Agua Yaku, a clean water project of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM), has been providing clean water to rural communities and families throughout Bolivia since 2008. In 2018, Agua Yaku drilled 65 water wells and distributed 254 water filters throughout Bolivia. We have a local staff of four full-time employees. We work in partnership with Bolivian mission organizations, NGOs, local pastors, and other community leaders to help improve the health, productivity, and livelihood of families in poor rural communities through clean water initiatives. In 2018 we hosted three volunteer teams from the U.S. who helped us distribute water filters and Bibles. We are a faith-based organization who shares the love and hope that we find in Jesus Christ.
Water Well Drilling Program
In 2018 we drilled 65 water wells in 15 rural communities in the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni. In Santa Cruz we worked in three areas: (1) in six rural communities between Pailon and Cuatro Cañadas (two to four hours from the city of Santa Cruz); (2) in Guarani communities of the Isosog region in the far southern part of the department (six to eight hours from the city of Santa Cruz); and (3) in Pampa Grande (five hours west of Santa Cruz). In Beni, we drilled water wells in the city of Riberalta (two days drive from Santa Cruz), and in six indigenous rural communities within a four-hour drive of Riberalta.
For all the wells we drill, we install hand pumps or motorized pumping systems, and consult with the owners on the best way to pump, store and distribute the water depending on their wants and needs. This project has a huge impact on the beneficiary families and communities receiving water wells. Easy access to clean water contributes to the health and wellbeing of families. Women and children do not have to spend as many hours per week carry water back and forth from distant water sources. Studies have shown that abundant clean water also contributes to improved health of children and families and frees up more of children’s time so they can dedicate more energy and time to studying. Additionally, water wells increase farm productivity by making irrigation and intensive agriculture possible. Water wells also help stabilize the production of livestock by alleviating the scarcity of water during the dry season.
As you might expect, water well drilling is an inexact science and not all wells produce good water. Sometimes we drill two or three boreholes on the same property, continuing to work until we are successful. Other times, given the difficulty of some terrain and the lack of precise knowledge about the depth and quality of water in remote locations, it is simply impossible to drill a successful well. For example, in Riberalta, we were told that the water table was shallow; that we would not have to drill deeper than about 30 meters, and that there are no rock layers to drill through. After we began working in Riberalta we found this not to be true. We frequently encountered rock that was slow to drill through or completely stopped the drilling progress. We also found that in some communities where wells were requested, the water aquifer depth is over 100 meters deep. Unfortunately, we did not travel to Riberalta equipped with the budget or equipment to drill such deep wells.
It requires the same amount of time and work to drill an unsuccessful well as it does to drill a successful one. Depending on the depth of the borehole and the density of the strata we drill through, it takes anywhere from one to five days to drill a well. In Santa Cruz, the average depth of the 25 wells we drilled was 63 meters and varied between 14 and 97 meters deep. In Beni, the 40 wells we drilled averaged 20 meters in depth and varied between 9 and 56 meters deep.
In the spirit of transparency and education, I will explain in more detail the well drilling successes and failures we experienced. We drilled a total of 65 boreholes in 46 drilling locations in 2018. We finished with 40 successful wells (producing good potable water). This translates to a success rate of 62% per borehole and an 87% success rate per location.
In the 40 successful locations, we were successful with the first borehole at 31 sites. Four sites required two borehole attempts, four sites required three borehole attempts and one site required four borehole attempts. We failed to drill good water wells at six locations despite multiple attempts in each location.
Why are some wells not successful? We often have to abandon a borehole because of several conditions: (1) collapse due loose sand, (2) impenetrable rock, (3) cannot find a water bearing aquifer at a depth within the capacity of our drilling equipment, (4) poor water quality in an aquifer (i.e. high salt or iron content), and (5) failure of the well casing or filter (silt or sand contaminates pumped water).
In Riberalta we worked closely with another mission organization, the Swiss Evangelical Mission, drilling water wells in rural communities where they have long term evangelical work, church planting, and pastor training. Many of these communities have never had a water well project, so well drilling is experimental, and success is not guaranteed. As a not-for-profit project, we sometimes must risk failure and financial loss to bring clean water to these remote families living on the margins of survival.
In 2018, Agua Yaku water wells benefited thirty-six individual families, nine churches or mission projects, and one public school. Most family wells are also shared with surrounding neighbors who do not have their own water well. We estimate 1820 people benefited from water wells Agua Yaku drilled in 2018.
Agua Yaku is a non-profit project. We raise donations to help cover most of our $120,000 USD annual budget; however, we do not drill water wells for free. Donations allow us to subsidize the cost of drilling water wells. Charging clients a co-payment helps create a since of partnership, ownership, and investment that will hopefully encourage families to value and maintain their wells for many years. We charge clients a variable fee depending on need, ability to pay, depth of well, and the cost of materials we use to construct the well and pump. The fee varies between $75 and $1000 USD. Considering all project costs, our actual cost for drilling water wells is approximately $2000 USD per well.
Water Filter Distribution
The second component of Agua Yaku is the distribution of point-of-use water filters. Filters ensure that families drink clean safe water no matter their water source. Water wells are expensive to drill and cannot be drilled in all locations. Water filters are an inexpensive way to guarantee everyone has access to clean water regardless of location or financial status. We have been using Sawyer hollow fiber membrane filters in Agua Yaku since 2013. Through 2018, we have distributed about 2500 water filters throughout Bolivia. I am also working on my own hollow fiber membrane water filter design called AQUASIV. It should be less expensive, more efficient, and have a better user-interface that the Sawyer filters we are currently using. It will go into production in 2019.
Agua Yaku brought an additional 500 units of Sawyer water filters into Bolivia during the first half 2018 (200 were brought in with volunteer teams and 300 were imported through FedEx). After paying import taxes and fees, each Sawyer water filter costs us about $30 USD (wholesale price). As we demonstrate the water filters, we give away free filters (along with a filter stand and handwashing station) to schools, health posts, churches, and other public institutions so that everyone in a community can have access to clean filtered water. We do not, however, have enough financial resources to give free filters to every family in a community. We generally sell filters at a heavily subsidized rate, charging about $15 USD per filter. If families do not have cash on hand to purchase a filter, we also accept artisan goods of equal value in lieu of cash. We are also experimenting with selling filters to families on credit. Even if we had significantly greater financial resources, we would still not simply give free filters to families. We are attempting to lower the true cost of water filters so that even the poorest families can afford to pay full price for a filter, and thus expand the accessibility of clean water for everyone. At the end of 2018, we have a remaining stock of 220 filters.
In 2018 we distributed 254 filters in rural communities throughout Bolivia. Three volunteer teams from the U.S. (Apr, Oct, and Nov) helped us distribute filters in twenty-four rural communities in Valle Grande, Buena Vista, and Riberalta. Fifty-six filters were donated free of charge to schools, health posts, churches and other community organizations, and 198 filters were sold to families at the subsidized rate. We estimate that 5480 people will benefit from the use of these filters. The distribution of these water filters will positively impact the health of children in schools and families who were previously drinking water directly from contaminated water sources. Our goal is to get a point-of-use water filter in every rural household in Bolivia.
Along with water well drilling and filter distribution (and training in hygiene and proper maintenance of filters and wells), we also distribute Bibles and share our Christian faith in each community. We hope that water well drilling can be used as way for local church planters and pastors to share their faith in communities which do not currently have an evangelical presence and to further their church planting efforts.
Needs for 2019
As we have begun working in 2019, we have several urgent financial needs to share with you. In addition to the $10,000 USD monthly budget for drilling supplies, travel costs, and salaries, we also need to replace our work truck. We currently tow the drilling rig trailers and with a 2008 Toyota Tundra that we bought used about four years ago. We have completely worn that truck out traveling the rough dirt roads of Bolivia. As you can see from the 2018 expense details, last year we spent over $13,000 simply maintaining this truck. Now, in February 2019, we are facing another $5000 expense to repair or replace the motor in the Tundra. We lose too much drilling time trying to repair this pickup truck and keep it on the road. With a $30,000 USD donation, we could replace this truck with a newer vehicle that would be more reliable and would not require so much regular and expensive maintenance.
We also need to upgrade our drilling equipment. We need to replace our current air compressor and mud pump system with more robust equipement that will allow us to drill water wells more quickly and dependably without so much down time for maintenance. This is a $10,000 USD expense that is in addition to our normal annual budget.
The Swiss Evangelical Mission has invited Agua Yaku to return to Riberalta in 2019 to continue drilling water wells and distributing water filters in the many impoverished indigenous communities where they are planting churches and discipling believers. There is a huge need for clean water in these largely forgotten communities. Providing clean water is a fantastic way to shows God’s love to these people and to help gain their trust so we can share the gospel message of hope and salvation. Working in Riberalta stresses our normal project budget because of the added expense of working so far from our base in Santa Cruz, and because people in these communities cannot afford to contribute much to the cost of well drilling. We need an additional commitment of at least $20,000 USD from our supporters before we can commit to returning to Riberalta in 2019.
If you believe in the value of the work we are doing in Bolivia, we would appreciate you becoming either a monthly donor, helping us finance our regular annual budget, or perhaps you could give a one-time gift to help us cover these larger one-time needs.
Thank you so much to everyone who has so faithfully supported Agua Yaku over the years. You have helped us make a huge impact in Bolivia, both spiritually and physically. Bolivian’s are as much God’s children as are North Americans, but because of our current geopolitical environment, opportunities to advance financially and properly care for one’s family here is Bolivia is more difficult to accomplish. If God has blessed you, I hope you will consider partnering with us so we can share that blessing more broadly. We already have quite a few teams scheduled for 2019, but we can always make room for more visitors. If you would like to come down individually or with a volunteer team to give us a hand and see how God is working in Bolivia please drop us a note.
2018 Budget Summary
The following budget summarizes the income and expenses for both the Agua Yaku water well drilling project and the water filter distribution project. This budget includes all local Bolivian expenses, including local staff salaries, but it does not include the budget for the Beams salary (which is paid for through a separate EFCCM account).
|Agua Yaku Accounting Summary 2018 (USD $)|
|Agua Yaku Donations||$90,443|
|(2-5035 and 2-5048)||Donations from US||$69,706|
|Donations from Canada||$20,737|
|Directly from Canadian donors||$11,563|
|Trans. from other EFCCM accts.||$9,174|
|Donated through EFCA/EFCCM||$58,443|
|Cash donations in Bolivia||$32,000|
|Guest House Income||$4,292|
|Mission Team Transfers||$7,995|
|Water Filter Sales||$2,095|
|Well Drilling Client Payments||$11,542|
|Vehicle Use Outside Project||$569|
|% Passing through EFCCM Office||49.9%|
|Base Donations — not part of project income||$6,037|
|Drilling Supplies, Parts, and Tools||$14,813|
|Water Filter Project||$13,110|
|Water Filter Purchases||$10,354|
|Locally Purchased Supplies||$1,837|
|Promotion and Training Materials||$659|
|Office and Administration||$14,937|
|Bolivia Business Tax||$609|
|Business and Legal Exp||$1,240|
|Office Supplies and Admin Exp||$872|
|Team Cell Phone Plan||$1,757|
|EFCCM 14% admin fee||$7,545|
|EFCA 5% admin fee||$1,895|
|Salaries and Benefits||$35,247|
|Staff Retirement Contributions||$2,103|
|Staff Insurance Premiums||$1,693|
|Non-insured Health Benefits||$842|
|Contract Labor Salary||$4,441|
|Guest House/Office Exp||$4,630|
|Cleaning Products and Supplies||$186|
|Land Line and Internet||$584|
|Set-up and Maintenance||$187|
|Property Sale Exp||$87|
|Rent (Jan-Jun 2019)||$1,118|
|Tundra Maintenance and Repair||$13,269|
|Patrol Maintenance and Repair||$444|
|Trailers Maintenance and Repair||$362|
|Personal Vehicle Mileage||$791|
|Public Transport (bus, taxi, plane)||$2,103|
|Per Diem Exp||$5,304|