In Argentina more than 7 million people —16.6% of its population— do not have access to a water supply network. The difficulty in accessing safe water reveals and deepens other inequalities. A daily scenario in isolated rural areas includes women, youth and children procuring water from a well or a community tap to take it home. It takes them 4 to 6 hours a day to complete this task.
In the province of Santiago del Estero, 26.4% of people do not have access to the water supply network, and almost 19% have to move in order to obtain it. Deep in the rural areas, which are hit by droughts and prolonged heat waves, each drop of safe water counts.
“I used to bring water from the dam with the hand truck and pour it into the pool. During the dry season we pumped water from the well, but it was a bit salty. We drank it anyway because we only had that,” explains Nora, from San Antonio, a rural settlement in Santiago del Estero. Most of the province’s soil is covered by a layer of salt and it also contains arsenic, which makes it difficult to find wells with safe drinking water.
Storing as much water as possible during the wet season is one of the most sustainable ways of securing access to water in isolated rural areas. ISF-Ar has collaborated with several isolated communities in Santiago del Estero in order to install systems that include rooftops to harvest rainwater and cisterns to store it.
Nowadays, we are working in the rural area of San Antonio de Copo, which is 165 km away from Santiago del Estero. The community here has already produced 10,000 bricks for the construction of the water wells. This project is run by 20 local families and it is the public face of one of the goals of the water program: encouraging the autonomy of the communities through community participation and the acknowledgement from others and from themselves as subjects of law.
This program has also been extended to the towns of Santa Rosa (56 families), El Negrito (11 families), and San Antonio (17 families). In these areas, accessing this basic human right has become a cornerstone for the exercise of other fundamental rights such as work (by encouraging home economies), nutrition, health, and the autonomy of families, especially women.
“Now we can be more at ease and there is no need to think about collecting water from the dam or the wells, where animals sometimes drink too. That was a constant concern for many families,” say Néstor and Fernanda from San Antonio.
Having safe water is no longer a denied privilege for these isolated rural communities in Santiago del Estero. Now it is a common good, which is vital for their development and for a guaranteed access to a more secure and autonomous life.