​To Solve Water Issues, It’s Going to Take More than a Village

Alex Cabral in Mexico with the Global Social Benefit Fellowship

Alex Cabral in Mexico with the Global Social Benefit Fellowship

By: Alex Cabral, GSBF, Class of 2015, and Jaime Gusching

Las Segovias, a small coffee-producing community in Nicaragua, has water problems. Women and children in Las Segovias walk, sometimes for miles, to draw water from pilas, open wells. Given a lack of filtration system, activities like laundry, livestock grazing, and public bathing polluted the well water.

This community-wide problem mandated a community-wide solution. A local co-op took the lead.

PRODECOOP assists over 2,300 small farmers – 30% of which are women— with marketing, development, and training for fair trade international coffee export. The organization implemented a grey water recycling system with funding from Community Agroecology Network (CAN) and logistical support from GRUPEDSAC, a Mexico-based ecotourism and development organization.

PRODECOOP selected families to participate in grey water recycling on the basis of location and necessity for water. While the cost of each system is fairly steep (around $800), the participating families covered more than 75% of the system material and installation costs.

Here’s how it worked.

Doña Corina, a farmer, attached gutters to her roof. When it rains, water flows into a large tank on the side of her house. With a simple faucet and tube, Corina is able to draw water from the tank to sink for washing dishes, cleaning clothes, and bathing.

The runoff from these activities flows down her sinks and travels through pipes with two filters composed of layers of plastic, rocks, gravel, carbon, and fine sand. After double-filtration, the water travels to Corina’s small piece of land where she grows citrus fruits, avocados, and coffee. With a micro-irrigation system in place, she decides how often and how much to water her crops.  The system allows her to conserve water for when she needs it most.

The result: improved food security and reduced seasonal hunger. Doña Corina no longer has to walk to collect water.

With grey water recycling systems, lives, like Corina’s, begin to improve.

Alex Cabral conducting Social Impact Assessment in Mexico

Alex Cabral conducting Social Impact Assessment in Mexico

Doña Maura, a strawberry farmer and another beneficiary of grey water recycling, exclaims, “Me ha servido de mucho provecho. Yo me siento muy agradecida. Nunca creía que iba a tener eso.” (The system has helped me a lot. I am very grateful. I never believed I would have something like this.)

What are the next steps to face the continual challenge of water scarcity?

PRODECOOP aims to filter water for consumption. At present, families must still purchase potable water in large jugs or attempt to purify the water from the well. PRODECOOP admits, “It will have to take small steps to implement such a large project.” But, for the sake of the community, it would be well worth it.


PRODECOOP partnered with Santa Clara University’s Environmental Studies and Sciences Department to research climate adaptation plans and community development programs.

GRUPEDSAC is also no stranger to Santa Clara University (SCU.) In 2009, GRUPEDSAC participated in the Global Social Benefit Institute at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship a social enterprise accelerator housed at SCU.