Posted by Richard Segan on Apr 20, 2021

Quezalguaque is a small rural community of 12,000 in northeast Nicaragua. Concern about water quality and access to clean water has been a long-standing issue. It became a heightened concern more than 10 years ago with the onset of an epidemic of chronic kidney disease.

More than 20,000 people on the Pacific rim of Central America have died in the CKD epidemic. Typically, CKD strikes older persons. In Quezalguaque, though, CKD became the leading cause of death - killing people in their 20s.

The Brookline Sister City Project began investigating the issue. Some in the medical community hypothesized that dehydration - particularly among agricultural workers - might be contributing to the epidemic. However, many Quezalguaque community members were reluctant to drink local water believing that it might be contaminated and the cause of the epidemic.

Water quality was later found not to be a likely cause of the epidemic. So began an effort to assure access to clean water throughout the community.

International cooperation and multi-agency partnerships

In 2018, the international club, the Rotary Club of Brookline partnering with host club, the Rotary Club of Metropolitan Leon in Nicaraguajoined with the Sister City Project in an initiative the Sister City Project had launched to improve access to clean water

Global Grant leads to improvements

A Rotary Global Grant coupled with contributions from the Sister City Project and others led to major improvements in the water system, including:

  • Improving the structure water-distribution pipelines.
  • Repairing water-storage tanks and wells.
  • Installing chlorination systems in seven rural well sites serving approximately 80 percent of the population.
  • Training community volunteers responsible for management of the rural well sites.
  • Testing water quality.
Greater access to clean water
Access to clean water has increased. Where some community members only had access to clean water one to  two hours a day, they now have access for 10 or more hours Chlorination systems coupled with repairs and structural improvements, along with sustainability plans and personnel training, have led to a safer and higher-quality water system.

March adult-education forum on Zoom

Organized by the Brookline club, these accomplishments and future plans were featured on March 25 in a Brookline Adult and Community Education Forum. Moderating the program were Sister City Project President Susan Morley and Brookline Rotarian Richard Segan, chair of his club's Environmental Protection and Clean Water Committee

From her home in Leon, Nicaragua, Xiomara Araúz Lopez, president of the host club, greeted attendees.  Also from Nicaragua, Rotarian Carmela Hernandez, a Rotarian engineer and director of partner ECODES, a non-government  organization, reported on the project. The program also featured Betsy Reilley, director of environmental quality of the  Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, who has has served as a consultant on the project, traveling to Quezalguaque three times at her own expense.

Plans for solar power

The final forum speaker was another project consultant, Craig Miller, an engineer, water-systems expert, and a Rotarian from Des Moines, Iowa. He spoke about the advantages of solar-powered well pumps, to decrease dependence on an unreliable and relatively expensive local power grid. He explained that solar power would further increase access, decrease operating costs, and reduce the carbon footprint

Metropolitan Leone was the host club for our Global Grant. It is now collaborating with our club, to prepare for a Global Grant related to solar power for two well sites.

To watch short greetings extended by the Xiomara Arauz Lopez (on left) during the Match 25 Forum, either click here or on the image at left. Xiomara's greetings are in Spanish, with Caro Piñeiro (on right) serving as the English translator.
For more information, please contact Brookline Rotarian Richard Segan at