Water for Life project

Chajmaic’s greatest resource is its abundant river, el Río Cahabón.  This river flows for over 120 miles and provides for all the needs of those in the village. 

Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to clean water.

Over 2.5 billion people lack sanitation.

Guatemala’s Water Problems:

  • Poor distribution … dry season
  • Overabundance … rainy season
  • Lack of access to safe water
  •   … especially in rural areas
  • Sanitation: less access to drinking water

Source: 2015 Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) data

How to Build a Water Tower!

We seek to help Chajmaic to become self-sustaining, but first they must have access to clean water and food so that they can think of options.

Our pilot project in the village of Chajmaic is water access for the village, population 3,000:

1) Set up a system to access water for the village, with 3 milestones: water accessibility, water filtration, water hygiene education

2) Set up greenhouse tiered farming and teach a team how to continue this work and why it’s important

3) Teach the people to plant non-native vegetables to feed themselves, on their land, and to sell the vegetables to the other villages

Meetings in the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to develop the “Water for Life” project

In December Ricardo and his team met with the mayor of Fray Bartolomé and she (the mayor) showed them the water filtration system on which Ricardo and his team will model the pump system for Chajmaic.

In May 2018, Ricardo and his team traveled to the neighboring municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to maintain good relationships and ensure to the mayor of Fray as well as the COCODE (village leaders of Chajmaic) that we have the intention to carry out our mission to deliver clean and accessible water to the village.  We need to keep the door open while we seek a large donor to begin the project in earnest, now that we have our tax-exempt status.

Lillian García Contreras, Alcaldesa Municipal de Fray Bartolomé, 12.12.2017


Piping and Pump House in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, on which the “Water for Life” project will be modeled

Ricardo took these photos in December 2017
This is the piping leading from the river in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to the pump house, to purify the river for the municipality.


Photo taken in Fray, December 12, 2017
Below is the pump house in Fray, on which the one in Chajmaic will be modeled.

Neighborhood View article

What does a water tower in Guatemala have to do with Malden?

 How to build a water tower!

History of Sowing Opportunities’ Water for Life project, from 1990 to 2021

Sowing Opportunities Newsletter

Clean water within reach


Geography and History of Guatemala: Understanding the Problem in Context

It is important to realize the historical significance of Ricardo bringing together the municipal government and the village leadership.   The government is mostly comprised of mestizos (mixed Amerindian-Spanish).  While the 26 indigenous Mayan groups in Guatemala constitute a majority of the population, they are very much treated as a minority.

This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala. The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.


This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala. The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.

Throughout history, the indigenous have been ignored, meaning inequitable access to health care, education, and other resources.  Worse, they endure deep-rooted ethnic discrimination that has fueled many atrocities, including loss of land and rights, and most recently, the 36-year Guatemalan internal armed struggle, in which 200,000 unarmed, indigenous Mayan were slaughtered.

This has resulted in a distrust of outsiders among the indigenous and particularly regarding any government programs, which provide a paucity of options for education, family finances, and skill development.  So, Ricardo and Antonio’s efforts are nothing short of a peace mission, which are providing healing and developing collaborative relationships.

Building a Greenhouse to Grow Vegetables for Food and Livelihood: The Next Phase

Ricardo is not operating alone; on the contrary, he is working closely with key trusted individuals within the village of Chajmaic, who are very much on board with his strategic plan.  The idea is to not only provide the villagers with potable, accessible water, but also growing food (agriculture) to sustain them, and a livelihood selling the food that they grow.

This entails renting a relatively small portion of land to build a tiered greenhouse, bringing in vegetables that are not native to Chajmaic.  The team will use the now clean water for growing crops.  For more details on the greenhouses project, see the page Mini Greenhouses, March-May 2022.

Possible land site for greenhouse, Chajmaic – photo by Ricardo December 2017



This is a full project rather than partial, in that the villagers will have food and jobs to sustain them, as well as the education to maintain their livelihood – not only clean water.  This more fully fulfills the mission of Sowing Opportunities to cultivate self-sustainability, education, and wellness in rural Guatemala.



Annual Costs for the Project

The total annual cost of filtering the water is $10,098.  This includes purchasing two filters @ $5,000 that will last two years, plus the cost of electricity bill @ $8.13/month or $97.50/year.  Note that the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas has already built a 600,000 gallon capacity tank of water, including the tubing and pump house, as well as faucets at all the homes.  The pump house will deliver suctioned water uphill and draw it into a tank where the water will be filtered.  This water will be sent to the entire village by force of pressure and gravity push, approximately 450 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day.  This will eliminate gastrointestinal diseases.  This will provide clean water – eliminating gastrointestinal diseases for 3,000 people (250 families).



These costs were updated in the fall of 2018 because the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas took on the water project.  By December 2018, a 600,000 gallon capacity water tank had been built at the top of a steep hill in Chajmaic, with inflow and outflow piping, going to faucets at each home.  In addition, a pump house and electricity had been installed alongside the road in Chajmaic.  All that remains are the electricity and filtration.  This saved us $157,048.  Details are in this newsletter: Updates Since Returning from Guatemala .  In December 2018, we also learned that the village had grown to 3,000 people.  This is still 250 families, using the same resources (same number of homes and land).

On August 16-19, 2020, Sowing Opportunities sent our trusted associates Ricardo (project manager) and Antonio (agricultural engineer) to the village of Chajmaic to conduct needs assessments, meet with village and municipal leaders, and test the water for filtration needs.  Details from our August 2020 visit are here, and at this web page.