Partnering to Bring Safe Drinking Water to Rural Nicaragua

Unsafe drinking water is one of the single greatest threats to human health. Globally, waterborne diseases are the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five, killing an estimated 1,400 children every day.

Drinking water contamination is endemic in Nicaragua, which is both the largest and the poorest country in Central America. Rural families often drink untreated water sourced from polluted rivers and streams—water that frequently contains disease-causing pathogens from animal and human fecal matter. A 2010 World Health Organization study found that “[fecal] contamination of water sources is a serious problem in Nicaragua, and that water sources in 90% of the municipalities of the country may be contaminated.”

Access to safe drinking water is a key step to building healthier communities, increasing productivity and school attendance, and enabling sustained economic growth.

When communities gain access to clean water, not only are lives saved, diseases are significantly reduced—translating to a population that is healthier, better educated, and more productive. Numerous studies have shown that for every $1 invested in clean water and sanitation yields an economic return of between $4 and $8.

CTI’s Water Chlorinator helps villagers in rural Nicaragua treat the contaminated water sources in their communities.

The CTI Water Chlorinator was specifically designed to serve rural communities—it is easily assembled in-country, does not require electricity, and can be sustainably maintained without ongoing outside assistance. The inexpensive system utilizes chlorine tablets to produce clean water for an entire village for just pennies per day. The chlorinator attaches to a gravity-fed water tank, delivering a controlled dosage of chlorine that kills most disease-causing pathogens, making the water safe to drink. Water chlorination is a safe, low-cost method of treating drinking water, hailed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an extremely effective method of providing potable water in a village setting.

CTI and our partners at local NGOs travel throughout Nicaragua by bus, motorcycle, and foot to reach remote rural villages, where they help locals assemble the chlorinator and attach it to their community water tanks. In each community, we partner with formal water committees, called CAPS (Comite de Agua Potable y Saneamiento, or Potable Water and Sanitation Committee). The CAPS purchase the Water Chlorinators and maintain the systems—replenishing the chlorine tablets and using testing kits to regularly check for safe chlorine levels. CAPS volunteers also collect a few cents from families to fund the replacement chlorine tablets every few months, so the communities aren’t dependent on outside funding to maintain their sources of safe water.

To keep a constant supply of chlorine tablets within short distance from local villages, we've created over 20 regional chlorine banks that hold small inventories of tablets. This ensures that chlorination systems remain in operation at all times.

To expand the reach of our chlorinators, CTI partners with Nicaragua-based development organizations (EOS International and Self-Help International) that install chlorinators in additional regions of the country. We also partner with the Nicaraguan Health Ministry, who accompanies our staff to the villages to provide communities with health and sanitation education.

More than 340,000 people in rural Nicaragua have gained access to safe drinking water through the installation of CTI’s water chlorinator.

Goal: Help 500,000 Nicaraguans gain a sustainable source of safe drinking water by 2018

Chlorinator Report
Key findings from a 2015 study on the CTI Chlorinator:

  • The chlorinator eliminated all traces of the bacteria contamination
  • Communities without a water chlorination system exhibited more than twice the rate (154% higher) of acute diarrheal disease than in those with a CTI chlorinator
  • CTI installations have an exceptional sustainability rate, with 95% of chlorinators in good operating condition
Read the full report (PDF)