Aerial view of a solar-powered community water system in Guatemala.
Solar farms like this one in Nuevo Bracitos, Guatemala, can deliver clean drinking water to families in rural agricultural communities.

How Solar Farms Can Bring Clean Water to Rural Guatemala

Guatemala’s rural farming families are used to relying on the sun and rain for survival. But in the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, the sun’s rays can also play an important role in delivering clean drinking water.

The community of Nuevo Bracitos is home to the diocese’s first-ever solar-powered community water system. Nestled next to cornfields, an innovative solar farm and a 16,643-gallon elevated water storage tank are the most visible signs of this technology — but there are blessings underground too. An elaborate piping system delivers clean, safe water drawn from deep underground directly to the homes of 276 families, where it is used for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing. Cross Catholic Outreach is eager to fund additional water projects in the diocese and around the world, but we need your help to share the blessing of clean water.

A young Guatemalan woman uses a pulley to lift a bucket of water at a well.
Many families in Guatemala’s Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu rely on artesian wells.

The Danger of Dirty Water in Guatemala

In Guatemala’s Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, most people lack access to clean, safe water. Children bathe and women wash clothes in a nearby river. It is dirty water, and it leaves a foul odor. Families typically rely on artesian backyard wells for drinking and cooking, but these wells are often contaminated with animal and human waste, bacteria and pesticides. Making matters worse, these shallow wells can dry up during the dry winter, forcing impoverished families to make a choice: purchase water at a high price or fill up heavy containers at the river. It’s a cycle that leaves families sick, exhausted and trapped in poverty.

RELATED: Addressing Poverty in Rural Guatemala With Food and Faith

A view from the ground of a solar-powered community water system in Guatemala.
Solar panels convert the sun’s energy to electricity to power a well in Nuevo Bracitos, Guatemala.

Why Solar Power Is Ideal in Parts of Guatemala

Solar-powered community water systems offer a reliable year-round source of clean water in places like rural Guatemala, where reliable electricity is limited and expensive. In addition to being environmentally friendly, solar-powered systems require little maintenance and panels typically last around 25 years. The Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu has a flat terrain that is ideal for a solar-powered design and plenty of sunshine to power water delivery.

Related: Overflowing With Blessings: Clean Water for the Poor

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A Guatemalan Catholic bishop reviews construction plans with engineers.
Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado, center, reviews construction plans in Guatemala’s Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu.

Cross Catholic Outreach’s Process to Build Solar-Powered Water Systems

Cross Catholic Outreach is partnering with Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado and the local Caritas Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu ministry to provide a sustainable solution for families who lack clean water. Together, we’ve teamed up with the University of San Carlos, the largest and oldest university in Guatemala, to conduct community surveys that determine which areas are best suited for water projects. Decisions are based on community leadership, overall support of the project, and a willingness to maintain the infrastructure.

Once a community is selected, a local crew is hired to build and install the system. Community trainings are held to educate families on water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Engineers also provide one year of technical support to ensure families will continue to receive the gift of clean, safe water for many years to come.

RELATED: Clean Water for Families Worldwide

A Guatemalan man holds corn.
Catarino Solis, left, is grateful for the blessing of clean water in his community of Nuevo Bracitos, Guatemala.

Clean Water Changes a Family’s Life

Catarino Solis’ family is one of the 276 families who received clean water through Caritas Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu’s first solar-powered community water system in Nuevo Bracitos. It’s a project he describes as lifesaving.

“Children no longer risk drowning in the river while they bathe,” he said. “The water has also improved our hygiene. Our clothes used to smell when they were washed in the river, and now everything is much cleaner.”

As a community leader, Catarino knows firsthand that neighboring communities would benefit greatly from a similar water project.

“Several leaders from other communities have approached me and have shared their admiration,” he said. “Starting with this water project, we are seeing great changes and advancements in Nuevo Bracitos.”

Clean water has not only improved health and sanitation, but also it has increased faith and hope in Christ.

Catarino tells us, “I ask God with all my heart to bless Cross Catholic Outreach and its supporters in the United States who came together for this great project. We don’t know each other, but you have beautiful hearts.”

Related: Catholics Unite to End Water Crisis for 10 Kenyan Communities

A Guatemalan girl.
Children in Guatemala’s Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu are counting on friends like you for the gift of clean, safe water.

The Gift of Clean Water

Clean water changes lives. It protects children from dangerous and deadly waterborne diseases. It helps mothers and fathers grow gardens to improve nutrition. It gives families more time for important activities, such as school, work and Mass. In rural Guatemala, hundreds of families pray for the many blessings of safe, abundant water.

The gift of water is also a tangible sign of the Lord’s comfort and compassion — an incredible blessing for families who have struggled for generations. Your generosity can quench thirst and share the Lord’s mercy with families in Guatemala who are rich in faith but materially poor. Together, we can make solar-powered community water systems a reality that will benefit families for many years to come!

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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2023, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.