Eva Maldonado loves flowers, so she decided to start a business based on them. She planted lilies, carnations and gladioli on her property in the rural area of Santa Ema de Collipulli in the Region of La Araucanía so she could sell them. But because of the water shortage, at one point she could no longer water her plants. She prioritized the birds, so the flowers all died. Maldonado said these were sad days that made her angry. “I cried because I love plants so much, but I couldn’t raise them. I couldn’t do anything, raise birds, plants, nothing,” she said.
Not only was there no water for her flowers, she hardly had any for personal use. “To really bathe well you had to gather rainwater first. I was happiest when it was raining because then I could wash up,” she said. Her hands also hurt because she had to scrub clothes by hand with a brush since there wasn’t enough water for the washing machine. It was such a difficult situation that she even considered abandoning the countryside and going to live with one of her children.
To deal with the water shortage going on in the rural areas of the Biobío and La Araucanía Regions, the “Water for Chile Challenge” project was kicked off last year. This project was created by Desafío Levantemos Chile and CMPC. It aims to carry out solutions that will provide water access to many families in both regions. So far this year around 250 families have already received this benefit with the expectation that by the end of 2021 a total of 500 families will be covered. This together with the families that got direct water supplied to their homes last year means 750 families will have a better quality of life.
The communities that already have potable water include Marileo, in Lautaro; Chanquín-Millaray, Lolcura, Ignacio Levío and the neighborhood committee of Lolcura, in Collipulli; the community of José Cayuman and Liucura Bajo de Lumaco area. This year saw the inclusion of Peleco, in Cañete; Saltos de Chancagua and Santa Ema de Collipulli.
The “Water for Chile Challenge” is all about carrying out quickly implemented water projects. CMPC and Desafío Levantemos Chile identify communities of 20 to 30 families with difficulties accessing water and provide them a solution in a two- to six-month time period. Project execution has included various solutions like capturing water from natural waterfalls or wells, which is accumulated in storage tanks or containers to then get distributed through a tubing system to the homes of the beneficiaries.
Nicolás Birrell, Executive Director of Desafío Levantemos Chile says, “We think water has the power to change lives. Thanks to this type of initiative, people not only have access to a basic good, but development, jobs and growth are provided, too. We are very proud of the work we have done with CMPC in the Regions of La Araucanía and Biobío. This project is another one of the initiatives that will help improve the future of various communities.”
CMPC Assistant Manager for Corporate Affairs South explained that the purpose of the project is to address the problems of the neighbors in the rural areas of Biobío and La Araucanía so they can conduct everyday activities just like anyone else such as showering or washing clothes. “We at CMPC wanted to take on this challenge and work alongside Desafío Levantemos Chile to build solutions that take clean water to these families for both human consumption and also agricultural or livestock projects.” Lira points out that La Araucanía has the worst water access indicators of all regions in Chile. This means the project is taking on a truly urgent problem.
The project includes building and improving wells for human consumption, enables watering of small gardens and hydrating the farmers’ animals. “Now I can wash anytime I wish, and I can have my plants. I can do everything and even raise some more small animals now. This is a godsend around here because a lot of people survive by raising animals in the countryside,” said Eva Maldonado.
Odette Aburto is another Santa Ema neighbor and she says that the initiative brought a huge change to her home. Now basic tasks are done easily. “Now I have an automatic washing machine. I used to have to wash by hand once a week. I don’t have that issue anymore. I can do my various activities, wash dishes, and shower. We had a lot of problems with the shower. You had to take a lightning quick one,” she said.
Ignacio Lira said that the impact brought by this water solution in terms of quality of life for the neighbors has been huge. He believes this initiative can transform lives. “They used to have to wait for the tanker truck to deliver 100 liters that had to be extremely rationed out. They had to choose whether to wash dishes, bathe or do something else with the water. The first time they turn on the faucet and see water pour out in their homes is a moment of incredible joy. You can see how transformative this project can be,” he said.
Today with the water solution now up and running at home, Eva Maldonado has one greenhouse with plans for another that she will grow vegetables in. “I was about to go live with my son because I thought I’d never have water at home. But now I’m not leaving my land,” said said. Furthermore, since she enjoys flowers, she says she has “a jungle inside her house” because now she can water them all without having to prioritize.