Steven L. Abrams
Mary Lou Berger
"An equal opportunity
Water Utilities Division Director Chosen for Water for People Project
Juan Guevarez, PE, director of the Plant Operations and Maintenance Division of the Water Utilities Department, was recently selected by Water For People (WFP) to take part in a mission in Honduras.
The nonprofit organization helps people in developing countries improve their quality of life by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs. Its goal is for all people to have access to safe drinking water and sanitation -- a world where no one suffers or dies from a water- or sanitation-related disease.
WFP volunteers monitor and evaluate water and sanitation systems in poorer communities of Central America. Juan’s group included Matt Verbyla, Andrew Britton, Ricardo Segovia, MaryAnn Gudiel and Wendy Antunez. They visited eight communities in four municipalities and three provinces during their week-long trip to Honduras.
WFP has established a model where its most relevant role is that of a coordinator, bringing all parties together to formulate a plan to have self-sustainable community water/sanitation systems. WFP and its volunteer professionals contribute funds, time, training and expertise. The communities contribute funding and labor. For a typical project in Honduras, the community may contribute up to 1,000 lempiras ($52.63) and 10 days of labor per family or per connection. The labor includes hand digging trenches for the pipes and other tasks.
Water For People has been very successful in installing water and sanitation systems and is now focusing on the sustainability aspect, providing training in the administration, rate setting, and operation and maintenance of the systems.
For example, a water pumping station serving the Gonzalo Maldonado community in the municipality of El Negrito operates without any electrical energy. Instead, a watermill runs a pump that delivers the water to the community tank. This pumping station was constructed by another organization, but the residents did not have a means of collecting funds for maintenance and repairs. So, when the pump broke, they could not afford to fix it. WFP volunteers assessed the issues and provided the information the staff and citizens needed to make repairs. The group also helped set up an administrative collection process to maintain the pump, the water source, the storage tank, and the entire water system. Gonzalo Maldonado now has a fully functioning, self-sustaining water system.
Juan said he is very encouraged by the good work WFP is doing in these remote communities. “The experience I have gained with Palm Beach County prepared me for this assignment and I believe was key in the selection process,” he said. Juan worked in the private sector for 15 years before coming to work for Water Utilities and has been serving as director of the Plant Operations and Maintenance Division for seven years.
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