The temperatures in Iowa are in the 20’s and the ground is covered in snow. I received an email from Chema in El Salvador letting us know it is “hotter than ever there” and reminding us to bring sunscreen, insect repellant, Gatorade powder, and a long-sleeve shirt. It is hard to believe how different everything will be in just 24 hours! I remember my first trip to El Salvador less than a year ago. In only one week I came to love the friendly, hard-working, conscientious people of El Salvador, their food, and their countryside. I remember going to sleep listening to geckos clicking and waking up to roosters crowing and the bell on the bicycle of the man delivering fresh bread. I am excited to experience it all again.
Our group is smaller than on our last trip. Myself and three other engineers are gathering information and preparing for a larger trip in May that will include professional engineers and engineering students. We will be staying in Ciudad Romero and supported by the Mangrove Association, the Salvadoran organization that provides technical support to over 100 local communities and coordinates our efforts. We will travel to Isla MonteCristo, a community of about 160 people on the Pacific Ocean. Because the Rio Lempa borders it to the west and a brackish stream borders it on the north and east, the community is accessible only by boat. Our goal for this trip is to install test wells at Isla MonteCristo to evaluate whether a new drinking water well in a nearby cashew orchard will provide a reliable supply of fresh water even though water levels and salinity may change seasonally. A sample of the groundwater in the cashew orchard will be collected by a San Salvador lab to be tested for a wide range of parameters to be sure the quality is good for drinking. If it is a suitable drinking water supply, our group will design a new water supply well and mile-long pipeline to take it to an existing tank in Isla MonteCristo. The drinking water well that was serving the community became too salty to drink due to saltwater intrusion. Last year, the community was hauling in drinking water in 5-gallon jugs they had to purchase elsewhere. Each of the 35 families has their own well for non-potable uses, but has no local access to drinkable water. Recently, as a temporary measure, they installed a tank in a nearby inland community to fill with drinking water from that community’s well. They are still hauling in their drinking water by boat, but the cost is less.
I hope we can help this small community that is active in mangrove restoration and sea turtle protection. Isla MonteCristo is not sustainable without drinking water.