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Community Management and Advocacy to Improve Access to Safe Water and Basic Sanitation in Ten Communities in Northern Bolivar

As a result of the governmental decentralization process in Colombia, water systems which were constructed and administered by the Colombian government are now managed by local community organizations. In most cases, the members of these organizations lack the basic skills necessary to manage and maintain these systems, resulting in an unreliable supply of safe, clean, and potable water. In the north of the department of Bolívar, access to water is a challenge in particular for poor rural families, in particular those who have been displaced as a result of the country’s longstanding civil conflict.

The Solidarity Development Corporation (CDS) has been working in this area for more than 10 years. With LWR’s support, CDS is working in three municipalities of Bolívar to improve access to water for rural communities and to ensure the sustainable management of community water systems.

The Project

LWR has worked with CDS since 2006 to improve local water systems, build the capacity of water committees, and carry out assessments of water and sanitation needs and technical studies for the design of improved water infrastructure.

For this current project, LWR and CDS are working with ten rural communities in the municipalities of Arjona, Mahates and San Juan Nepomuceno located in northern Bolívar department, in the Colombian Caribbean region. The specific communities are Gambote, Sincerín, Pava, El Vizo, Palenque, Palenquito, Malagana, San Joaquin, Mandinga and San Cayetano.

In each of these communities there is a community organization responsible for managing and operating the water supply system, which are composed of men and women elected by the general assembly of users. The project aims to achieve water systems that supply clean water efficiently and sustainably to the ten communities. By working with the Network of Community Water Systems of North Bolívar, the communities will be enabled to advocate to the Colombian state about the right to clean water and to demand increased government investment in water supply and waste treatment systems within their communities.

Objective #1

Conduct advocacy with the Governor of Bolívar and the mayor of San Juan de Nepomuceno for the approval of a study to determine the technical feasibility of a dam and reservoir system for the municipality, and to get their support for designing and contributing financially to the construction of a new water system for the community of San Cayetano, which will provide access to drinking water for 1,170 families.

Objective #2

Design and implement a comprehensive hygiene and sanitation model for the communities of San Joaquin (160 families) and Sincerín (533 families) through strategies of awareness, information and workshops with families.

Objective #3

Promote greater independence and sustainability of the Network of Community Water Systems of North Bolívar and to each of its ten aqueducts, through capacity building in systems operation and administration, and also advocating with the community to obtain subsidized water rates from the Government for poor rural communities.