Availability and quality of water are problems that threaten the more than 680,000 people who rely upon the Alto Río Laja Aquifer for their drinking water—including the entire San Miguel de Allende area. These problems have a direct impact on the children who receive school meals from Feed the Hungry.
The current agriculture boom in this area is driving water usage up,
lowering the water table 2-3 meters (or roughly 6-10 feet) per year. This is leading to an increase in unhealthy levels of arsenic and fluoride, creating serious health risks for local communities.
In many cases, water test results in community drinking wells show levels of arsenic and fluoride higher than what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers acceptable. Some wells have tested as much as 12-15 times above the WHO recommendations for both arsenic and fluoride.
These contaminants are associated with dental and painful skeletal fluorosis, renal problems, skin disease, cognitive disorders, numerous cancers, and other serious medical conditions. Children are the most vulnerable, as their growing bodies absorb these dangerous minerals at a much higher rate. With more than 60% of residents living at or below the
poverty level, bottled water is simply unaffordable.
Feed the Hungry operates kitchens in schools in some of these affected areas, where children are drinking suspect water, which is also used in food preparation.
Working Together to Create a Healthier Community
Feed the Hungry has teamed up with Caminos de Agua, an organization committed to determining the nature and seriousness of the water issues as well as helping affected communities design and implement water solutions. Caminos de Agua has been working in partnership with Feed the Hungry since early 2017 when they first tested 31 of our school locations, a number of which exceeded WHO limits for arsenic, fluoride, or both.
At three schools (Los Galvanes, Loma de Cocinas, and Emiliano Zapata),
filtration systems donated by Aqua Clara International were installed that
produced water free of arsenic contamination, an important first step. And in coordination with other San Miguel NGOs, cisterns for rainwater harvesting were installed in Alonso Yáñez and Palo Colorado (rainwater is naturally free of arsenic and fluoride).
Most recently, Caminos de Agua has provided testing on Feed the Hungry’s newest kitchens (results pending), and they also help consult with Feed the Hungry for those sites that exceed the WHO limits. This effort is critical to Feed the Hungry’s mission of improving the health and well-being of children in the San Miguel area. By working together, and with adequate
funding, we can significantly minimize the impact on the health of both this and future generations.
World Water Day 2019
The situation surrounding water availability and water related health risks affects all of us who depend on the Alto Río Laja watershed. Feed the Hungry, Caminos de Agua, and other partner NGOs concerned with this issue are planning a week of important educational events around World Water Day in March 2019. Included will be opportunities to learn how to make sure your own water is safe and healthy and how to act to protect our shared water resources. Meanwhile, to learn more about the water issues affecting our region and the work of Caminos de Agua today, visit caminosdeagua.com.