United States

Caribbean Clean Water Hurricane Relief Program

Path of Hurricane Maria, 2017

Caribbean Clean Water Hurricane Relief Program

Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda

NPCA and WC logos

This project is made possible through the partnership of WATER CHARITY and the NATIONAL PEACE CORPS ASSOCIATION, working with SAMARITAN'S PURSE


Aftermath of Irma in St. Maarten

As most of you know, a series of destructive storms hit the Caribbean this year with a ferocity and intensity that was truly catastrophic.  The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive, deadly, and extremely destructive season, featuring 17 named storms!  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria did the majority of the damage, though, setting records and leaving a wake of devastation in their wakes.

Hurricane Maria was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico, and caused catastrophic damage and triggered a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto RicoEye of the Hurricane (Maria).  In Maria's wake, Dominica's population suffered from an island-wide water shortage due to uprooted pipes, nearly every roof on the island was damaged, and 100% of the banana and tuber plantations were lost.  In Puerto Rico, the hurricane completely destroyed the island's power grid, leaving all 3.4 million residents without electricity, and an outbreak of leptospirosis materialized in the weeks following the hurricane, as standing water remained and became contaminated with animal urine and feces.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which was also a Category 5, development on the islands of Barbuda and St. Maarten (also St. Martin) was described as being "95% destroyed" by respective political leaders, with 1,400 people feared homeless in Barbuda. In many areas, every building was damaged or destroyed, including the shelters!  The winds at Irma's peak were in excess of 185 mph, the strongest to hit the area on record.

Water Charity has done a lot of disaster response over the years, and we believe very strongly that water filters save lives.  In the wake of a natural or man-made disaster, people are displaced and in the shelters and camps that spring up, waterborne illnesses can spread very quickly.  In many cases, deaths from cholera, typhoid, dysentery and the like can surpass that of the disaster itself by orders of magnitude.  Water Charity was helping in Haiti after their 2010 earthquake, when a cholera outbreak took hold that went on to affect nearly 700,000 people (more than 6% of the population)!  It is only recently coming out that the number of deaths from that event are probably at least 3x as great as what were reported at the time.

Caribbean Clean Water Hurricane Relief Program

The Solution

In order to help as quickly and efficiently as possible, Water Charity teamed up with our friends at Samaritan's Purse to deal with the water issues from the outset, and get filters where they were needed.  We are happy to say that these filters were among the first to be distributed and placed in the afflicted areas. 

There are 3 types of filters, 4 Islands covered, and 5 projects in our relief program, so far.  We are proud to say that more than 100,000 people are drinking clean water due to this program now, and we would like to expand it if we can raise more money.

Here, we will give an overview of all the various projects in the program.  Each of them will also have their own dedicated page on this site where you can go to see more detailed information, pictures and video from the work and so on.

SAWYER FILTER DISTRIBUTION (Puerto Rico, Dominica, St. Maarten)

​Those of you who know Water Charity will know about our longstanding and frequent use of the Sawyer "hollow Sawyer Distributions so farmembrane" water filter technology. See our Filters For Life Program for some examples.  Many of our distributions fall into other programs, but you will see that we were one of the earliest adopters of this method and product, and have helped Sawyer build out an entire international relief effort to match their commercial efforts.  This has caused an explosion of use around the world, a huge drop in price, and a lot of people having access to safe water who wouldn't otherwise.

Fast forward to 2017, prices for filters are now less than 1/4th of what they were when we started using them, and they were a deal back then. They have many advantages over the ceramic and carbon filters we used to use. They are light, small, last forever (guaranteed for a million gallons, and they go way beyond that), require almost no maintenance and are engineered so the carbon nanotubes do not let anything larger than .1 micron (or .02 for the extreme model) through. No living pathogen is smaller than .1 micron, so it is a brilliant solution.  See a testimonial from Kenya here.

Now, in many homes across Dominica, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten, Sawyer filters are providing hurricane-affected families with clean water. These personal filtration systems filter more than 150 gallons of water per day. In certain remote areas of Puerto Rico—where residents were trapped by blocked roads and had neither running water nor power—some people resorted to drinking from local streams. Using a helicopter, our disaster response staff airlifted thousands of Sawyer water filters and buckets to these remote communities. Once residents received the filters, they had ongoing access to clean water.

  • 5,500 Sawyer Filters installed in Puerto Rico (also see Community Filter Installation below)
  • 1,000 Sawyer Filters installed in Dominica
  • 88 Sawyer Filters installed in St. Maarten (also see Community Filter Installation below)


Barbuda is a sparsely populated island in the nation of Antigua & Barbuda, that was hit rather hard by Irma. Much of the population of the island has simply left, but the people who stayed had very serious water needs.  The Parker Unit (desalination) was chosen to meet the needs there.  It is a workhorse, community-wide device that is designed to be in constant operation.

The Parker unit is installed at the Fisheries Complex. This location was chosen because it is secure, at the main arrival point for boats, and an ideal access point for the saltwater. The Parker unit produces about 500 gallons of clean water on an average day. The water is being used by everyone on the island, which currently is approximately 300 people.

*UPDATE* Last week (December 4-10), this unit filtered and produced 3,940 gallons of clean water which has been about average since Irma struck.


​In addition to the Sawyer Filters we have distributed, this program has also built a large Living Water Treatment System capable of providing clean water for thousands of people a day.  It has been installed and online since Puerto Rico LWS locationbetween Irma and Maria serving 800 households nearby as well as people from around the region.

The Living Water Treatment System was installed in Canovanas municipality, Campo Rico Barrio, which was devastated by both hurricanes Irma and Maria. Irma caused severe flooding in the flood-prone valley, followed by Maria’s winds that destroyed many homes in the exposed mountainous areas. The municipal government identified the population in Campo Rico as among the most vulnerable in the community. The exact location of the filtration system was determined according to proximity to a constant and sufficient water source, a secure location for the system to operate, and easy accessibility for the local population to come receive water. The system is installed at the base of a hillside with an estimated 800 households. The location is immediately adjacent to the main road passing through the southern half of the municipality, so there was constant heavy vehicle traffic that had access to collect treated water. The Water Charity & Samaritan’s Purse partnership was the first aid organization to arrive in Canovanas—even ahead of the government response.​

  • Over 58% of all residents in Campo Rico lived below the poverty line in 2016.
  • 72% of the head of households have less than a high school education.
  • Many immigrant families in the area are not eligible for FEMA funding.

St. Maarten filter locationsST. MAARTEN COMMUNITY FILTER UNIT

In addition to the small Sawyer filter distribution we did for St. Maarten (see above), we also installed a large community filtration system that was able to generate water for 2,500 people a day.  Reverse osmosis is a technique that allows for complete removal of all pathogens, and was a good choice for the specific conditions on Sint Maarten/ Saint Martin.

Samaritan’s Purse installed four community-size reverse osmosis treatment systems in St. Maarten: • Two at Pelican Key Pier • One at Simpson Bay Coast Guard base • One at Oyster Bay.  Water Charity was responsible for the one at Oyster Bay. These locations were selected in coordination with the municipal water authority on St. Maarten to supplement their water trucking capacity. Each of these locations were at the fringes of the damaged water distribution system, among larger populations without clean water, able to be secured, and had access to non-turbid sources of seawater. We estimate that our water system served a population of approximately 1,200 people during the critical period after Hurricane Irma, and before municipal potable water distribution could be restored on the island.

Puerto Rico Living Water System
Puerto Rico Living Water System​

This disaster response program has been a big deal, and we are committed to continue helping the people who suffered from Hurricanes... even after the events have faded from the media coverage.  We would like to expand our help, and are currently looking into ways to aid the hard-hit US Virgin Island St. Croix.  Updates will be posted here when available, and we will nest book pages for information on the 5 projects currently comprising this program.  

Please consider supporting this work.  Every donation counts.  With more money, we can help more people.  Having lost their homes, and livelihoods, the least we can do for them is to make sure the water they drink is not causing loss of life as well.

Initial funding to implement this program has been provided by the Paul Bechtner Foundation.


Helicopter deliver of bucket filters
Puerto Rico Helicopter Deliver of Sawyer Bucket Filters

Barbuda Parker Filter InstallationSt. Maarten Reverse Osmosis System
Barbuda Parker Filter Installation​                                               St. Maarten Reverse Osmosis System               


Funds Needed : 

Pigtown Food for Thought Water Project – United States

Pigtown Food for Thought Water Project – United States

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Community Description
Pigtown is a historically poor, diverse neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore that until recently was a food desert.

Pigtown Food for Thought is a neighborhood food justice group that was started by people in Pigtown to address food insecurity.

Pigtown Food for Thought has hosted many community meals, created pop-up grocery stores, hosted community cooking exchanges for kids, and started both a community garden and home gardening program where neighbors can grow food and learn about urban gardening.

Pigtown Food for Thought Water Project – United StatesProblem Addressed
The broader problem is lack of available food options in the city, and a generation of kids who are growing up without even basic knowledge of how food grows and where their food comes from. Pigtown Food for Thought addresses this by getting kids gardening and sharing the joy and produce from the garden with everyone who walks by!

The more specific problem is that as with many urban gardens, finding clean water nearby is difficult. Until recently, there was access to a city water source, but that is no longer available.

Project Description
This project is to install a rainwater catchment system to provide water for the water needs of the community garden.

The system will consist of two rainwater catchment barrels to capture and store the water needed for the small community garden through the summer period.

The garden consists of six raised beds, arranged 2 x 3. The barrels will be placed in the middle so that they can be easily accessed. The plants will be watered by the participants with watering cans filled from the spouts attached to the barrels.

Pigtown Food for Thought Water Project – United StatesSince the nearby houses have asphalt roofing, in addition to lead paint issues, it was determined that large funnels on top of the barrels will be used to capture the needed rainwater, rather than using a gutter system.

The two 55-gallon plastic barrels will be purchased, delivered to the site, and placed on 8 cinder blocks. They will be fitted with funnels, made of food-grade, UV-resistant plastic to capture the maximum amount of water.

Project Impact
This project will directly benefit the 45 participants in the program. In addition, the entire neighborhood of Pigtown will get a deep sense of pride and pleasure from the community garden.

Project Director
The project is being led by Charlotte Keniston, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Charlotte served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala from 2008 to 2010. Her participation in the Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Program and the details of her involvement with Pigtown Food for Thought are reviewed on the National Peace Corps Association site in an article entitled Returned Volunteer Takes on Food Deserts of Baltimore.

After implementing 1,300 projects in 60 countries, Water Charity is thrilled to be able to introduce this project as our first in the continental United States. It brings to the forefront a number of issues of importance.

First and foremost it addresses an immediate need, is cost-effective, and uses the appropriate technology.

Secondly, it brings together two of the most important issues facing the world today: food security and access to water.

Thirdly, it highlights the Third Goal of the Peace Corps, for Volunteers to bring their overseas experience back to the United States.

Finally, it focuses attention on the work being done by one of the schools that has a program to provide benefits to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers under the Peace Corps Fellows Program.

Dollar Amount of Project

Donations Collected to Date

Dollar Amount Needed
$0.00 - This project has been funded through the generosity of the Elmo Foundation, in the amount of $350.00, and Sarah Albright, a longtime supporter of the work of Water Charity, in the amount of $50.00.

We encourage others to continue to donate using the Donate button below, and we will notify the Peace Corps Volunteer of your donation. Additional funds will be used to fund the next project by the PCV and/or those of other PCVs in the country of service.

This project has been finished. To read about the conclusion of the project, CLICK HERE.


Maui North Shore Beach Cleanup - USA

Positive H2O We are extremely pleased to announce a new partnership between Water Charity and Positive H2O (+H2O). To kick off the collaborative relationship, on October 24, 2010, Positive H2O will host a Coastal Cleanup on Maui’s North Shore as a part of Community Work Day’s island-wide “Get the Drift and Bag It” campaign.

In addition, clean up participants, as well as the community, will attend an evening Fundraiser, with proceeds going towards the +H2O Water Charities Fund, contributing to future +H20 clean water projects.

Pascal Bronnimann - Positive H2O Positive H2O is a team of four professional windsurfers, international athletes and watermen, bound together by a passion for their profession, love of the water and desire to make a difference in the world.

Positive H2O has committed to putting on events, sponsoring and implementing projects, and raising funds to assist Water Charity in our worldwide effort to provide water and sanitation to those in need.

To date, Water Charity has initiated over 300 projects in over 60 countries. This collaboration will allow us to continue to impact upon death and illness resulting from waterborne diseases and to provide access to safe water for everyone in the world.

Positive H2O has already begun to raise money for Water Charity through a campaign to encourage donors to Donate on the Water Charity website.

The work of Positive H2O and their relationship with Water Charity is further described in a new article that appears in Windsurfer International magazine.


This project has been completed. To read about the conclusion of this project, CLICK HERE.

Funds Needed : 
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