Foundation receives $25 million federal grant to fortify rural potable water systems
By John McPhaul
Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico (FCPR by its Spanish initials) has signed a grant agreement with the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s risk mitigation program.
The purpose of the measure is to establish energy redundancy systems that include solar power systems and emergency generators in the island’s community aqueducts, to guarantee their uninterrupted operation since they provide drinking water to thousands of families in Puerto Rico’s communities.
In the first phase of the $25 million grant, $1.7 million has been authorized for conducting the feasibility analysis to identify the optimal infrastructure for each aqueduct, work plans, environmental impact, and community education and participation processes. It is estimated that some 242 community aqueducts, located in 44 municipalities, particularly in the central area and in rural areas, will benefit from the initiative.
“The Community Foundation quickly identified, after Hurricane Maria, the need for communities to have access to water, a vital resource for health and life in our communities. We identified in the community aqueducts the mechanism to enable the impact at scale of our strategy, which we call Water for Us [Agua Pa’ Nosotros],” said FCPR President Dr. Nelson I. Colón Tarrats in a press release. “Since then, we have worked with more than 60 community aqueducts, providing physical infrastructure, and support in water quality management and in administrative processes and community organization. This grant allows us to broaden our scope and focus not only on providing them with access to the solar energy infrastructure, but also on strengthening them for their management and ownership.”
Meanwhile, the FCPR received another grant of $150,000 from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) to focus on the strengthening of some five community aqueducts in the island’s south, which have been impacted by last year’s earthquakes. The grant will be used to strengthen that potable water infrastructure, including improvements to water storage tanks, water distribution systems, and development of deep wells, as well as the acquisition of materials for water quality management, among other things.
The CDP-funded project is expected to benefit more than 500 people who use the targeted systems. In the southern region of the island, some 31 community aqueducts have been identified as having been affected by seismic activity.
Also this year, thanks to a contribution of $250,000 from Global Giving, the establishment of a Community Aqueducts Association will begin, so that there is an organization that groups, supports and represents the community aqueducts of Puerto Rico.
It is important to note, the FCPR said, that the initiative to create an organization that brings together all the community aqueducts in Puerto Rico was born from the first three regional meetings of community aqueducts, in which challenges and knowledge were shared, and the creation and development of such an organization as the best strategy to meet challenges and opportunities was agreed upon.
The objective of the Community Aqueducts Association is to promote the sustainability and endurance of these community operations, facilitate education and learning processes, address challenges and opportunities, and have a unified voice before the different local and federal government structures.
FCPR’s Agua Pa’ Nosotros program provides access to potable water by strengthening the communities concerned in four essential areas of their community aqueducts: infrastructure, community organization, administration, and compliance with regulatory agencies.
At present, Agua Pa’ Nosotros has formed relationships with 102 island communities with community aqueducts, of which some 60 aqueducts have received technical assistance, the FCPR said. Meanwhile, 20 communities have been granted donations to improve their infrastructure, two emergency centers have been developed in communities with community aqueducts, and 13 community aqueducts have received donations to support community actions against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FCPR program has had the following partners and donors: Hispanic Federation, Global Giving, Oxfam, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
The FCPR is honored to support a living example of community empowerment and self-management, such as community aqueducts, and to guarantee the fundamental right of access to drinking water, the organization said in the press release.