Pentair has embarked on a five-year project with the nonprofit engineering firm Water Mission and the Honduran government to build and maintain water filtration systems in the mountains of western Honduras.
Pentair is donating $5 million to the effort to bring safe drinking water to 150,000 residents and hopefully decrease waterborne illness rates. Besides building the filtration systems in Lempira and Intibuca, which are remote regions, Water Mission also will teach residents about water hygiene.
The partners will work together to improve and measure water quality, sanitation infrastructure and to educate the local communities about best health practices. The new construction and education project is expected to begin within a year, said Pentair spokeswoman Rebecca Osborn.
Besides reducing disease, Osborn said the partners hope the new filtration stations can serve as a way to build “micro-enterprises.” Once installed, the regional governments will own the systems, and residents will pay a small fee each time they collect water. The funds will help pay for maintenance and staff costs, Pentair officials said.
The effort is not new for Pentair, a $4.9 billion manufacturer of industrial pumps, water filters and desalination systems that is headquartered in England but largely managed from Golden Valley.
For years Pentair donated and installed water-purification stations in poor, water-stressed villages in India, Rwanda and other spots around the globe, including other areas in Honduras. To date, its philanthropic partnerships and outreach brought clean drinking water to 3 million people in previously challenged areas.
Last year, Pentair’s Foundation teamed with Coca-Cola to provide 25,000 residents in Ruhunda, Rwanda, with two “ekocenters” that offered villagers first time Wi-Fi access, mobile charging stations, a retail store and 20,000 liters of purified water a day. In 2015, the Pentair Foundation filtered 50 million liters of water for 22 “ekocenters” in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Vietnam.
Pentair and Water Mission first worked together in 2007 to bring safe water and sanitation projects to 300,000 residents in Colón, which sits in northern Honduras. The first project, dubbed Project Safewater Colón, created 200 water treatment systems and 15,000 household sanitation facilities to become the largest documented water and sanitation projects in Central America.
Colón’s waterborne disease rate plunged 80 percent, while clinic visits for diarrhea fell 50 percent. A follow-up study in 2014 found Colón’s infant mortality fell by 40 children that year. Villagers came from lengthy distances to get the clean water. Some arrived at the new filtration stations with mule-drawn carts carrying metal cisterns they filled and hauled back to their families and neighbors. Pentair and Water Mission officials spent weeks at each station teaching local business owners how to maintain the stations so thousands of residents would stay healthy.
The project in Colón was hailed a success, and that ultimately led to the new project in western Honduras, said Phil Rolchigo, Pentair’s vice president of engineering and technology innovation.
“The world’s safe drinking water crisis is solvable, as demonstrated by the sustainable and cost-effective solution that we implemented as part of our first Project Safewater initiative with Water Mission in Colón, Honduras,” said Pentair CEO Randy Hogan.
“Systems and technologies developed from that project are now being deployed around the world, and we are pleased to expand this effort to additional regions in Honduras,” he said. “At Pentair, we believe that safe water is a fundamental human right, and one of the foundations of freedom and economic development.”
Water Mission CEO George C. Greene III said the project demonstrated to villagers and government officials alike that “for just pennies per day per person, we could dramatically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease and save lives.”
The partners hope the new Project Safewater initiative will do more than restore health.
Going forward, economists will begin measuring the long-term economic and educational impacts that come when residents can access safe water, Greene said.
Reduced sickness and death rates mean fewer absences from work, farms and school, which should ultimately benefit the entire country, he said.
Project partners will also study how the new water filtration stations build the “micro-enterprise” or business skills of local residents. Officials from both Pentair and Water Mission will spend weeks training “owner” residents to use, fix and maintain the special equipment at each site. Workers will learn to test water to insure it stays free of contaminants. Lastly, workers will also be taught accounting and other business skills that insure village water prices are sufficient to cover all costs.