$50,001 to $250,000

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 : 

Sierra Madre Water Program - Mexico & Guatemala

Sierra Madre Water Program - Mexico & Guatemala

NPCA - WC LogosWATER CHARITY and the NATIONAL PEACE CORPS, together with The SEXTO SOL Center for Community Action, announce the implementation of the SIERRA MADRE WATER PROGRAM - MEXICO & GUATEMALA.

The program is designed to provide safe water, effective sanitation, and public health services for 300 villages in the Sierra Madre Region of Chiapas, Mexico, through an unprecedented collaboration of the three organizations.

With a target budget of $2,100,000, the program will be implemented in 15 phases, each addressing the needs of 20 villages. Phase 1 is budgeted for $140,000 in improvements.  Phase 1 is already well underway!

Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - Mexico

The program focuses on supplying drinking water using the appropriate technology for each village, with the objective of also providing water for sanitation, hygiene, and agriculture. Benefits will be sought in reducing morbidity and mortality, improving quality of life, improving food security, and providing economic opportunities for direct participants and the community at large.

The projects to be implemented will be those requested by the individual villages to address their specific needs. A complete needs survey for the entire program is well underway, while specific project planning for Phase 1 villages is nearing completion, and preliminary planning continues for each successive village.

The design of each project will incorporate measures to maintain the improvements after completion, thus ensuring sustainability far into the future.

Sexto Sol will provide on-the-ground management of the program and the individual projects. The National Peace Corps Association and Water Charity will raise money for and publicize the program, and recruit Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to assist with project implementation. Water Charity will participate in the planning, execution, and evaluation of the program, train the RPCVs to perform their tasks, and provide for their deployment.

Edward James OlmosValued Support and Endorsement
We are honored to receive the recognition, support, and endorsement for this program from Edward James Olmos, renowned director and actor of stage and screen.

Mr. Olmos was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film Stand and Deliver, the only Hispanic-American to be nominated in that category. His career encompasses another 22 wins and 24 nominations. Among his great achievements, he is also recognized for his roles in Battlestar Galactica, Miami Vice, Selena, El Pachuco, and both the stage and film versions of Zoot Suit.

Mr. Olmos is known for his social activism, especially involving the U.S. Hispanic community. He narrated a portion of the movie Zapatista, showing the plight of the campesinos in Chiapas in the mid-90s. 

I am pleased to endorse the work being done by the Sexto Sol Center in partnership with Water Charity to bring potable water and sanitation to impoverished communities in Chiapas. I have stood behind the Sexto Sol Center since they began their service in Chiapas 17 years ago. I know what they are capable of doing. Water Charity is an experienced leader with an impressive track record of bringing clean water and sanitation to under-served communities in 63 countries worldwide. This is the ideal team to efficiently make these much needed improvements in the quality of life for people in the remote mountain villages. I encourage you to support this effort by Water Charity and the Sexto Sol Center. Your support will help them improve the lives of thousands of people. The world will be better for it.
Edward James Olmos

Program Location
This program is being implemented in the Municipalities of Motozintla, Siltepec, El Porvenir, La Grandeza, and other locations in Chiapas, Mexico as well as culturally and linguistically contiguous communities across the border in Guatemala.

300 villages have been chosen for consideration at this time.  As the program winds through its various phases, a specific list of target communities will be compiled.  To see a complete list of the municipalities in Chiapas, CLICK HERE.

Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - Mexico

The Sierra Madre mountain range rises from the coastal plain, reaching over 10,000 feet in elevation. This important watershed has 98 rivers that flow to the mangrove forests on the Pacific Coast and feed the Grijalva River on the inland side. The land is very rugged with steep slopes and countless sharp ridges that fall away on all sides into canyons.

The watershed was severely clear cut about 20 years ago with no reforestation implemented. This left the region extremely vulnerable to natural disasters that have causeed great hardship for the people living there.  Most notabe were the disasters of 1998 and Hurricane Stan in 2005, both of which devastated the region with material losses that are still felt to this day.

Seasonal flooding causes damage regularly to deforested slopes resulting in major landslides that have become a "normal" occurrence. An active fault and volcanic rumbling create a lot of seismic activity which in July, 2014, resulted in damage to thousands of adobe homes in the poorest areas.

The region is dotted communities of people engaged in agriculture (campesinos). They depend on raising subsistence crops and small scale farming of potatoes, wheat, or coffee to sell. It is considered to be the most impoverished region in Mexico. When then-President Fox visited the region he made the sad announcement that El Porviner town was the poorest town in the country.

Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - MexicoThe people are Maya from three language groups, Mam in the high country, C'atok or Mocho in Motozintla and Tusantan, and Kaqchikel in the Mazapa area. The majority of the people are Mam.

In the 1960s a government program attempted to force acculturation on the population through a form of institutionalized racism that prohibited the people from speaking their language. Elders still speak Mam, but the middle aged population for the most part does not. Children and youth, therefore, have some confusion about their identity. This history has caused great pain and it leads people to not admit to being indigenous. Very few people wear the traditional clothing.

Malnutrition is the norm and is most evident in the children who do not reach normal height and often have trouble paying attention in school. Drought, loss of cultivated land to landslides, and the failure of the coffee crop all have contributed to the furthering of poverty for households in recent years.

When a family member falls ill, the expense can be devastating, sometimes forcing a family to have to sell their land. People die from curable diseases and illnesses that have been eradicated in most of the world are still a problem.

Adult illiteracy is common, with many people over 40 years of age having only attended 2 years of formal schooling. This has improved for children now with better access to rural schools, but typically the teachers are students who have not completed their teacher training.

The Sierra Madre is a mineral-rich region with foreign mining companies eager to strip mine a variety of minerals on the lands inhabited by the people. The tension caused by this looming future is worrisome for the people.

The Sierra Madre region has not received development assistance from the government or from international organizations. The Sexto Sol Center is the only international NGO with a long-term presence in the Sierra Madre.

Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - MexicoTypical Projects
This program is working toward ensuring water for all household uses, including for drinking, cooking, sanitation, and hygiene in 300 communities. It also provides for irrigation of the family and community gardens.

Typically, a community has an old water system that was built years ago, but many households do not receive water, and the system does not meet the needs of the population. The appropriate technology is to capture the water at the source and build a holding tank, and then install a water line over rough terrain to the village.

Typical projects include wells, pumps, rainwater catchment systems, aqueducts, water storage systems, water purification solutions, erosion control, reforestation, flooding prevention, and irrigation systems.

An effort will be made to encompass all of the water, sanitation, and public health needs of each village in a village-designated project. Within the project, there may be several stand-alone sub-projects, say, for example, at a school and at a clinic.

Hygiene and sanitation are inextricably tied to the goal of achieving a safe water source. Handwashing stations are crucial to allow for effective hygienic practices, especially in the schools clinics, and community centers. Bathrooms, erosion prevention, and flooding prevention and remediation are necessary to protect the water sources.

Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - MexicoProjects Underway & Completed
The program was begun with overall planning ascertaining village project needs and moving forward with project-by-project implementation. The first project was implemented in December, 2014, and we have already completed 8 village wide projects!.

This list will be updated with links to the project pages as new projects begin, and there is another list at the end of this posting:

Cipresal Water System Project - Mexico

Xelajú Chico, Hector Paniaguas y Barrio Reforma, Water System Relief Project - Mexico

El Progreso Water System Project – Mexico

Niquivil Water System Project - Mexico

Miguel Aleman Water Project - Mexico

Esperanza Water System Project - Guatemala

Santo Domingo La Cascada Water System Project - Mexico

Cipresal La Cascada Water System Project - Mexico

Agua Prieta Water System Project - Mexico

Checute Water System Project - Mexico

CABIOCHI Water Project - Mexico

Loma Linda Water Project - Mexico

Los Laureles Water Project - Mexico

Program Management
The program is being be managed by Tamara Brennan, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action, which serves impoverished communities in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala.

Sexto Sol previously completed the School Flooding Remediation Project – Mexico in 2010 in partnership with Water Charity.

The Incorporation of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
The program introduces the groundbreaking concept of utilizing Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) in the direct implementation of the projects in each of the communities. RPCVs are people who have returned home after having completed 3 months of training plus 2 years of service in a developing country. They have considerable experience in the community development process and the management of water and sanitation projects.

Water Charity has previously worked with dozens of RPCVs in the implementation of projects. These are dedicated people who have decided to remain in the country after their PC service, people who went to work for local NGOs, which they bring into the process, or people who return to the country after they have been home for a while. We have also collaborated with RPCVs who have Sierra Madre Water Program, Phase 1 - Mexicogone on to serve in the Peace Corps Response Program, a short-duration commitment to a specific project assigned by the Peace Corps.

This program is completely unique in scope: It will be the first time that a significant number of RPCVs are being deployed on a large-scale program as volunteers, funded by donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, to serve under the direction of a local nonprofit.

The RPCVs will be recruited by the NPCA, trained by WC, and deployed to Motozintla for a set, but renewable, term.

The recruitment process will utilize the structure of 139 NPCA Member Groups, which are determined by country of service and hometown. 

It is anticipated that several RPCVs will come from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Los Angeles (RPCVLA), one of the Member Groups with close ties to Water Charity.

The RPCVs will be fluent in Spanish and have substantial knowledge of and experience in community development. They will “hit the ground running”.

The RPCVs will train the villagers and work side-by-side with them in the detailed planning, implementation, and evaluation of the projects.

The RPCVs will volunteer their time. WC will provide funds for their travel. Sexto Sol will provide management, lodging and in-country transportation.



Entire Program

Phase 1 of 15







Number of Villages



Number of Projects






Cost/Person (3 projects)



This program will benefit about 70,000 people in 300 communities by providing each of them with a reliable supply of safe water and access to effective sanitation, thereby improving the health and wellbeing of all who reside in the region. Phase 1 will help 20 of those communities, and will serve as a proven model for the rest of the program, developing a skilled labor pool and a reliable and economical supply chain for materials and equipment.

Program Funding
Donors may contribute to the whole Phase1 effort, to be allocated where needed for projects by clicking on the DONATE button below, or by donating on the individual project pages, as new projects are started under the program.

Corporate and foundation donations are welcome and encouraged, and amounts and attribution rights will be negotiated.

Individual donations of any amount are encouraged. Every donation of $100 or more toward the overall program will be recognized on this page.

If you wish to donate “in honor of” or “in recognition of” or “in appreciation of”, please include the wording on your donation form or in an email directed to mail (at) watercharity.org If you wish for your donation to be anonymous, just let us know.

Fundraising Target

$140,000 for Phase 1 ($2,100,000 for the 15-phase program)

You can make a difference by helping us improve the lives of thousands of families in the Sierra Madre with your tax-deductible contribution. 


Water Charity
Water Charity is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, established in 2008 and headquartered in California, that does water, sanitation, and public health projects around the world. Since that time, 1,800 projects in 65 countries have been implemented.

National Peace Corps Association
The National Peace Corps Association was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with a mission to championing lifelong commitment to Peace Corps values. The goals of NPCA are to help the Peace Corps be the best that it can be and help returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and RPCV groups thrive.

The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action
The Sexto Sol Center serves impoverished communities in Chiapas and Guatemala, where a change of vision and specific technical assistance can help people create a better life.  Since 1997 Sexto Sol has assisted people to create success with cooperative businesses, grow health-giving food, improve neglected schools for their children, regain cultural pride, protect the watershed, create eco-villages and heal from the trauma of disaster and conflict.

Funds Needed : 
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