact elevations, albeit we pretty much already have them having walked the general line area 3 times (mailman calves).

Permitting – During the walk, we hope to get signed the letters that Karla has written, by the 3 finca owners. We will also be waiting with baited breath for the go ahead from the Finca of Pasmata. If there are any issues with them donating the land, this project will likely screech to a sickening halt. Be thinking of us on Wednesday!

Line location cleaned and flagged—this would be nice as well.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re doing well, and I look forward to posting again next week! Things keep on keeping on!

Jeff and Jessie

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 9/12/2011

There were less steps forward this week than in previous weeks due to a bit of sickness on my part, and a few delays due to highway blockades and the lack of proactiveness (and apparent interest) on the part of the alcaldia. Please let me say first of all, everyone has told me that the government is corrupt, it’s a common theme in most governments, especially those in Latin America. And I would like to operate in the innocent until proven guilty prose. However, I am starting to see that the government, while not completely corrupt (they are doing something here and they’re overly busy and they are doing the best with what they can, amidst the obvious dissonance of gossip, jealousy, and keeping a jovial and serving public façade), just doesn’t produce when they say they will. I know, I should have seen this coming.

Ok on to what was accomplished of the pending project tasks:

Accomplished Project Tasks:

Water tests – I met with Karla at 8:00 and we left for the office of the alcaldia with Reyna (awkward, this happened because of our conversation on Saturday, when I told her Karla and I were meeting on Monday to get some tests set up), and went to MINSA to solicit their help to acquire water samples for the aforementioned tests (previous post). MINSA confirmed that they would be able to send a person into the field to appropriately bottle up the samples, but that they could only do total coliform, and physical chemical tests (pH, temperature), not E.coli, and the rest of the mineral/chemical tests. It’s funny, because when we talked to MINSA before, they said they were able to do the gambit of tests we needed. MINSA told us that we would have to get the tests done by ENECAL, and that the samples would need to be sent to Managua the same day the samples were taken from the source. Reyna told us that she would write up a letter and solicit the help of ENECAL, meanwhile we had made plans to meet with MINSA at 6:00AM on Wednesday to take the samples.

Reyna did in fact, to her credit, send a letter to ENECAL, however ENECAL replied by saying they didn’t have time on Wednesday to do the samples in Managua, and therefore we would have to wait for an open spot later in the week so that the samples could be picked up and delivered for processing within 24 hours. Due to blockades, we were not able to get ENECAL to confirm a time to test the samples, and therefore we have MINSA on hold until we can get a date. It doesn’t look like this is going to go quickly.

Permitting After determining where we want the source to be, we now know that we need to have the following contracts signed:

Finca de Pasmata: Karla sent a letter soliciting their approval to pass a pipe on their land, and to use the water with a dam and sedimentation basin, one after the other, per best management practices (waiting on the turbidity results to see exactly how necessary a sedimentation basin and potential sand filter will be)

Finca de Dona Camilia: asking for 20m x 20m of land to place the tank

Finca de Dona Maria, y de Dona Fila: Asking to run the pipe through their land.

These will hopefully be delivered and signed by next week, and we should head from the finca de pasmata by next Tuesday, September 20th per the demands of our letter.

Community Meeting (soliciting community financial input and manual labor) – We are still working to figure out a way to have an informative meeting pertaining to the projects scope of work, and desired sweat equity, and financial contribution, by the community. We are hoping to have this meeting when Travis arrives in the second week of October.

Soliciting 2 year FCP representative – Cole has told us that he is likely not able to be the next 2 year representative, which means we need to seek other avenues for soliciting volunteers.

Project Design: I was supposed to meet with Reyna tomorrow to do one final walk of the water line, since I figured she would have the experience needed to know exactly where a line should be run, but she unfortunately had to postpone to the following Tuesday. With the upcoming Independence Day holiday, and the Festival de Mais, I am thinking that not much work is going to be done in terms of exacting the design of this system based on a real pipe layout.

Report to Somoto: This report was sent out last Tuesday, and was received by Ivonne in Somoto. They are reading over the details and will be getting back to us hopefully this week.

Further Pipe Mapping: We are planning to have a group of 10-12 machete toting landscapers clear a line for the staking of the pipe layout. We have already bought the flags and paint, all we’re needing now is an exact location of the pipe.

Selecting Necessary Elements for a Successful Project: Travis and I spoke this last week about what we felt should be a required from the community for FCP support to be given. We felt that this list should be created to ensure that we stick to our gun with what we know to be true concerning crucial community contributions needed to ensure proper buyin, community pride and ownership, and ultimately a well run and maintained project. These elements were:

Initial community contribution: We had this set at $1000, or roughly $6 or 130 C$ per household

Sweat Equity: The community would have to construct the system with their own manual labor

Monthly Tariff: The community would have to provide a monthly payment, of around 1$, or 23 C$ for each household. This is crucial because this payment would help fund maintenance of the system and future system overhaul. It would also fund a worker to maintain the system. Greg told me that a maintenance operator in Champigny is paid around 300 $C per month to work 10hr/week maintaining the system. This person could be paid by simply 15 household contributions of 1$, where the rest would go into a savings account.

Maintenance worker: The aforementioned maintenance worker would have to be hired, trained, and held accountable for his work.

Water Board: A trustworthy water board would need to be elected, and hold meetings once every two weeks to discuss how the system is running, and address complaints from the community pertaining to system performance.

Meters: We are still discussing the use of water meters on each household tap, to monitor water usage, and the possibility of requiring payment by quantity of water used instead of a flat fee. Understandibly, this is a wildly unpopular idea by the current water board, since a larger household that uses more water, likely has less expendable money due having more mouths to feed.

Well maintained project account: We feel that we need to ensure that the community is using their money correctly, while instilling in them that a savings account supplied by monthly tarrifs will be the crucial element of project sustainability given necessary repairs and project upkeep.

Dignity Loan?: The extend of potentially working the monthly payments in a way that can help the community effectively pay back FCP, and thereby buying back their dignity so to speak, is one option we were considering. Plus the fact that if put back in the pocket of FCP, we would be able to continue forward with other water projects outside of Jalapa!

Others: We’re still working on this list, we feel it is very important to have these set into place well before the community meeting.

Pending Project Tasks

Water tests – I will continue to work on getting these underway with the help of Karla. Not having definitive water quality data presents a problem both from the design standpoint (number of filters or sed basin), and from a feasibility standpoint (if the water has evidence of high levels of pesticides, we may find that this source will not work). However, I am pretty confident that the coliform count will be less than what was found at Las Piedras, and that there will be little evidence of pesticides given the distance the source is from the farms upstream, offering a potential for chemical decay.

Permitting We hope to have these all handled by the end of next week

Community Meeting (soliciting community financial input and manual labor) – We will continue to work on the content of this taller. I will be visiting Champigny to see how they ran similar workshops, and see how they delegated labor, and collected financial contributions from each household.

Soliciting 2 year FCP representative – FCP is on it! This is probably the most important aspect of this project right now.

Project Design: I will try to get the majority of the system components designed based on demand and assumed flow and turbidity, and get them sent to Gary and George.

Report to Somoto: I will email Ivonne again to see how this is proceeding.

Further Pipe Mapping: Hopefully we will be able to meet with Reyna and get the path for the tubes cleared by the end of next week.

Necessary Elements for a Successful Project: Continuing to draw up these elements. Any insight on this is greatly appreciated from the Board!

Thanks for reading guys, and thanks for an awesome Skype meeting! More from here in the next few days!

Jeff and Jessie