The Chicorral Community

Chicorral is a small, indigenous community in rural Guatemala. As with many other rural areas in the country, Chicorral suffers from a severe lack of infrastructure: over half of the approximately 200 residents must climb down a steep, 100 meter deep ravine to reach the community’s main reliable water source. Women and children bear the responsibility of taking this trip up to five times a day to meet household water needs.

By World Health Organization (WHO) standards, the situation faced by these residents constitutes a “lack of access to an improved water source,” and has led to lack of sanitation and hygiene and a prevalence of gastrointestinal illnesses in the community. (WHO guidelines define “access to an improved water source” as having at least 20 liters of water per person that has been physically protected from outside contamination for daily personal use within 1 kilometer of the point of use).

Additionally, the residents would like to be recognized as an independent village (aldea) rather than a semi-independent community (paraje). For this formal recognition, the community must construct: a school, a mayor’s building, a community building, a graveyard, and a water system that serves at least 85% of residents. With the other projects complete or already in progress, our project will help Chicorral fulfill the last requirement and allow the community to move closer to being recognized as an aldea. By becoming an aldea, the community of Chicorral will have more control over how district funds are allocated to and used within the community, allowing the residents of Chicorral to have more authority over the decisions that directly affect them.

Since 2006, the Guatemala team of EWB-USA JHU has been working with the residents of Chicorral to develop and construct a socially, technically, and financially sustainable community water system to address this dire issue of lack of access to water.


Together, the team and community have worked to design a socially, financially, and technically sustainable water pumping and distribution system. Our design will employ solar powered water pumps that will take the spring water from the bottom of the ravine and distribute it to individual households. Water from the source will be captured in a concrete “spring box” that protects the water from outside contamination and transferred to a 12 m3 pump tank located nearby. The setup is designed so the pump tank will contain a sufficient water supply throughout the year for the pumps, taking into account the daily and seasonal fluctuations in source flow rate. At the bottom of the pump tank, two water pumps, powered by photovoltaic array installed on the roof of the Mayor’s building, will send the water up approximately 170 m in elevation through galvanized steel and PVC pipes into a 20 m3 storage/distribution tank located at the highest point in the community. This water will then be fed by gravity into each household through a PVC distribution system funded and constructed by the Municipality of San Bartolo (Phase 2). The aim of this design is to meet the community’s needs by drastically reducing the time and effort spent collecting water and provide a daily supply of 50 L per person. The community has determined the exact amount for a monthly usage tariff, currently USD$2.50 per household, that will cover long term maintenance of the system.


Chicorral is a rural community located in the highlands of the Department of Totonicapán, Guatemala. The nearest town, San Bartolo, is located approximately 10 kilometers away along a bumpy mountainous road, while the nearest major city, Quetzaltenango, is located approximately 50 kilometers south along the Pan-American Highway.

Current Situation

There is currently a working solar powered water distribution system installed in the community. Because of population growth, however, a single pump is no longer enough to meet the community’s needs. The team is now raising funds and preparing to install a second pump and second set of solar panels to ensure the community has the water it needs.

Special Thanks

mohaved family
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