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Location: Cochabamba Setting: Urban Established: 1990 Staff: 8

 

Subject Areas

Environment: Water Pollution, Water Systems Management, Sanitation

Health: Public Health, Disease Prevention

Community Development: Infrastructure Development

Research: Quantitative/Qualitative Analysis and Program Evaluation, Needs Assessment, Survey Public Opinion

 

Organization Objectives

Comité de Agua is a cooperative that aims to independently administer water services through a community-developed system to meet the growing demand of the community and to improve water quality. Its goals are to:

  • Find water sources, build infrastructure to effectively treat the water, bring water to the community, and develop a sewage service
  • Encourage people to organize and participate in services through the use of cooperative methods
  • Evaluate current services and design new projects to better serve the cooperative members and the community
  • Maintain a balanced relationship between social and economic institutional considerations through the efficient management of human, material, and financial resources
  • Contract loans and receive economic and financial support from national and international sources
  • Carry out seminars, forums, and other activities to promote cooperative principles
  • Join foundations and associations, including similar national and foreign institutions

 

Program Opportunities

 

1. Technical Research

The Comité is continuously looking for ways to improve and expand its community services through research and project design. In 2007, the Cooperative initiated studies on new water sources to meet the community’s demand for water, especially in the dry season when water is periodically cut off. Research includes investigating how to capture water from rivers, lakes, and deep wells, and how much the infrastructure would cost to develop new systems. The Comité is also interested in evaluating water quality and the sewage pipe system. In the area of water treatment, it is looking into different treatment alternatives, the addition of a second tank to its treatment plant, and the installation of a residual water purifier. Additionally, the Comité is always looking into ways to improve the quality and performance of its storage tanks and water sources, and eventually finding ways to make home water filters accessible to the members of the community.

 

Opportunities

  • Assist in conducting studies on new water sources, including how to capture water and the projected cost
  • Assess current pipe system and capacity, making suggestions for expansion and improvement, including eventual use of water filters in the home
  • Research viability and cost of new water treatment methods
  • Investigate ways to improve the quality of storage tanks
  • Initiate another research project of choice with the support of Comité staff

 

Requirements

  • Intermediate to Advanced Spanish (spoken)
  • Theoretical or technical knowledge in an area of interest to the Comité, preferably in engineering

 

2. Fieldwork

A significant part of the Comité’s activities includes work in the field. This may involve visiting water sources, pipe systems, treatment plants, and storage tanks to assess current conditions, do maintenance work, or install new infrastructure. The Comité also makes frequent field visits to the hills around the city in search of viable new water sources for the community. Fieldwork also includes outreach to members of the cooperative. The Comité would like to conduct a socioeconomic study of its members detailing their water use with the goal of better assessing the community’s needs. The Comité also aims to offer courses and seminars for the community on the appropriate use of water resources.

 

Opportunities

  • Visit and assess potential water sources with Comité staff
  • Assist with the maintenance of water sources, pipe systems, the treatment plant, and storage tanks
  • Help acquire and install new infrastructure
  • Carry out a survey of the Comité’s members and their water needs
  • Design and implement community workshops and discussions on the appropriate use of water resources

 

Requirements

  • Intermediate to Advanced Spanish (spoken)
  • Theoretical or technical knowledge in the Comité’s area of interest
  • Physically fit and prepared for labor that may be strenuous at times

 

3. Institutional Development

The Comite’s administrative work takes place in its headquarters and involves managing funds as well as membership data. Future projects and areas in need of support include the establishment of an accounting system, preferably with some sort of software package; administrative staff training; inventory and management of files; and membership information updates. The Comité is also interested in organizing various documents and materials which are representative of the Comité’s history into an archive.

 

Opportunities

  • Organize an accounting system and train staff in the use of accounting software
  • Assist in efficiently managing inventory and files
  • Initiate a project to update membership information
  • Train staff in different areas of administration
  • Create a system for archiving the Comité’s documents and materials
  • Locate funds for Comité projects and development

 

Requirements

  • Intermediate to Advanced Spanish (spoken)
  • Experience in administration, accounting, or fundraising

 

Program Supervisor (All Programs)

Enrique Aranda studied agronomy, followed by coursework on water sanitation. He worked at the University of Cochabamba and is now the administrator of the Comité.

 

Note: Responsibilities offered to each participant will be proportionate to their level of experience. Participants who are new to development work may predominantly support and assist current project agendas, while those with much applicable experience may be able to assume greater responsibility. Research projects are strongly encouraged by this organization to support each program’s objective because minimal resources are currently allocated for research.

 

Working Conditions

There are two types of work within the Comité. One is administrative work that is carried out in the office where projects are designed and future work activities are scheduled. Fieldwork is carried out by part-time laborers and the plumber with constant supervision by the administrator and board.

 

Once a month, the Comité holds “assemblies” for all interested cooperative members. These gatherings may simply provide information about the Comité’s activities, but also periodically they include visits to water sources to do maintenance or build new pipes.

 

The institution does not have a schedule for collective vacations, so employee vacations are taken on an individual basis when required. Comité de Agua can host one participant at a time.

 

Organizational Background

The region originally consisted mainly of agricultural lands, but later became residential neighborhoods. Water for irrigation was mainly obtained from surface water supplemented by underground sources.

 

Since the 1990s, with the increase in residential consumption, the use for agricultural irrigation diminished. This water was obtained from private hand-excavated wells of underground water, mainly less than 20 meters below the surface. As the population grew, so did the demand for potable water—the quality of the well water diminished and the inhabitants of Quintanilla started to strategize ways to improve the water access. Comité de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Quintanilla was born out of the initiative and spirit of a group of residents with the need to assure a better-quality water source with sufficient flow for filling the population’s demand. The Comité was officially founded in May 1990 and since then has operated as a water provider and sewage collection service. The headquarter serves as a warehouse for Comité materials as well as an office for administration and public relations. In recent years, the Comité has increased its membership, the areas served, and the range of water sources managed.

 

The climate is relatively dry, with an average annual precipitation of 650mm. The year can be schematically divided into a rainy season, from January to March or April, and a dry season, from August to November. During the rainy season, the surface water is enough to meet the demand of local communities. During the dry season, it is necessary to decrease the pressure on water resources by limiting access following a daily schedule.

 

Currently, the Comité is thinking about exploring new water sources from hillside lakes by evaluating and renovating water and sewage pipe networks, implementing a second water treatment tank, and constructing a social headquarter. Another future project is the drilling of deep wells to supplement the distribution of water during the dry season. In the administrative area, the Comité plans to implement an accounting system into its payment system.

 

About the Comité’s Clients

The Comité offers services to Quintanilla, a suburban community belonging to the municipality of Sacaba, west of Cochabamba. Quintanilla is inhabited by people from different socioeconomic classes, from professionals to farmers.

 

Between 10,000 and 15,000 people are served by the Comité. The base of the Comité is made up of 1,218 members, corresponding to approximately 5,000 people. Of the current members, 613 have access to both potable water and the sewage system, 179 only have water, and 426 are only connected to the sewage system. Nearly 2,000 members use water for domestic purposes and 9 members use the water for commercial purposes.