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!

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