“Forgotten Communities” in Puerto Rico Still Lack Safe Water

Oct. 24, 2017

WaterStep is Working with Puerto Rican Officials to Install 78 Safe Water Systems throughout the Island

Twenty-two of WaterStep’s water chlorination systems and bleach makers were installed in the hardest-hit municipalities of Puerto Rico last week. Thanks to a $233,000 grant from United for Puerto Rico, a non-profit formed by the First Lady of Puerto Rico Beatriz Rosselló to aid those by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María, 56 additional systems will be deployed in the coming weeks so that each of the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico will have a source of safe water and disinfectant.

The first 22 safe water systems, each one providing 10,000 gallons of safe water a day, were distributed and installed last week after a team from WaterStep spent one week in-country coordinating training sessions in Vega Alta. They trained nearly 100 response workers from different rural areas, who were then given systems to install throughout the different municipalities. Many of them wept when they received the life-saving equipment.

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“When our team arrived in the rural, inland communities of Puerto Rico, we were alarmed to find people drinking untreated surface water from rivers and roadsides,” says Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep who led the team in-country. “In these areas, we found no evidence of bottled water or disinfectant being given out or in stores. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are dealing with the consequences of drinking unsafe water and improper sanitation, and are suffering from diarrhea and other life-threatening illnesses. If these communities don’t get safe water soon, we will start to see a very serious turn for the worse.”

WaterStep is working with the National Puerto Rican Leadership Council Education Fund, which received the $233,000 grant from United for Puerto Rico, to reach the ultimate goal of installing its award-winning water chlorination systems in all 78 municipalities. Each system also contains a portable bleach maker, which creates medical-strength disinfectant that can be used for sanitizing clothing, cooking areas, and household surfaces.

The devastation from Hurricane Maria caused massive damage to the island’s electricity systems and water infrastructure, which will take months, if not years, to repair. WaterStep’s safe water systems have been used in many countries, and they are lightweight, solar powered, and easy to install and operate. Bottled water is heavy and difficult to distribute, and is no longer a viable long-term solution to the dire situation facing Puerto Rico. To donate to WaterStep’s disaster relief fund, visit waterstep.org.

WaterStep, headquartered in Louisville, KY, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that believes everyone should have access to safe water and that no one should suffer from waterborne illnesses. WaterStep implements water projects and equips people with tools and training in water purification, disaster relief, sanitation, health education, and well repair. Since its founding in 1995, WaterStep has brought safe water to people in over 40 countries. To learn more, call (502) 568-6342 or visit waterstep.org.

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