Today, Puerto Rico Community Foundation (PRCF), Oxfam America, and Bosque Modelo joined together to launch a project to strengthen approximately ten rural community aqueducts in the island’s central area that were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
There are still community aqueducts throughout Puerto Rico that have remained non-operational or with intermittent water service for almost a year following the hurricanes, with their needs yet to be addressed. This initiative, led by PRCF, aims to fill that gap and enable sustainable access to water through restoration and improvement of infrastructure and the strengthening of administrative capacity within communities.
Community aqueducts provide potable water and are not connected to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewage Authority (PRASA). Most of these systems are located in isolated rural areas and many of them do not use water treatment technology. They are operated by community organized committees or boards that administer and maintain the systems. Strengthening these infrastructures will include the installation of solar powered systems and equipment, support for regulations compliance, mentoring between communities, and infrastructure repair. Many of these aqueducts are located in Ciales, Caguas, Aibonito, Aguas Buenas and Cayey.
“This alliance is an opportunity to effectively collaborate toward the sustainable recovery of vulnerable communities whose water systems were affected by the hurricanes,” said Brenda Guzmán-Colón, Senior Program Advisor for Oxfam America. “With the new hurricane season already underway and investments still needed in water and other critical infrastructure, this partnership will bring much-needed support to rural communities in need. We will work together with these communities to improve access to potable water, strengthen their ability to confront future events, and ensure that gender concerns are integrated into the process.”
The grant from Oxfam supports the representation of women in the governing bodies that administer the water systems in the communities. This ensures that women’s priorities are heard, and guarantees their participation in decision making and solution finding processes.
The initiative is part of PRCF’s programmatic project in the equitable access to water area known as Agua Pa’ Nosotros (Water for Us). “It is our goal to transform these systems through restoration and/or sustainable repair in order to provide safe potable water to the communities. Technical assistance will be provided to community members to improve the aqueduct’s administration and maintenance, and residents’ participation during construction will be encouraged,” said Dr. Nelson I. Colón Tarrats, Chief Executive, PRCF.
"The Multi-sectoral Community Council of the Bosque Modelo de PR Inc., is proud to be part of this alliance. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to impact community aqueducts from the perspective of community empowerment and sustainability. A better Puerto Rico is possible and together we will achieve it,” said Edwin Rivera, Member of the Executive Committee of Bosque Modelo.
PRCF has been working with 14 community aqueducts that also include other areas of the island thanks to a contribution from The San Francisco Foundation. One of these is located in Río Chiquito in Ponce, where a solar system with panels and batteries have been placed. The majority of the island’s approximately 247 community aqueducts were severely damaged by the hurricanes. The infrastructure was impaired, and they were further harmed by the lack of electricity needed for the water pumps.
About Puerto Rico Community Foundation | PRCF is a non-profit organization that has provided consulting services to individuals, families, corporations and foundations, both in Puerto Rico and abroad, regarding the best way to channel their philanthropic concerns. They want donors’ contributions to have an impact in the self-development of Puerto Ricans. In addition, PRCF has a programmatic area for annual projects that address the current needs of our communities. It is the first foundation of this nature in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and, as of today, the only one in Puerto Rico.
About Oxfam | Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. We help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters. Our mission is to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions.
About Bosque Modelo | Bosque Modelo of Puerto Rico’s mission is to promote new models and practices to foster sustainable development and the conservation of our natural resources at a level that addresses landscape and cultural resources. In this way, citizens become the centerpiece in the protection of the natural and cultural surroundings they are a part of.