By Sarah Fiorello

By: Janice Lee

Dear water,
It was hard to get to you.
Waking up at dawn
Buckets on our heads
Donkeys loaded with jerrycans.
Miles we walked
In the scorching heat
To look for you.
Dear water,
At last you came.

Sweet water
Our backs are rested
The miles are no more
Diseases are gone.
For you are closer to us.
Dear water,
You are such a blessing.

  • Anonymous

A famous quote goes, “You never really know what you have until it’s gone.” When Maria Lopez made the decision to move in with her husband’s family to the rural community of Nueva Esperanza in San Antonio de Cortés, Honduras, she realized that water, an overlooked basic necessity, was more important than it seemed. “I had come from a place where there was plenty of water,” Maria stated. “Here there was no place to bathe or even drink water. The children were the ones who suffered the most. At times they went hungry, because they did not have the water to properly cook their food.” With an underdeveloped water system only providing the basic minimal water services for only four families, Nueva Esperanza was a place where clean water access was not available to the entire community. In order to access these locations in times when water was scarce, residents would take initiatives to take as long as an hour walk three or more times a week to the nearest water source to drink, shower, and clean their clothes. The alternative would be directly buying water from the closest town, but this method is not only expensive, but is also troublesome in transporting the water back due to its weight and the endured distance. “This solution would waste time and make it difficult to prosper,” Maria shares. “We were spending all our money on the most basic substance – water.”

Fifty-year-old Saturnino Días also shares Maria’s struggles as a farmer working in agricultural food production living in the district of El Negrito of rural Honduras. Moving from a nearby district believing that El Negrito would help provide a better future for him and his family, Días was unexpectedly met with a challenge: a lack of safe, quality-usage water. Unable to find clean water to shower or wash his clothes, Días was forced to traverse across miles of terrain to a nearby mountain water source or the river to do the most basic tasks like maintaining proper hygiene routines. In addition to his struggle of gaining access to clean water, the effects of climate change have ravaged the agricultural fields. Cited from ECLAC (2008), “the region is severely affected by droughts, cyclones and the “El Niño” South Oscillation. During these three past decades, rainfall has had a tendency to diminish in the western part of Central America and an increase of temperature between 0.7 and 1 °C has been registered. This situation has a direct impact on agricultural activities and the generation of food for the local population” (Fundación Vida, 11). The temperature increases and the resulting droughts serve as dangerous climatic-projected hazards for global agricultural production, where these fluctuating and dangerous weather conditions would result in thermal and water stress in plants. Because crop and economic productivity are highly at risk and lower than before, this situation would place food security at risk, particularly that of the poorest rural and urban population in Honduras.

Oftentimes, we take the simplest of amenities for granted. One touch of a faucet comes a rush of clear, fresh water that many times goes untouched. One minute turns into one hour of a powerful steaming shower. One pour into the ocean, and the smelly gunk is never to be seen again—not our problem anymore. Because why care if we ourselves don’t suffer the direct consequences from it? AguaClara, a Cornell Engineering project team, brings the truth to light—there is a price to every action and someone has to pay. Every action, everything we waste, has a chain effect. AguaClara strives to develop high-reliability, low-cost, and environmentally efficient solutions to global water problems in low-income communities. AguaClara focuses on researching and designing sustainable engineered processes to provide clean drinking water. Instead of implementing devices that provide water on a small scale, the project’s systems provide drinking water at a wide, accessible scale. The privilege of access leaves individuals free, but plagues them with utter ignorance. AguaClara gives light to these countries in need who don’t have access to the basic amenities. Because of the tolls of climate change, every aspect of life is affected in a continuous change, from agricultural crop growth, to failing economies, to vulnerabilities in health, and to basic human survival.